We all have moments where our creativity has failed us. Maybe we had an idea, but the words wouldn’t come. Or when they did, they felt stilted, awful. We feel alone and isolated in this because we are writers. The words are supposed to flow from our fingers like water down the Columbia River.
Some people call this writers’ block. I think of it as a temporary lull in my creativity.
I have learned to write my way through these dry spells. Usually, the work I produce at that moment is awful, and I wouldn’t share it with anyone. But I am a professional writer and the act of writing every day keeps me fit and in the habit of working.
Writing is like participating in sports or playing a musical instrument. We must practice if we want to be good at it. Doing well at writing requires some discipline on our part. I lose my momentum and purpose when I stop writing for any reason.
I lose my passion for my work.
At times, we come to a place where we can’t think of what to write. It happens to everyone, and we each handle it differently. I will share how I deal with lulls in creativity—and I know it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Before we begin, I suggest you save the file you are working on, the one you can’t seem to make headway on. Close it, and delete nothing. You will be able to use this work later, so file it properly.
Sometimes, the problem is that your mind has seen a shiny thing, a different project that wants to be written, and you can’t focus on the job at hand. If that is the case, work on the project that is on your mind. Let that creative energy flow, and you can reconnect with the first project once the new project is out of the way.
For me, writer’s block manifests not as a block per se. It will appear as an inability to visualize a scene I must write to advance a story. If I can’t picture it, I can’t describe it.
That can be quite frustrating.
Unfortunately, some people have a different experience, one where they have no words whatsoever. They try, they struggle, and nothing comes to them.
This creates a kind of trauma. Once a person has experienced that moment of complete inability, fear of being unable to write can magnify the problem until it paralyzes them.
So what do I do when the words don’t come?
First, I open a new document. At the top of this document, I type: Where I Am Today.
- I look around myself and see the room I am in, trying to see it with a stranger’s eyes.
- I briefly describe what the stranger might see on entering that room.
- Then I describe how I feel sitting in that place at that moment in time.
I write two or three paragraphs just to prove I can do it.
Next, I go somewhere else and take my notebook. I am a stranger there, so I write three more paragraphs detailing how I fit into that new space and how it makes me feel.
You could do this at the mall, a coffee shop, or the parking lot at the supermarket.
The last exercise is more abstract: Where do I want to be? I visualize it and describe my imaginary scene as if I am looking at it.
I want to walk along the high-tide mark on a foggy beach. I want to hear the gulls and the waves. I want to feel at peace again.
It’s weird but writing about nothing in particular is like doodling. It is a form of mind wandering. It can jar your creative mind loose. With perseverance, you will be writing your other work again.
Everyone has family, jobs, and external demands that limit their writing time. Sometimes the world gets in the way of writing. We might feel unwell or have too many things to accomplish and not enough time to get it all done.
In my real life, getting our house ready to put on the market saps my creativity, but I am muddling along. Boxes here and there, getting rid of this and that—it’s exhausting. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to write.
But I sit down and get at least 100 words on paper just to prove I can. That usually leads to a more productive writing session.
The most important thing is to care for my family first. Sometimes just doing laundry can jar an idea loose, and I feel incredibly productive at the same time.
However, when I am stuck for words to write, the most important thing I do is to sit somewhere quiet and let my mind wander.
Daydreaming is good for you. It boosts the brain, making our thought process more effective. Apparently, letting the mind wander allows a kind of ‘default neural network’ to engage when our brain is at wakeful rest, like in meditation, unlike when it’s actively focused on the outside world.
When we daydream, our brain is free to process tasks more effectively.
This is good to know because I spend an astounding amount of time daydreaming, and I would hate to be simply wasting time.
This is how my mind works. I hope that what works for me will work for you. Remember, if you are suffering from a temporary dry spell, you are not alone. We all go through those times.
When you want to talk about it, you will find friends here.