When you want to write, but don’t know where to start, what do you do?
I write for a living. Or I’m paid to talk about writing and trigger inspiration in business owners who are struggling to craft a clear brand narrative.
In the beginning, writing was a creative outlet, not the way I paid my bills. The calling is strong, the need to be creative is as much part of me as my shaved hair and tendency to talk too much when I’m nervous.
Blank page syndrome, writer’s block, creative slowdown – whatever term you use. Even the most productive among us face it. Overwhelmed with ideas, a worried mind in a stressful age, even electric lighting and the buzz of technology – these can all stifle our natural ability to create.
It’s such a popular topic of conversation that I have started asking people for their individual tips on beating the block. Here are the three most common answers, I hope you find them useful.
This is not about finding the perfect corner for a beautiful writing desk, or about commandeering the spare room in the name of artistic acclaim. (Though where I write does make a big difference to my productivity.) Rather, making the emotional and mental space for your creative seedlings to grow shoots and take root.
A quick online search for boredom and creativity produces a plethora of studies suggesting that entertainment ‘on tap’ is the biggest killer of creativity in a modern age. We need to make space, welcome in the silence, breathe into our inspiration and let it flow. The process takes time, it will not be squeezed between answering work emails and putting another load of pants in the washing machine.
It’s easy to buy into the myth of being busy. Somehow, doing nothing is now seen as lazy, or selfish. But this sort of life will only leave barren ground where creative ideas might otherwise thrive. Hide your phone. Resist the temptation to wash the dishes. Meditate, hide in the downstairs loo if necessary. Just do it, or rather, do nothing.
As far back as the early 1900’s, creative thinkers observed a connection between movement and artistic success. French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty noted, “The artist takes the body with her…” and the term ’embodied creativity’ is now used to describe the link between physical movement, thought processing and emotional intelligence. (Psychology Today, Science of Creativity Moves Into the Body)
On a personal note, I find swimming and gentle walking helpful tools against a creative impasse. Runners talk passionately about how ‘getting out for a run’ enables them to process the events of the day, and exercise is undeniably beneficial for our emotional and mental health.
Live a Creative Life
A couple of years ago, I realised that I had stopped living a creative life. A new freelance business, challenges at home, health and wealth concerns all monopolised my time. Unsurprisingly, I was exhausted.
This sudden flash of insight struck me in the middle of a client interview. A jewellery maker, she spent a large amount of time finding the inspiration behind each piece. As Helen talked about exploring nature, visiting art galleries, listening to music and reading – I realised that I had somehow dropped the creative ball without even noticing. No wonder I was feeling unfulfilled. No wonder that I was struggling to express myself. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty well. My well was dry.
If you find yourself in the same situation, write a list of events, exhibitions, films, etc that you can visit in your local area. Be realistic, don’t pack in lots of extra commitments. This is supposed to be a joy, not another list of thankless tasks. Perhaps this is your way of creating space. Or not. There is no right or wrong way to do this, there is only your way.
What next? If you found this blog helpful, let me know in the comments. If you have your own methods of tackling writer’s block, do share. If you’re a business owner and you’re still struggling – I can help. Give me a ring on 07928122079 for an informal chat.