If 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.
Before writing became the way I paid my bills, it was one of many creative outlets. My need to be creative is as much part of me as my shaved hair and tendency to talk too much.
Even the most productive among us face writer’s block. Overwhelmed with ideas, the fast-moving pace of a stressful age, even electric lighting and the faint buzz of technology that feels inescapable – all can stifle our natural ability to be creative.
This has become such a popular topic of conversation that I’ve started asking people for their own tips on beating the block. Here are three of the most common, I hope you find them useful.
This isn’t about finding the perfect corner for a beautiful writing desk or commandeering the spare room in the name of artistic acclaim. (Though where I write does have an impact on my productivity.) Rather, we need to carve out enough emotional and mental space for creative seedlings to grow.
Do a quick online search for boredom and creativity and you will discover a plethora of studies suggesting that entertainment ‘on tap’ is the biggest killer of creativity in a modern age. Podcast host and author Manoush Zomorodi was so convinced about the potential benefits of boredom that she encouraged her listeners to take part in a mass experiment. Thousands of people joined her in unplugging from their devices, some temporarily, some permanently. The results of this interesting experiment can be found in her subsequent book, ‘Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.’
It’s easy to buy into the myth of being busy. These days, doing nothing is 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.
Even back in the early 1900’s, creative thinkers could see a connection between movement and artistic success. French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty believed that the performance of our physical body and the way in which we perceived our world could not be disconnected, saying, “The artist takes the body with her…” Return to the 21st century and the term ’embodied creativity’ is being 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. Most of the runners I meet talk passionately about how an evening run helps them 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. New to freelancing, 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. As a jewellery maker, her process involved searching for new sources of inspiration. As Helen talked about exploring nature, visiting art galleries, listening to music and reading – I realised that I had somehow dropped the creative ball and I hadn’t even noticed. No wonder that I was struggling to find something to say. You can’t pour from an empty well and 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 to beat yourself about.
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.