All writers have found themselves staring hopelessly at a blank screen or an empty page at some point during their writing careers, asking any one of the following questions:
“Where do I even begin?”
“Is this even worth it?”
Some call it writer’s block. Others may label it procrastination. I call it stagnant creative flow. Whatever you chose to call it the end result is the same – a blank page full of possibilities.
Wait, what? That’s right – possibilities. The first thing that writers must do when faced with stagnant creative flow is to consider the possibilities.
Everyone’s experience with creative block is unique, but for me, I become congested and immobilized when I place too many expectations on a first draft. I expect it to be beautiful, thought-provoking, intelligently written and a bestseller right out of the gate. That’s the idealist in me and in many other writers, too. But the truth is that sometimes the first words we write stink like a cup of milk that sits untouched in the kitchen sink for days. And, because we put too many expectations on that first draft or those opening lines, we stumble away from the possibilities of what could be because we are too afraid to push through the muck and the awkwardness.
Recently, I saw a quote on Twitter by novelist, Shannon Hales. It read,
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
I love the sentiment and inspiration behind this thought. It reminds us that sometimes wonderful things come from simple beginnings.
Seek Out Motivation
Okay, you say, that’s all well and good, but what if I am so blocked that I can’t even write simple words like “the” and “there” or any other word that might start a sentence. My answer is to walk away, take a breath, and consider the possibilities by finding inspiration away from your computer. In other words, get out of your head.
Writers live inside their heads. We create these magical worlds that seem as real to us as our own realities, but sometimes you need to close the door on that imaginary world for a day or two.
Several years ago, my creative flow seemed to elude me at every turn. I was trying to finish a book I had been working on for eight years. I loved the concept of the book, but self-doubt, fear, and a host of other emotions that are creative flow blockers kept me from finishing this manuscript. It was during this time that I was fortunate enough to find a book titled, The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. One of the suggestions in the book was to schedule time to be alone doing an activity that you enjoy that is unrelated to your craft.
This is the best advice I have ever received and the best advice I can pass along to my fellow writers who are feeling stagnant in their creativity. Take a photography class. Learn how to tango. Sit on a park bench and people watch. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just do something. Taking time to reenergize our creativity is an important part of honing our craft. Without this periodic reboot, our fingers become motionless, unable to decipher and type the simplest of thoughts.
You’re probably wondering if I ever finished that manuscript. No. I didn’t. Instead, I started over with another story that filled me with joy to write and that story turned into my debut novel, The Waiting Room. Creativity works in mysterious ways.
No matter what you do, don’t get discouraged. What you have to say matters. Your words will be beautiful. Your prose will inspire others. And, who knows, you may even have bestseller when it is all said and done. But, unless you reenergize your creativity every now and then, you may find yourself unable to every move past page one.
What do you do to invite creative flow in your life?
Feel free to leave a comment. I would love to connect with you.