As a creative person—a writer or an artist—you have within you a shiny metal toolbox. It’s full of knowledge, wisdom and skills you’ve picked up while developing your craft. In my previous post, I discussed some of the mental and emotional blocks I built for myself over the years. It took, it seemed, forever before I found the right chisel to begin chipping away at those lies.
Some of our blocks, though, are not that deep. Sometimes we just get stuck or unmotivated to move forward with our art. And all we need are a few tangible tools to get to our end product.
Here are three things I do when I get stuck in my writing or creative process.
1.) Fake it Until you Make it
Well-written words don’t always flow from my brain to my fingers. In fact, I’ve had writing and editing blocks that have lasted days or more. When I finally put in the work to overcome my emotional blocks, the only way I could finally write my novel was to go through the motions. I knew at that moment my writing was sloppy, unorganized, and chaotic. But that strung-together mess of words and thoughts ultimately lead to my first draft.
Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it. We can’t always rely on inspiration. Especially with deadlines or goals floating overhead. Waiting on an ah-ha moment is fickle. When you’re stuck, the best thing you can do is just write or create. There are always second, third and fourth drafts!
How you “just do it” is up to you. But a timer is a good tool. Set it for an unintimidating amount of time, like 15 or 20 minutes. Then go for it.
2.) Take a Step Back
I used to scrapbook. I’d get together with a few other ladies and they’d slap together several pages pages in an hour. That worked for them. But for me I’d sit on one page to their five. I’d rearrange the pieces on the paper, lean back and observe it. Then I’d move a few things and do it again until I had it just right.
I do the same thing in my day job when I design flyers. Sometimes my “taking a step back” is browsing Google for other creative examples like magazine or brochure layouts and color pallets.
This works for writing too. When I can’t move forward with a scene, I will often read what I just wrote, observe it, and mull it over. Maybe there is a sentence whose cadence is just slightly off beat. Or one of my characters reacted out of character. Once I tweak it, I can usually take my next step forward.
That being said… remember, your first draft will not be perfect. You can use the timer here too!
3.) Use your Imagination
Maybe it’s weird. I don’t know. I’ve never discussed it with a published fiction author. But when I get stuck in a scene, the remedy is to close my eyes and daydream. I put myself in the story. I tap in to sight, sound, smells, feelings, and emotions. I watch my scene unfold like a movie.
Then I put it on paper.
Imagination doesn’t come easy for everyone. It’s skill we use as kids when we’re creating elaborate worlds for our Barbies or battling with our friends as cowboys and Indians. It’s a gift that at some point or another we’re coached from using. Our teachers or parents encourage us to focus on academics or sports, and little by little, year by year, we leave our imaginations standing by themselves cold, alone and afraid that they will never be used again.
It’s time to open your door and let your imagination in. After you’ve given it some time to relax next to a crackling fire with a fuzzy blanket and a warm beverage, it will surprise you at how easily it forgets and forgives your neglect.
There you have it, just a few tools I’ve had to pull out of my toolbox to finish my novel. I have something exciting up my sleeves for exercising your imagination, which I hope to announce in the next month. In the meantime, join me for my next Yoga for Creativity class posted on Friday!