It is a tough time of year. It’s dark, it’s gray, it’s cold. Add on top of that the fact that Ontario is in a state of near-lockdown again and it’s a recipe for the blahs. I feel it. I don’t believe in writers’ block, but I certainly do recognize when the spark is lacking, when I’m not enjoying writing, when it feels more like a chore than a passion.
Every time I’ve sat down at my laptop recently to try to write, I’ve hit the backspace more than any other key. I’ve jotted down umpteen half-formed ideas and random bits without any desire to pursue any of them. I can’t seem to make progress on—let alone finish—anything. I don’t have any ideas that I want to write about. I feel drained, empty, running on fumes creatively. Been there? I’m sure you have.
So how do you refill those creative reserves? Explore a few suggestions with me as I enable my own procrastination by trolling the internet for ideas on how to recharge my creativity. Most of these, in some combination, have helped me through a similar slump in the past.
Change of scenery:
- This can be a tough one in the current situation. I’d love to say go sit in your local cafe and people-watch while enjoying a latte. Sometimes even just the act of writing in a different space can help. Since indoor dining is a no-go again where I am, see the following…
- Stare out someone else’s window. Window-Swap.com is a fascinating way to transport yourself to somewhere new. Have the site pick a window for you at random. Watch what’s going on. Enjoy the view. Maybe a spark of an idea will start to form.
- Get outside. Fresh air. Physical activity. Put your headphones on and listen to some music or a podcast as you walk. Or don’t, and just enjoy the sounds of nature. Watch the birds. Take photos of random little bits of beauty.
Change of activity:
- Do something decidedly non-creative. Wash the dishes. Scrub the floor. Alphabetize your spice rack. Clean out the junk drawer. Vacuum your car. Balance your budget. Sometimes the creative part of your brain just needs a rest. Don’t force it. The mechanics of doing something entirely mundane might be just what you need.
- Read something. Read anything. Read outside your comfort zone, outside your genre. Or read something you’ve read and loved before, just for the familiarity of it.
- Draw or paint. Same creative part of the brain, different exercise for it. You don’t have to do it well to enjoy it. Even just breaking out the crayons and a colouring book can be so soothing.
- Spend time with children. Their minds are brimming with imagination. Play. No, I mean really play. Pretend you’re not an adult. Let them set the rules. Follow their lead and lose yourself in the moment.
Change of method:
- Talk to someone about your writing. Describing your work in progress to someone else can unlock solutions you’ve been agonizing over, revive a passion that’s started to dim, remind you why you started it in the first place.
- Write a list. Write a list of all the things you want to write. Or a list of things you find funny. A list of bits of dialogue you’ve overheard. A list of clues you’ve seen in murder mysteries on TV. A list of things you like or things you don’t like. A list of characters, regardless of whether you have an idea for a story for them. Just write point-form lists with no pressure to do anything with them, no pressure to form sentences or paragraphs.
- If you write with pen and paper, try typing instead. If you write prose, try a poem or song lyrics. If you’re writing a novel, try your hand at flash fiction. If you write romance, write something scary or funny. If you usually write in the morning, try at noon or in the evening. Change it up, change it up, change it up. Even a short time spent on something different can rejuvenate those creative muscles. A change is as good as a rest, they say.
- Look back at something you created in the past that you’re proud of. Think about where the idea started. Remember how it felt when you finished it.
The whole point is to remind yourself that you enjoy writing. If you’re feeling uninspired, don’t focus on churning out words. Focus on finding joy in the act of writing, and soon the words will flow. Let go of the self-imposed pressure and give yourself the time to recharge. Creativity is not something that can be forced.
And what if you’re just too tired? Then rest. Rest my dear writer friend, and take care of yourself. It’s a strange old world we’re living in, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
You can try again tomorrow.