What to Do When You Hit a Creative Wall

Last weekend, I hit a creative wall. It wasn’t full-blown writer’s block, mind you, but a wall. Maybe a half-wall. I’d been working steadily and strongly all week on a couple of chapters and finished them. That got me to a natural stopping place before the next action began.

Admittedly, most creative walls are not this cute. Mine sure aren’t. Photo by Hannah Lim on Unsplash

Only problem was, I wasn’t sure of what that next action might be.

It’s easy for me to tell when I’ve hit a wall because of a couple things: First, I’m resistant to sitting down at the computer or page. And second, I’m not thinking of the work much. Not connecting with it mentally in odd moments throughout the day, as I usually do.

And when that happens, the forward progress stops.

And let’s just pause here and remember: writing is hard work. Committing to any kind of writing project is challenging. It is also exhilarating, engaging and exciting. But those things are challenging to manage, too. So: hard work. Give yourself a break, okay?

That’s recommendation one for what to do when the creative wall hits. Take a break. Go relax and do something that refills the well.  NOTE: generally wandering about on the internet or checking email does not count as refilling the well. Neither does scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. I’m talking about doing something that inspires, energizes or relaxes you.

You might be familiar with a more formal version of this concept from Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way. She calls it an artist’s date, and recommends you do it once a week, by yourself. I’ve always had a bit of a hard time with this concept, mostly because it adds one more thing to a burgeoning to-do list and I risk feeling guilty about it if I don’t do it. Then it’s not rejuvenating, it is guilt inducing.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

But you can do a mini-version of it without making a big production about it. Depending on what you enjoy, pick up a pencil and draw. Bust out the watercolors (maybe your kids have some you could borrow?) Pick up your knitting. Plan a garden. Bake a cake. Cook a gourmet meal. Go for a walk to the park. Swing on the swings. Read a book, or leaf through a magazine.

The point is to indulge in some intentional relaxation, doing things that make you happy. (And note I’m not including watching movies or TV on this list. Yes, I realize you might find it relaxing, but I’d guess you take plenty of time for all kinds of screen time already. Just saying.)

But, here’s the deal. (And this is why I often don’t allow myself to relax.) Don’t let all this intentional relaxation go too far. Because if you do, it can quickly turn into a full-blown block. So that’s recommendation two: don’t indulge in this creative-wall-relaxation for too long.

Which brings us to recommendation three, which is to force the issue. Sometimes you have to twist yourself back into the writing flow, that’s all there is to it. Give yourself some good old-fashioned tough love to get yourself back into it.

Here are some things to try:

Free writing to prompts. You can take a prompt from your WIP if you like, or use a line of poetry, or search the archives on this blog (see tags on the right column) to find some. Set yourself a timer for 15 minutes and go to it.

–Mind-mapping, which, as you likely know, is a right-brained way to outline.

–Meditation. Quit your bitching and just do it (she said to herself as well as everyone else). It will free your brain and open you to new ideas.

–Journal. Because getting your whiney crap thoughts down on paper is always a good idea.

–Read. Something, anything. Words in, words out. Sometimes reading a novel or memoir or short story will give you an idea that will get you started again.

And then, of course, if none of these work, then go back to recommendation one and start over again.  Just remember not to give up.  Because you really, really, really do not want this brief interlude to turn into a long bout of writer’s block.

Good luck. Let me know how it works out for you. Leave a comment!

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Derek
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Thanks for sharing this Charlotte, it has helped me this morning… I feel a synchronicity here I think as I have just hit ‘the wall’ too. It took me a few days to realise that I wasn’t being consistent – sneaky mind telling me all was well!! I have ideas for more blog posts written down and even have a list of prompts. Been asking myself to pick them up and just take a look at them.. but really… anyone would think those notes weighed a ton! Meditation is a bit like watching TV for me, I do it every… Read more »