When I taught writing to college freshmen, almost every incoming student said the same thing: “I can’t write.” Why? The inevitable answer: “Because I’m not creative.”
I hear this from bloggers, too. “I wish I could X, but I’m not creative enough.”
Friends, I’m here to tell you that you ARE creative.
Every single one of us, whether we like it or not, is a creative being. It’s just that somewhere along the way, “creativity” became synonymous with the visual arts–drawing, painting, sculpting, and so on–when, in fact, creativity is something all of us do every single day. We innovate solutions to problems. We crack jokes on our friends’ Facebook pages. We take and edit images. We doodle on a notepad during a long conference call. We write emails that explain our thought processes. And on and on… we all create all day long!
That said, when it comes to creating work, whether it’s a painting, a poem, a blog post, or an Instagram story, sometimes we get stuck.
It happens to everyone.
What separates the most productive creators from the least productive?
It’s what you do after you find yourself stuck.
You can give in and call it writer’s block.
Or, you can push through the block almost immediately with one of these tips for how to be creative in an instant:
Activate a different part of your brain.
If you just can’t get that post written, pick up your phone and start snapping pics of your pets. If you’ve been taking photos and can’t seem to get the shot you want, grab a pencil and a piece of paper and start doodling. It doesn’t have to be museum-quality work with any of these projects. It just has to keep your brain active but focused on something novel. Your subconscious will be busily drafting your post so that when you come back to it later, it seems to appear out of nowhere.
Take a walk.
Or a shower or a swim. I’m sure you’ve heard it said–or you’ve said it yourself–that the best ideas come when you’re in the shower or out on a walk. Just like in the artistic distraction mentioned above, taking on a physical activity that allows your mind to wander relieves the immediate pressure of, “OMG! Why can’t I just write this stinking post!” You burn off that anxiety and get back to your desk refreshed.
Honestly? Just do it.
I don’t believe entirely in writer’s block, to be honest. Writing, like any other skill, needs concentrated effort. I personally believe that blocks come from external factors–like fear or doubt–and can be overcome simply by doing the work. Here’s the key, though: The work doesn’t have to be good! It just has to happen. So, here’s what I would have my students do who said they were facing down writer’s block. Take out a piece of paper and your favorite writing utensil (for this to work, it has to be a handwritten exercise… no typing allowed!). Start at the top of your page and write: I don’t want to write. Then, sentence two: I don’t want to write because _____. Sentence three: I don’t want to write because _____, and I feel _____. Sentence four: I don’t want to write because _____, and I feel _____, but if I had to write it would be about _____. Sentences five to as many as it takes all have to start with: I don’t want to write.
Example: I don’t want to write. I don’t want to write because it’s flipping hard today. I don’t want to write because it’s flipping hard today, and I feel frustrated that I can’t get this post out. I don’t want to write because it’s flipping hard today, and I feel frustrated that I can’t get this post out, but if I HAD TO write it would be about how my cat wakes me up every morning by chewing on my hair. I don’t want to write because there’s something missing from this post.
Once you finish the sentences, you’ll either be off and running with a fresh idea (“Why does my cat chew on my hair? I’ll work on that blog post now and come back to this other one later!”), or you’ll be so tired of rewriting the words “I don’t want to write,” that you’ll just park it in your chair and start typing.
There you have it: how to be creative, well, if not instantly pretty quickly. Have you ever felt blocked in your work? How do you move past it if you get stuck? Have any of these tips ever worked for you?
Maggie Marton serves as the BlogPaws blog manager. When not hiking with her two pit mixes, Emmett and Cooper, or playing with Newt the Cat, Maggie writes about them (and the pet industry) at ohmydogblog.com and maggiemarton.com.