6 Tips for Surviving Creative Dry Spells

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Life is all about ebb and flow, so when a creative dry spell comes along I’m learning that there’s no need to panic; no reason to question my calling as a writer or doubt that I ever had a grain of ability in the first place.  I now know that when the creative juices are ebbing instead of flowing,  it’s a natural part of life.  These times can also indicate that it is time to put a little extra effort into hearing the Voice of inspiration… to try something different.

Here are six things that help me recharge when I’m feeling uncreative…

1)  Tune out the media for a time. Sure, we like to stay informed, but it’s not like we can control what is happening on the news.  There are so many assaults on our senses during the course of a day, the last thing we need is to fill every second with a barrage of voices telling us what to think, how to feel, and what disaster might be around the corner for us to panic about.   Between the constant diet of marketing messages that greet us on every possible front and the drama that gets ratings for the TV networks… there just has to be a point at which we say “enough is enough” and turn it all off so we can think for ourselves.

2)  Give yourself a change of scenery. I like taking a Saturday drive up to Amish Country a few times a year, but a day trip isn’t always an option.  So for a quick mid-week pick-me-up, it’s nice to stop by a local park over lunch, take a 20 minute drive, visit  a local landmark, or even spend a few minutes  out on the deck for a dose of fresh air.  Breaks keep you refreshed and prevent you from feeling too self-contained.

3) Music. Music. Music. It’s a mystery to me how reading words on a page might be inspiring, but hearing those same words sung and/or played with beautiful music is downright magical.  A half-hour of listening to my favorite songs is like “creativity medicine” for me!

4)  Read something brilliant. Even if you’ve read it 50 times, grab a great book  and allow  it to transport you to a different place mentally.  Books with short readings like poetry collections, short stories (such as the Chicken Soup series) or the Bible offer powerful inspiration in bite-sized portions that serve as a ‘creative snack’ of sorts that we can grab in the middle of the day just as we would grab a cup of coffee or a favorite treat when we’re hungry.

5) Trust the creative process. Contrary to what non-creative people may think, creative excellence isn’t a high-powered faucet that can be turned on and off at will (at least for most of us).  Good ideas might come in spurts, or trickle in slowly (or not at all) some days.  IF the ideas are flowing, go with it!  Write them all down so you can pull them out at a later time (perhaps when the ideas aren’t flowing so easily). Keep showing up, keep working hard, but don’t be hard on yourself when you hit a dry spell.  Use it as an opportunity to do something nice for yourself rather than judging the process only in terms of production.

6) Get ridiculous. If all else fails, write something that has no future except for your own ridiculous amusement.  For instance, I was recently writing something that, no matter how hard I worked, sounded flat, boring and whiny.  So I stopped writing the boring piece and completely diverted from the boring path I was on.  I opened a new document and worked on a Swine Flu Haiku.  I can’t even remember the first thing I was writing because it was so uncreative… and while a Swine Flu haiku isn’t exactly what  I want to be known for as a writer, it did help boost me out of my funk!

Those are just a few of the exercises that help me through less-creative seasons (like the one I am currently experiencing).  How about you?!   How do you nurture your creativity during dry spells?

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8 thoughts on “6 Tips for Surviving Creative Dry Spells

  1. Ahhh, I’m sighing and filled with excitement at the same time. You do that to me. I’m filled with inspiration. I’m heading to my deck as we speak while it’s still shaded w/ pad and pen in hand…

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  2. I’m in that kind of place right now…I went through a phase recently where I blogged almost every day but, lately, it’s been more like once a week or so.

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    • Even once-a-week blog entries take time, discipline and creative energy. (As you can see from my own blog, I didn’t have much energy left for blogging during the past few weeks due to absolutely insane work, parenting and schedule demands. I was still writing a ton of copy for work (stuff that wouldn’t fit here) but I found that the longer I went without blogging, the harder it became to restart. It was time to pull out those creative tips for myself, more than anyone! It’s easy to forget the importance of writing for ourselves now and then.

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  3. Great message, Emily, and lots of good ideas.

    I’m not what you’d call a writer by any means, but I like to dabble. However, I’ve found if my life is running on empty, so is my creativity. So what works for me personally, is your #2, 3 and 4.

    Change of scenery – I’m newly retired and not adjusting well. Even though I’m an introvert, I miss the daily interaction with people. Solution? Take a walk and greet people along the way (*everybody* says hello in the country), go to the gym and socialize a bit while I’m working out, drive to the local coffee shop and GO IN to pick up my order instead of using the drive-through. Human interaction is great for getting through a dry spell.

    Music – I’m a huge fan of southern gospel music and when I need a pick-me-up, I load up a stack of Homecoming, GVB, David Phelps and the Easter’s CDs and play them LOUD as I go about my daily chores. Did you know you can actually DANCE to some of that stuff??? Nothing better to blast through that concrete wall that blocks creativity.

    Read – There are a few blogs I read religiously, and without exception, I’ve been able to take something away from each one. Once the seed has been planted, I can then nurture it into a living, breathing message that reflects something I want to say.

    Sorry to hear you’re going through a dry spell right now, but you have great tips for getting through it.

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  4. Emily, Thank you so much. I have really missed you. I write some poems, but only when they come if you can understand. I enjoy writing because to me lyrics are beautiful. I would love to be a writer, but that is not what I was called to do, so I just enjoy your writing as it always has such meaning.

    Bless You,

    Jerri

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  5. Emily, thanks for sharing your strategies for dealing with a creative dry spell. I’ve just recently started writing for my blog and always seem to have the highest expectations for every piece. I particularly like your point about trusting the creative process, which I also interpret to mean trusting God will bring on the words. Thanks again.
    Rainey

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  6. hi, i’m in this creative dry spell now.thank you for the tips.the #6 tip,haha i already did that.while i was on my table writing this poem that seems so bland-sounding for me,though how much i tried to,i stopped and wrote a ridiculous-sounding poem i titled “blank day”.i will follow on these tips and i hope after a few days,i can get back to my writing again.thank you.
    best wishes,
    Grace

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