Busting Through a Creative Block

We've all been there before. We have to write something, and we can't seem to gain any momentum. Our ideas hide away in dark recesses, and that cloying voice arrives right on cue to remind us, "you can't do it."

In these moments, I usually turn to chocolate. Or artichoke dip. When that doesn't help, I wallow in my frustration and inevitable guilt about making no progress. Then I remember that I've done it before. Which helps, but still doesn't fill the blank page. Thankfully I've developed a few skills over time that have successfully lifted me out of writing ruts. They can be applied to any type of creative endeavor.

Consume and critique

What are you writing about? Have you Googled it? Did you find articles that intimidated you into thinking you shouldn't write your own piece? Perfect. Read them in their entirety and take notes on what you would keep and what you'd improve. Progress. Momentum. Yes.

Pretend you're someone else

This might sound a little strange at first, but I regularly pretend I'm someone else when I'm lacking confidence. Is there someone in your office who appears unshakable? Does she seem to complete demanding tasks effortlessly? Sit the way she sits. Drink what she's drinking. Be her. You will crush it.

Is there a famous author whose study you can imagine? Take on that persona. You are a famous wordsmith sipping on port and writing phrases that could mingle with Shakespeare's sonnets. Deal with it.

Set a strict deadline... and a reward

Remember when you were in high school, taking that amazing English class with the teacher who doled out nothing but tough love? If you missed the deadline by a day, she'd give you a zero, but if you did your best work and got stuff in on time, then damn it, she'd respect you. She might even bring in candied apples for the class. Give yourself a firm deadline. No excuses. Then give yourself a candied apple when you complete something before that date. Ms. Richmond would be proud.

Listen and spill

When I'm really stuck, I like to put on headphones, choose some music, and just let the words—any words—take shape. I try not to worry about editing or "writing something dumb." In fact, I try not to worry about much at all. It's really just about practicing the motions.

Recently, thanks to a teammate at work, I've realized that some techno music helps give me the right focused energy to write. Mozart in the mornings and Art Tatum in the evenings. Now you know my secrets. It all depends on my mood, really.

I think confidence and genuine excitement lie at the crux of this common issue, and the truth is, sometimes those things are hard to come by. This is where the old adage, "fake it 'til you make it," can prove useful. Put on those headphones, do some research, decide on your deadline (and treat), and ride 'til dawn.

Do you have any tricks that you rely on to bust through creative blocks? What about go-to soundtracks for creative projects? Share your own examples in the Community!

Keep Learning
Here are some related guides and posts that you might enjoy next.