“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”
Do you ever find yourself in a place where you are completely blocked? Maybe you’ve done the same things again and again and are feeling bored and apathetic? Or maybe you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, burnt-out, or restless?
Sometimes just sitting down at a typewriter (or a notebook, or a computer) and “bleeding” is not quite as simple as you’d like it to be. Sometimes the process of creating can seem like it is a painfully slow drip out of a rusted tap, instead of a magical river-flow of utter brilliance.
This is normal! It’s part of the territory, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck there, alternating between frustrated sighs and defeated weeping.
Here are some ideas on how to kick-start your creativity:
1. Inspiration is everywhere (if you’re open to it)
Practice mindfulness. Try some walking meditation. Look up at the sky. Look at the ground beneath your feet. What do you notice? If you’re mindful to your surroundings (all the smells, sights, sounds, and textures), you will begin to find poetry in both the beautiful and the mundane. Find things that make you feel joy and passion. Try to experience everything you do as deeply and openly as possible.
“The world is but a canvas to the imagination”
-Henry David Thoreau
2. Play with magnetic poetry
I used to have my entire fridge covered in it! I would absentmindedly connect random words and phrases together, or I would sit on the floor and focus my attention on putting together poems (dirty, silly, love poems to my then-partner, political statements, brief glimpses of the way I saw the world). Friends would come over and sometimes make their own poems and word connections too.
Linking disconnected words together is a surefire way spark creativity. You can play with word association, find new meanings in entirely unrelated phrases, play with rhythm, generate new story ideas, make yourself laugh, make yourself dream. Don’t limit yourself and don’t overthink your actions. The more outrageous and random, the better!
3. Listen to music
Listen before you sit down to write or create. Let the music and rhythm transport you. Or get up and dance, releasing endorphins and energizing your mind. Do any of the lyrics spark any ideas? Where do you feel the music? What emotions or memories does it evoke?
4. Mix things up (Routine = rut)
When we continue to do the same things again and again, we can become apathetic and unchallenged. Try new things and experiment with the unknown. In everyday life, this could mean trying out new recipes, riding your bike instead of driving, taking a spontaneous road trip, or meeting some new people. With regards to your writing, you can try reading new genres, experiment with different writing styles (try writing fiction if you’re usually a factual writer, try writing a screenplay if you usually just write short poetry, etc) or learn some fancy, new words to expand your vocabulary.
What’s something you always wanted to try to do? Do things that scare you! Challenge your boundaries and it will not only generate new ideas, but it will also begin increasing your confidence.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things about all others: read a lot and write a lot…reading is the creative center of a writer’s life…you cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.
5. Make lists!
Make a list of things that you are awesome at doing. Make a list of pieces that you have written or created. Make a list of things that you love or that make you happy. Make a list of new ideas. Make a list of things that make you laugh. Make a list of all the things you can remember about this past year. Make a list of all the ways to describe a piece of toast. Try to make the list as long as you possibly can. Don’t over-think it and try to keep your pen moving.
6. Write stream-of-consciousness
Famous modernist writers like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce used this method to record their characters’ internal landscape (their thoughts, feelings, observations, and perceptions). It’s a narrative technique that uses limited punctuation and syntax, and tends to be fragmented and incomplete. Since it’s a style that most closely mimics our own internal state of conscious, it’s a great way to record our own thoughts and ideas.
Julia Cameron has adopted this style with her practice of Morning Pages. Commit to three full pages of handwriting every morning . Without stopping, write down whatever comes to your mind, emptying out all of your worries, random thoughts, observations, ruminations, distractions, and internal ‘clutter’. There is absolutely no “wrong” way to do it. Keep the words flowing out without judgement and censoring. This should clear your mind and open you up to the flow of ideas. 750words.com is a great online tool to start your practice.
The aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what you mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel.”
― Natalie Goldberg
7. Carry around a small notebook
This is a space where you can quickly and easily jot down thoughts and spontaneous ideas. It can be a space to record your daily observations (the beauty of nature, overheard conversations in a coffee shop, a description of someone’s eclectic outfit, your crazy dreams from last night, etc). This collection can be way to spark story ideas, character sketches, lines of poetry, or new blog posts. Try to make the observations as descriptive and vivid as possible so you don’t have to try to remember the details later on. I’m currently recording some of the inspirational/literary-icious/book-gasm stuff I find on my Tumblr (http://tiny-bird.tumblr.com/)
8. Talk to lots of different people
Have deep, philosophical conversations and debates over a beer. Have a hilarious conversation with a friend about embarrassing stories and misadventures. Strike up a conversation with an old woman on the bus sitting next to you (she might have some really incredible stories to share). Don’t just talk about the weather and what’s on your Christmas shopping list, talk about weird and strange topics! Talk to people that make you laugh and have interesting or ridiculous perspectives about life. Try to gather lots of new stories and insights.
9. Create a sanctuary
What inspires you? Gather items, quotes, artwork, and colours that inspire you and place them where you can see them everyday. Where do you feel the most comfortable and productive writing? If you like to write at a desk by a window, write there. If you like to write at a busy cafe downtown, write there. If you have a favourite pen, use that. If you get too distracted by the internet, turn it off (note of honesty: so much easier said than done, I have yet to successfully do this…ahem). Surround yourself with things that make you feel great, motivated, and alive. Inspiration should follow.
10. Forget the rules
You know all those things you were taught in school on how to write ‘properly’? Disregard them! At least for right now, while you’re working on getting your creativity and ideas a’flowin’. Rules are limiting. Rules stifle raw creativity. Not following the rules can either be absolutely liberating or ridiculously terrifying. Both options are helpful! The world is wide, the expanse of the page is open to all possibilities. Go with your gut. Write down whatever pops into your head. Obliterate the rules. Only follow the advice that you truly resonate with. Most importantly, follow your own heart and see where it leads you.
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
―W. Somerset Maugham
11. Tell yourself how awesome you are!
Be your own writing coach (minus the criticism). You need to know that you are supported and capable beyond words! Celebrate all your achievements, no matter how small. Instead of putting so much pressure on yourself and putting yourself down, try building yourself up and giving yourself some space. Trust yourself.
“If you’re afraid you can’t write, the answer is to write…If writing a book is impossible, write a chapter. If writing a chapter is impossible, write a page. If writing a page is impossible, write a paragraph. If writing a paragraph is impossible, write a sentence. If writing a sentence is impossible, write a word…and then write another, connected word and see where their connection leads. A page a day is a book a year”
Here’s some extra awesome writing inspiration that I’ve stumbled upon!
Where do you find inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?
Please share your own ideas and feel free to share these!
Happy writing! xoxo.