Hey, we’re creative people, yes? We write stuff. We make up stories about the people in line with us at Starbucks. When inspiration strikes, we scribble notes on our hands and send ourselves incomprehensible texts and forget to shower and eat. So what happens when you need to make that inspiration show up more often? Say, you’ve got a deadline, or your CP is kicking your tail on NaNoWriMo wordcounts.
Is there anything you can do to get the muse to clock in every morning at 9? Actually, there are several, though I’m not sure you’re going to like the answers.
Trick #1: Let Yourself Get Bored
Studies have shown that when you fill up every moment of your day, you’re not as creative. Think about it—how many of us have gotten our best ideas when we’re in the shower, or driving, or just before we fall asleep at night? Those are some of the only chances you give your mind to just wander without reaching for a book or your phone, or turning on the TV.
If you create more times in your life when your mind can just wander, you’ll find yourself becoming more creative. Don’t worry if at first you feel blank or bored—that’s absolutely part of the process. You don’t even need to try and think about your book. In fact, it’s better if you don’t.
You’re just making the open space to invite ideas back in.
I had a job once where I had to stand still for about 11-14 hours a day, without listening to music or playing on my phone or reading books. I got intensely, horrifically bored. And then my brain started writing entire books. I wrote a whole trilogy in just a few months, with very little typing time, thanks to the immense amounts of boredom.
One more tip from science? For best results, get these unstructured times in your day to be longer than 20 minutes apiece. That’s why when you ask most writers how they beat writer’s block, they say “a long walk” not “a short walk.”
Trick #2: Meditation
If you have an internet connection, I’m sure you’ve heard about how meditation helps everything from concentration to sleep to your immune system. It makes your eyelashes longer and your ass hotter and…okay, I’m kidding.
The annoying thing about meditation is that it really does help all the things HuffPost and the medical community say it does. It also clears your mind and allows you time to get bored, while helping you practice the act of focusing. You see where I’m going with this?
Plus, it makes your eyelashes longer and your ass…okay, I’ll stop now. All I’m saying is it’s worked crazy well for a lot of people, myself very much included.
Trick #3: Think In Bulk
When you want to get better at something, you practice. You can do this with creativity just like anything else.
This works for a couple of reasons. First, if you’re trying to think of something like a title or a plot twist, challenge yourself to come up with not one perfect title, but 5 possible titles or plot twists. That takes the pressure off you to come up with the ideal answer on your first try.
Plus, the more ideas you have, the better you get at having ideas. You’re literally breaking in the neural pathways that you use to have new ideas. You’re getting them all well-worn and practiced up so the next time you need to have an idea, your brain will be ready to spit out 3-10 of them.
You can try this for book ideas, titles, scene setups, anything. Instead of thinking of the right one, just ask yourself to come up with a handful of possible one.
Trick #4: Take Better Breaks
We all need breaks. My husband can work on his manuscript for eight hours straight without blinking or stopping to play solitaire, but I’ve checked and yes, folks, he is indeed a robot. Most people can’t focus on their novel for hours at a time.
However, the things you do when you’re taking a break are not all created equal. Many of them, in fact, actually distract you from the task at hand or create stress so you’re actually functioning at a lower level when you return to your desk.
Anybody here check the news headlines on their 5 minutes off? How about getting on Twitter? Speaking as a complete and total hypocrite here, this is the worst thing you can do on a writing break to refresh your creativity.
Some better options: Take out the trash. Go for a walk. Color in a coloring book for a few minutes (yet another thing studies tell us quiets the mind and boosts creativity). Anything that lets you get away from your computer and maybe lets your mind freely wander a bit. Bonus points for anything that gets you out of your chair and away from your computer screen, to rest your eyes and typing fingers.
I walk around the block once every hour (Yes, I have to set a timer or I would never, never remember) because carpal tunnel experts tell me that 10 minutes off every 50 minutes is the magic number for keeping your hands healthy.
Trick #5: Try Other Creative-Adjacent Activities
If you’re blocked up about your story, try a new medium. Talk it out with a friend. Play with visual idea boards on Pinterest. Write out ideas by hand in a journal. Sketch a scene from your book. Often, changing medium can free up your creativity.
Trick #6: Change Venue
Studies tell me that if you want to better remember the info for a test, studying in a new place can help. The same thing goes if you’re a little creatively blocked. Sometimes, swapping your kitchen table for your patio or a spot at your local coffee shop can help. If nothing else it can give you a little shot of…
Trick #7: Caffeine
Yes, I saved the cheater option for last. Studies and anecdotes worldwide will tell you that caffeine can and does boost creativity. Please drink responsibly, kids.
So, those are all my favorite options. What about you guys? What works or doesn’t work for you in terms of getting your creativity going? I’d love to hear all your tried and true methods in the comments.