Getting Out of a Creative Rut

Hello creators! Today I’m going to be talking about those creative ruts we all fall into from time to time and strategies I’ve found for getting out. I’m using the phrase “creative rut” instead of “writer’s block” or “artist’s block” because I think it sounds less permanent and more solvable.

Sometimes I sit down to write, and I just can’t get into it. Nothing I come up with sounds interesting or exciting to me; I feel boring and like maybe I don’t have what it takes. Other times I stare at a blank page for an hour without making much progress on what should be happening next. Sound familiar? Here’s how to get your creative juices flowing again:

Explore Other Mediums

Often, when I hit a wall with my writing, it’s because there is some story point that I’m not clear on. Or I’ve just come off a really productive writing week or month, and I’m simply burnt out. Like many of you, I enjoy creative pursuits other than writing, and I’ve found that picking up my paintbrush or even doodling in my sketchbook can help me overcome storytelling problems. I’m not sure why this works, but I think it helps me to view the problem from a different angle. These other artistic activities are also relaxing and re-energizing.

If you’re having trouble with your primary creative activity, I recommend that you experiment with some different mediums. Make sure you do this in a no-pressure sort of way, don’t jump from the piece of writing your frustrated with into a painting for your next show. Pick something that you don’t have to be a perfectionist about and just enjoy the process.

Go Outside and Look at Things

This didn’t use to be a challenging thing to do, but 2020 has made many of us feel like animals at the zoo with our noses pressed against our windows. Of course, if you’re an introvert like me, you might be familiar with the problem of passing days or even weeks in your home with little social contact and then realizing that it’s been weeks since you’ve seen a friend or gone to dinner.

Netflix and the internet can provide some fodder for creative refueling, but I find that nothing fuels my creative spirit like actual experiences. Even hanging out in your back yard can be an experience if you try to really be present and see the details of the scenery around you that you’d normally miss. Getting together with friends, going to new places, and seeing new things is a stimulating experience that can help you feel more energized and inspired. Sometimes I find it helpful to give myself creative challenges when I’m out and about like “how would I paint the light on that tree,” or “how would I describe the person who just walked into the restaurant if she were a character in my book.”

Remember that as a creative, you’re constantly focused on output, but you also need input so that you don’t end up running on empty.

Learn Something New

It’s easy for me to spend all my free time reading fantasy books and watching fictional T.V series, but I’ve found that when I’m in a creative rut choosing entertainment that teaches me something can really help. Learning, to me, always feels like an adventure, just as exciting as mountain climbing or diving. If you feel the same, then you might find that learning about something new will help you when you are feeling on creative empty.

Watching a fascinating documentary or catching up on the latest scientific discoveries often inspires me. Non-fiction books and films can take you to places you couldn’t go in real life and show you people, lifestyles, and natural wonders that will change your perspective.

That change in perspective can work wonders on the imagination. Next time you are feeling uninspired, take a look at NASA’s website, pick up the latest National Geographic, or watch something from the “documentary” section of Netflix. You might be surprised by how quickly you get your mojo back.

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