There are times when creativity simply evades—it is lost, has slipped away, is inaccessible. Too much time away from the work or too much pressure to meet a deadline can thwart attempts to bring forth the words. Here are a few tricks I use to awaken and recover my creative bearings.
I read recently that we spend about half the day with our minds somewhere else other than the task at-hand—be it compiling a mental grocery list, thinking about an upcoming meeting or concocting pure fantasy of some kind. This type of thinking often serves as a preparation of sorts and assists in providing solutions to ordinary problems. There is evidence (and I’m sure we can all attest to it) that stepping away from an obstacle and immersing yourself in another task often allows you to solve the problem better. And, interestingly for the writer, there is research that daydreaming can improve and induce creative thinking. Although it may seem that the brain is dormant during these times when we have our (proverbial) head in the clouds, the creative parts of the brain actually become more active. So, go ahead—stare out the window and allow your mind to wander away from the troublesome writing project and let the creative part of your brain to do some work on its own.
5 Minute Meditation
Think of it as hitting the “reset” button. Deep and slow breathing from the diaphragm loosens the rib cage and the belly and allows the lungs to fill fully, calming the mind. It alerts the parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to relax, and slows the mind from a frantic pace. I remember hearing an interview with a well-known yogini and one of the things she said was, “Breathe and everything changes.” Try it—it’s true. It reframes everything. Close your eyes and inhale to a count of 5 and exhale to a count of 6. Repeat for as long as it takes to feel the quieting of your body and mind. Come back to your work refreshed and your brain better off for all that extra oxygen.
Kind of a hybrid of the quick meditation and a good daydream, visualization is a bit of an impromptu transport. Go to a place you love in the space of your imagination—a beach, a mountain, a memory—and just be there passively. Think of it as a mini-vacation for your brain and a break from the work on which you are stuck. When you return, your creativity may be a little looser.
Music can change your mood, bring you back to a place in time and can prompt specific emotions. Do you need to feel sad? Excited? Angry? Powerful? 20 again? 13? Music can carry you there. Or if some motivation will help you get going, listen to an artist whose music inspires you. Something upbeat, empowering and positive. I lean towards music that is lyrically lush—I often turn to Joni Mitchell or Tori Amos. Use what works for you.
Do something inspirational or do nothing at all, but step away from the work on which you are stuck. (It’s not a bad idea to to this even when your creativity is flowing—it can help to prevent burn-out.) A little breathing-room from the writing can often make it more expansive and accessible when you return. Go to a museum or a concert or any place that inspires you. Or do nothing at all. A thing you might otherwise think of as “nothing”—cook if you enjoy it, go for a slow and quiet walk in nature, read a pleasure book. Allow yourself a break, however that looks to you.
Sometimes all it takes to get you writing again is a little encouragement. Spend a few moments doing whatever it takes to get you back to the page. And please share with us: what are your tricks for jump-starting your creative mind?