I’m a writer and as a writer one of the hardest things about writing is actually starting to write. Overcoming my desire not to do just about anything else is a big problem.
But sometimes even when I make myself do it, the old muse is not working. And you can start to feel a panic, that maybe it’ll never work again and you’re going to be stuck staring at the same blank page forever.
I’ve learned that sometimes instead of trying to force it I have to step away from the computer and pump up my creativity levels. There’s an idea that we always must have our butt in a chair, staring at a glowing computer screen to be working on our creativity. But I’ve found creativity sometimes lives outside and the best thing I can do is go out and find it.
Here’s 13 different things I try when the muse appears to be on vacation:
1. GO FOR A WALK
According to a Stanford study when “someone walks either inside or outside they produce twice as many creative responses compared to someone who was sitting down. The study also found that creative juices continued to flow when the person sat back down.”
Joyce Carol Oates once said if she’s stuck she goes out for a run. And when I’m ready to rethink things I head out for the open pavement. If you’re feeling creatively stuck try going for a walk, even if you have to do it indoors. Get to stepping and watch the creative juices flow.
2. EXPERIENCE A NEW ENVIRONMENT
Sometimes the simple act of going somewhere new can stimulate your creative juices. If you work from home try a coffee shop. Sit outside and write or draw. Find a park or the top of a mountain or a brewery and give working a shot. Remember in school those special times you got to have class outside? Choose a new special place to work and see if it opens up your creative whoosies.
3. DO SOMETHING MINDLESS
A lot of my best ideas come to me when I’m doing the dishes or cleaning. You would think my house would be spotless by now with all the good thinking that goes on when I clean but nope. The process of my body being involved in an act that doesn’t take much thinking helps my mind wander and come up with all kinds of new things. Try a physical task that allows your mind to wander and go to town.
4. TRY AN ENTIRELY NEW THING
Instead of a new environment try something new. Take an improv class, do a paint and sip, take a dance class. Try a creative activity you’ve never tried before, push yourself into something new. If you’re a writer try painting. If you’re a painter try dancing. Do a new creative activity and see what happens. Listen to music you don’t usually listen to. The goal is to break out of your creative comfort zone and push yourself into weird, new limits.
5. GO SOMEWHERE THAT INSPIRES YOU
Oftentimes experiencing someone else’s creativity can spark our own. Get out and watch someone else being creative. When I went to the Adele concert I was moved to tears but also incredibly excited to create something. I feel the same way when I see a movie I find amazing or watch stand-up that pushes the boundaries or even see an art show. Watching other people do amazingly creative things reminds me of the joy of creation and the unique feeling when it turns out well.
6. LET YOUR MIND WANDER AND CREATE WITHOUT INTENT
Get a pad and doodle for ten minutes aimlessly, with no real goal. Write down random words. Play mad libs. Throw off all restrictions on what you’re creating should be or how it should go.
7. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE OUTRAGEOUS
A lot of the fear that drives us when we’re making something is that feeling that what you’re creating isn’t going to be good enough. That what we make will be utter crap. Let go of expectation. Be awful on purpose. Be creative without restrictions, try to be as out of the box outrageous as you can get. Go for broke and don’t allow those little nagging fears to hit at you. SCREW THE RULES! Create fearlessly. Create outrageously.
8. STUDY SOMEONE ELSE’S CREATIVITY
Do you have a favorite painting, book or movie? Come at it with the mind of a student. What about it do you love? What makes it speak to you? How was it structured? Tear it apart and study all the pieces to figure out what about it works for you.
9. REST UP
We are not productive robots. Sometimes the best thing to do is allow yourself down time. Resetting myself can be the key to being able to go forward. Do what you need to do to destress. I try a 20 minute nap or meditating for 10 minutes. These resets can put me into a new headspace.
10. DANCE BREAK!
Put on your favorite dance song and get down. It’ll help get your mind moving. Maybe throw in some running man or throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care.
11. MIND MAP
Mind mapping is a way to break the rules and come at your creativity a different way. Using a new creative form and throwing out the rules removes your boundaries and let’s your mind break free.
12. TRY A NEW METHOD
If you’re trying to write something and it’s not working tell it to yourself instead, as if you’re telling yourself a story. Make a diagram of what you want to do. If painting isn’t going well take some sidewalk chalk and draw whatever. Allow yourself the space to try something in a different medium.
13. SIT DOWN AND PUT IN THE TIME
Sometimes all it takes is sitting down and giving it a shot. Take out your notebook, set a timer and with no expectations start writing. If you get bored with your project, write whatever you want in your notebook. Repeat until the time goes off. The Kitchen Timer Method is one way creative people give themselves the space to create without worry.
Whether it’s one of your old favorites, something new or a self help book read something that will stimulate you. Try some poetry. Read your favorite novel. Pick up a picture book. Grab a middle grade novel. Get suggestions from other people. Explore a classic. Read for 15 minutes and see what it does to your brain.
15. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CREATIVE PEOPLE
Much like how surrounding yourself with positive people can help you be more positive, surrounding yourself with creative people helps put you in a creative headspace. I always felt most juiced after I a writing class or writer’s group meeting. Find your own group. Vampire suck all the creativity you can from other people.