Creativity Tips for When You’re Not In the Groove

Before I started writing this post, I got up from my computer. I work from home, in the corner of my dining room, and I needed a change of scenery, so I went upstairs to my bedroom to lie down.

I played MahJong on my Kindle. I read a few pages of a book on writing. My cat came to lie on me and purr. I daydreamed a bit, and mused about what I wanted to say to you. 

When I felt like I was done with lying down, I came downstairs. I put in a load of laundry and rinsed some dishes to put in the dishwasher. As I took care of these ordinary household tasks, ideas were simmering in the back of my mind.

None of these things look like writing. But they are an integral part of the process.

You can’t force creativity. It’s messy. It takes its time.

Your creative flow doesn’t adhere to your left-brain timeline of when to do things – whether the deadline is self-created or imposed from an outside source. Being in the creative zone is a blend of many different factors. It’s annoying, but you can’t really count on it.

Plus, there are a lot of things that can throw a monkey wrench in the process. Including intangible woo-woo stuff that might come out of nowhere…

Have you noticed that the past few weeks seemed to be particularly hard? It’s not just me. I’ve spoken with a lot of people who’ve felt it. I think it was the double whammy of  the dark of the moon and dark part of year. It felt really soul-crushing. 

Even so, I was able to finish NaNoWriMo, write blog posts, and do a bunch of other creative work.

But how? Here’s what I do to keep writing – or doing anything creative that’s a priority – in times that feel super challenging.

  1. Pause. Take a mental break, like I did today. Take a brisk walk, do that chore, or read a book. If your time is limited, set a timer. Just having a few minutes to get your mind off what you’re working on often helps.
  2. Be consistent. Keep showing up for your creative work. Sometimes you’ll get a lot done, and other times you won’t. That doesn’t matter. You still need to set aside time and show up prepared to work on your project.
  3. Shift your focus. I suggest having more than one writing project going at a time. Sometimes when my writing on a particular book or topic isn’t working, I switch to a different project. It might mean editing instead of writing, if your creative mojo isn’t flowing.
  4. Play. Approach your creative work with a childlike wonder, rather than an adult expectation of productivity. Try a writing prompt or game. If you get stuck, switch perspectives or jump to a different part of the book. Creative flow is more likely to happen when you’re in a playful, curious mindset.
  5. Nurture yourself. If you notice you’re struggling, rather than just pushing through, ask yourself what you need. Are you drinking enough water? Did you have a nourishing lunch? Punishing yourself won’t make you more productive in the long run. Take care of your needs, and you’ll have more bandwidth for creativity.

What about you? What do you do when the going gets rough? How do you stay in the creative flow?


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