As a writer you will have days, or perhaps weeks or months, when you try to dredge up ideas from the deep swamp of your mind only to come up blank. You have the drive, you have the time, you’re not distracted– the well has simply run dry.
I have been right there with you. After drawing up the perfect plan for a novel, I set about trying to write it. All of my sentences were simple and flat, and I could feel a deep detachment from my material. It started to seep into my nonfiction work as well– unable to put words to any concept, I started to believe that maybe this writing thing wasn’t for me as well. Phrases like “dry spell” started swimming to the surface of my mind. I was blocked.
A Creative state of mind
Have you ever tried to shift gears from doing mind-heavy work to creative work? I don’t know what you do in your everyday life to put food on the table, but I do know we spend most of our time in a rational state of planning and problem solving.
Whether you’re caring for children, doing your accounting, teaching and coaching others, handling your email, or writing for clients like I do, the creative mind takes a back seat as we strategize, make decisions, and execute plans. When we try to write while in this state, we can’t help but drag a concrete logic into our creative space.
This is how I can tell if I’m not in a creative state of mind: I plan a lot. I plan the perfect plot or idea, but I don’t feel at all like writing it. I start to strategize (what do other people want to read?) Then I get frustrated that I’m not actually writing and attempt to batter out a few sentences or paragraphs following the strict plan I drew up, which efficiently kills off any sense of creativity.
What is a creative state of mind? It’s an open mind, a curious mind (willing to do something just for the sake of seeing what it’s like). A creative mind is out in the world, witnessing people and their habits, witnessing nature and time as it rumbles by. It’s a distinctly vulnerable mind, which seeks to discover new things and often spends a lot of time in confusion and seeking. It is not boxed in rules, and it tends to function best when it’s not too structured or put into a box labelled Productivity.
How to rediscover Your Creativity
You have a unique way of looking at the world and transforming it into something different… so why not go and be in the world? Like any career, solo work has its place, but it’s just as important and valuable to go into the field.
My Favourite Ways of Being Inspired in the World:
Go to a coffee shop with a notepad or laptop and record an interesting conversation between two strangers without judgement. The more out-of-context it is, the better!
Go into nature. Just drop whatever you’re doing for a bit and give it some breathing space. Nature is patient, slow, and thriving– it jives with creativity in a way that our working lives don’t permit.
Do something inspiring and unrelated. Maybe this means something dramatically new to get you out of your own head, like skydiving. Or maybe it’s something less dramatic, like spending an afternoon having a picnic in a park with your friend. Visit a part of your city you haven’t seen in a while. Call up an old friend.
If you can, try not to become a bloodhound sniffing for ideas in the fear that you’re wasting time. Take a deep breath. Settle into a place where logic takes a back seat and curiosity, awareness, and sensual experience rises to the forefront. To tap into this, do something that leaves you no choice but to experience the present moment, like hiking or taking an amateur pottery wheel class. The more you can drop the über-logical-bordering-on-desperation state, the more you’ll breathe space into creativity.
Here is the bottom line. Your lack of creativity is not a sign that your well of original thought has run dry… this is just the story we tell ourselves. The more you tell yourself the story, the more you’ll see nothing worth writing about. When I start to lean on the story of No Original Thoughts, I change it to something new, like, “I want to experience new things”. You’re a writer, which means you can’t help being inspired by the world if you give it a chance.
Are you interested in hiring a writing coach to support and hold you accountable as you write your book or write original content for your business? I’m here for you! Send me an inquiry.