Some people rely on a daily coffee to get their day going, others a morning jog, or an early bus ride. Others (like me) are not morning people at all, but we still have that point in the day when ideas seem to flow, our mind focuses, and work (finally) seems to get done. But some days we get stuck.
For writers and artists, a creative block can mean terrible headaches and restless nights, not just for one day, but for days, and sometimes weeks, in a row. However, this doesn’t have to be the case – here are a few suggestions to help with the mental block:
1. Bring mundane things to life.
Things you experience every day, like commutes and meals, don’t have to be boring. Many people have added a delicious dimension to their lives by appreciating cooking and gourmet dishes. But the average sandwich can be just as exciting: just add a little something extra, a herb or a slice of cheese and enjoy the difference, regardless of how small. Instead of fuming about how slowly the car in front of you is driving, imagine what they might have spent all last night doing that made this so disoriented.
A great tool for this is Instagram. I personally love this app because of how easy it is to take a picture of anything you happen to come across and preserve it in an almost magical way. I’ve found it works especially well on rainy days.
2. Find something interesting to pursue.
It doesn’t have to be for the rest of your life. Be passionate about it for the next ten, fifteen minutes, and you’ll find you suddenly know much more about a subject than you did before. Did you ever want to know how to ask ‘Why is the sky blue?’ in Italian? How is a paper crane made? What are the most popular cartoons in Lithuania? What are the top ten weirdest natural phenomena? What kind of military techniques did the Mongolians use?
They might seem random and almost petty, but delving just a bit deeper can reveal amazing things, or even a new passion.
3. Let your imagination run wild
This can be a bit difficult on a writer’s block, but starting off by rereading your favourite book, especially a fiction, can help you get back into this frame of mind. Pick out your favourite characters and put them in reality, into your life. How would they react. Put yourself into their situation. What would you do? Let the possibilities play out in your mind, whether they be funny, gruesome, but heaven forbid boring.
Writer prompts may work for this. I once told a friend to compose a story, on the spot, about Bessie, a cow, that was radioactive. Another friend added that he had to include Captain America. A third added vampires. Hilarity ensued. The key is to overcome functional fixedness, a psychological term describing how the mind limits an object’s usage to how it is traditionally used. Who says you can’t pretend the sky is physical? Many ancient myths told that the sky was a physical thing. What would happen if you broke off a piece and tasted it?
4. Consult others
Talk to others. Writers, artists, and normal people. Don’t just ask them how they’re doing and then walk away. Ask them about their lives and ask them about your art. Open up and start a deeper relationship, with those you trust, of course. Allow them to be an inspiration. Some of life’s mundane moments can become beautiful just with the presence of another person.
If they tell you something you don’t like, ask yourself why you don’t like it. Let that passion be your inspiration.
5. Keep a record
When you get an inspiration, record it once you get the chance. Don’t delay. If you’re short on time, just record the important factors: keywords, adjectives, feelings. Psychologically, we remember things much better if we write down multiple words that are related to what we need to remember, since there are more connections made. Chances are, if you take a look at it again, you will be able to remember exactly what the inspiration was and what it meant to you.
This is much more convenient if you keep a small pocket notebook with you in your bag or purse, just to jot down things that inspire you. If you don’t have it on hand, you can always use your cell phone or even a scrap of paper. It’s the inspiration that matters, and once you jot it down, you commit it to memory. But having a collection of inspirations is always helpful.
6. Set other things aside
Get those other worries out of your head. If you want to write, you can’t let groceries or projects haunt you – unless that’s what you want to write about. Write out the thoughts that preoccupy your mind, put it to the side, and focus on what you want to write. If it’s something urgent, the by all means go and do it! But remember set aside that anxiousness when it comes to your art.
7. Don’t write just for the sake of writing
Writing for the sake of writing usually results in nothing, you need a purpose or inspiration to write about. It seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down and told myself I wanted to write a poem, and was so engrossed about writing the poem that I forgot that I needed something to write about.
Art and writing are mediums of communication, and thus there must be some kind of message involved. This is where passion comes in. Write about what you love, about things that you care about. Otherwise it will turn out plain and boring, simply because you find your subject plain and boring.
Lastly, don’t block your creativity.
It seems redundant telling yourself such when you’re already stuck in a rut, but it’s important to be willing to write, or create, badly. Stop criticizing yourself and your creations. (What have they ever done to you?) The first draft or sketch will never be perfect. So just get the idea out – revision can come later. As mentioned in a previous post by Ayelen Pagano, just keep writing.
Of course, if the source of your writer’s block is a headache, drink some water, sleep, and write about your terrible ordeal with the blinding pain in your sinus. After all, nothing is too small to write about.
About the contributor: Victoria Huang is a first year student at Western University, studying Medical Science. Other than her strange obsession with cell biology and enzymatic reactions, she loves studying history, listens to all sorts of music, and cooks her favourite Chinese and Italian dishes.