You’ve been trying to write for a while, but your creative spark is gone.
Or perhaps you’ve got an idea, but deep down you feel it’s bland and uninspired.
No matter what you do, you can’t get out of this creative rut and make or write something that your audience will love.
It gets worse.
Your lack of creativity makes you wonder if you’ve got what it takes to call yourself a writer or a creative person.
I’ve been there, and it’s not pretty.
Before writing this article, I had no idea what I was going to say or even what I wanted to write about.
I’d spent the past week writing a novella, and I didn’t feel like I’d anything left inside for my next non-fiction article.
Then, I discovered this quote by the American journalists, essayist and poet Christopher Morley, and I broke out of my rut:
“It’s a good thing to turn your mind upside down now and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the other way.”
In this post, I will give you six strategies (backed by science or creative experts) that you can use to turn your mind upside down, get yourself out of a rut and become more creative.
1. Smash Your Routine Into Pieces
Routine is the friend of writers and creative professionals.
If, for example, you create an early morning writing routine, you won’t have to waste mental energy wondering if you’ll write today.
Instead, you can get up, go on autopilot, go to your place of writing and do your day’s work.
But what if you’re stuck in a creative rut?
Adhering to a strict routine sometimes places boundaries around your ideas and solidifies what you think is and isn’t possible.
If you’re feeling creatively blocked and uninspired, changing your routine will help you see the problem you’re tackling in a fresh light and become more creative.
- Write or create at a different time of day
- Take your work out of your office and go to the park or the coffee shop
- Write or create with pen and paper instead of a computer (or vice versa)
2. Fill Your Creative Fuel Tank
Creativity is as much about combining of lots of different ideas as it is about coming up with something original.
Often when people say they’re feeling blocked or stuck, what they’re actually describing is an ‘input problem’ or a lack of incoming ideas.
Like the car that’s almost out of fuel, the next time you feel stuck on a particular project consider when you last filled up on ideas.
- Listening to a podcast
- Subscribing to a popular blog outside your area of interest
- Reading a book outside of your comfort zone
- Interviewing one of your readers or an expert in your niche
The former helped me with the technique of story-telling and the latter with procrastination and having to turn up every day and write.
However, I wouldn’t have much to say if all I did was focus on technique and the writer’s mindset.
So, I also read outside of my comfort zone.
The sci-fi novel Wool by Hugh Howie gave me ideas for a short story, and I learnt a little of sentence construction from Charles Bukowski’s poetry collection The Pleasures of the Damned.
I also recently interviewed the blogger and podcaster Pat Flynn, and I discovered a way of writing by using a dictation app.
Consuming books and ideas outside of your comfort zone is the best way to refill you creative tank.
3. Find a Mentor (Can’t Do It? Change Your Definition)
The traditional definition of a mentor is someone who takes a personal interest in your work and in your personal development.
When you’re creatively blocked, your mentor will be able to offer a solution because this is a problem they’ve faced before and they can see the problem more clearly than you based on their experiences.
But, how exactly can you find a mentor?
You can pay someone a lot of money or you can change the traditional definition of what a mentor is.
Here’s the thing:
Did you know it’s possible for anyone (living or dead) to mentor you?
If there’s an author you admire, you can turn them into your mentor by reading everything they’ve ever written and then by reading the works and teachers of people who influenced them.
This will help you understand their thought processes and use this understanding to ask answers questions you have about your work.
Several years ago, I studied the works of John Cheever for months.
For a long time afterwards, when faced with a writing challenge I visualised John and asked him ‘What would you do?’
This may sound crazy but in the popular personal development book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill describes keeping an “imaginary council” every night with nine of his mentors including Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin.
“Just before going to sleep at night, I would shut my eyes, and see, in my imagination, this group of men seated with me around my Council Table.”
“I had a very definite purpose in indulging my imagination through these nightly meetings. My purpose was to rebuild my own character so it would represent a composite of the characters of my imaginary counselors.”
4. Take a Class
Taking a class is the quickest way to expose yourself to new ideas, put them into practice and get feedback from someone more experienced than you.
No, I don’t mean saving up to go to university.
Several years ago I attended a series of nighttime classes by a writing teacher to learn more about the art of the short story and non-fiction writing.
Today, you don’t even need to do this.
Many of the top writers, business and creative people online offer online courses that you can consume at your leisure.
These classes cost several hundred dollars, but you can learn knowledge from these experts that would take a lot longer to acquire and test and your own.
I’ve spent the past six weeks devouring a series of online classes by the business coach Anthony Robbins.
During one of these modules, Robbins explained how successful people get where they’re going faster by using the principle of modelling.
Essentially, modelling involves finding someone in your area of expertise that you admire and then emulating what they do.
No, I’m not talking about plagiarising their ideas or becoming a poorer version of the person you are modelling.
Instead, modelling involves implementing their ideas so you can avoid making amateur mistakes and get where you want to go faster.
5. Close It Down, Unplug it, and Disconnect It
Digital tools make it easier than ever to create, remix, edit and share your work with the world.
They’re also confining.
In a 2014 paper published in the journal Psychological Science, US researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, found note-taking with a pen instead of a laptop gives students a better understanding on the subject in question.
If you’re at the start of the creative process and you’re having trouble understanding your subject, go back to the basics.
Pen and paper and other traditional creative tools come with fewer distractions than a computer or an app.
Non-digital tools make it easier to get ideas out of your head, work on and rearrange them.
- Brainstorm your ideas on a large whiteboard
- Write down everything you know about your topic on paper
- Record the themes of your work on index cards and lay them out on a table in front of you (this is how I outline a work of fiction)
Later on, when you’ve got the genesis of an idea, transfer it to your digital tool of choice and execute on it.
6. Change Your Physical State
Anthony Robbins says, “Whatever you focus on is what you’re going feel”.
He argues that the quickest way to change what you’re feeling is to “change your sate”.
Robbins is making the case for getting out of a creative or personal funk by changing your physical state.
If you’re feeling blocked, you can become more creative by taking a break from your work and exercising.
You could go for a short walk, go to the gym or do something more strenuous.
The flow of blood and change of environment will kickstart your brain and new and exciting directions.
Even if you don’t think of a solution while exercising, you will have more energy and enthusiasm for tackling your creative problem afterwards.
Turn Your Mind Upside Down Today
The next time you feel creatively stuck or uninspired take just one of these strategies and use them to turn your mind upside down and break yourself out of a creative rut.
These strategies are easy to implement and no matter what type of writer or creative person you are, they will help you reignite your creative spark.
Want to know the best thing?
Every time you do this, you’ll learn more about how your creative process works and what you need to do the next time you’re in a rut.