Recently, I was sitting on a rock at The Grampians National Park with a Native American grandmother who I admire greatly. Her name is the same as my birth month, but that’s not the only thing we have in common.
She told me about a writing class she was in. Day after day, the teacher read from her big textbook. A boy put his hand up and said to the teacher, “I thought we were here to learn how to write.”
The teacher responded, “So, start writing. I can’t help you until you write something. Anything: a poem; a story; notes in your journal, then I can help you.”
It felt like a direct message from Spirit, because I had prayed for guidance on a book I was writing. This message was the answer I needed.
Busy helping other people with their writing, I had neglected my own. Not intentionally. I just didn’t know what I wanted to write. And so I didn’t.
It turned out, I needed to retreat to the mountains to receive the clarity and coherence I was searching for! And I recommend it greatly.
Sometimes we only find what we’re looking for when we stop looking for it.
So, here are 3 quick tips to inspire you when the words won’t come:
1. Just start writing
As any creative person knows, creativity is a flowing form of energy and sometimes getting started can be the hardest part. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, start by writing one thing you know to be true. It doesn’t matter if you write in your journal, in a binder, or on a napkin! Give it a try and see where it leads you.
I now prefer to hand-write my own work. I find it gives my internal editor and critic time off. When I’m typing, I self-edit as I go and it can disrupt the flow. Handwriting brings the heart into your writing. It invites you back into your body, where you belong. It’s a more visceral experience, whereas typing into a computer is more cerebral. Sure, typing is quicker, but at what cost? Is your message connecting with your audience?
2. Revisit your old journals
It might be time for a walk down memory lane! Reach into the back of your wardrobe (or sock drawer) and pull out all your old journals. Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a pen and paper, some sticky tabs, and set aside a few hours to read them. You might be surprised to find all sorts of hidden gold you forgot about.
And if you can’t take the time to go through your journals today, block out a few hours in your calendar. It’s worth it. After all, the life you’ve lived is what has brought you to where you are today. So, the heartfelt (and sometimes gut-wrenching) pages of your journals can be the juiciest place to find your inspiration.
3. Pick up a book
Sometimes when I find my inspiration waning and my brain stubbornly holds onto writer’s block like a council worker with a stop sign, I concede. Instead, I might pick up a book and read for a while. It gives my thinking brain some time off. And there’s always plenty to choose from. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a pile (or many piles) of unread books that deserve your attention.
In a world where there is always more to learn, more to be, and more to do, sometimes it’s nice to get lost in the words of someone else’s creation. To slow down and absorb creativity without an agenda.
When you pick up a book you can get lost in, you give yourself permission to rest, away from the noise of TV or social media.
And when you pick up a book that’s aligned with the work you do or what you want to create, just watch as the sparks of your imagination light up your brain like fireworks in a perfect night’s sky. Sometimes all it takes is one sentence for your own creativity to start flowing again.
And hopefully, by the time you put your book down (maybe even before you’ve finished the first chapter), the words will start tumbling out, and you’ll find yourself filling up page after page of your book, article, or poem.
But what if none of these suggestions help you? What if you feel like you’re butting your head against a brick wall?
Then it’s time to take the wall away.
In an ideal world, you could fix writer’s block anytime with a few simple exercises like the ones I’ve listed above. But it doesn’t always happen that easily. From my own experience, I can say with confidence that the best way to refresh is to step away from your computer, your notepad, and even your home. There are times when we all need some form of retreat.
Where does your soul dance?
Do you feel drawn to the ocean or the mountains? The rivers or the forest?
Listen to what calls you and go there.
I can almost picture you now, as you’re reading this, saying…
“I don’t have time!”
Or even…“I haven’t budgeted for it!”
So let me encourage you to quietly observe the objections that come up. See if you can challenge the reasons your brain suggests that you can’t do it. And look at them in a different way… every problem is only a solution waiting to be discovered. This is your chance to practice your creativity without even picking up a pen and paper!
Then jump onto Airbnb and have a look at what’s available within your budget and timeframe. Find somewhere where you’ll be immersed in nature, where you can take a digital detox and have some well-deserved time to yourself. It might be two days, or it might be a week. But as a minimum, I recommend staying overnight with at least a full 24-hours of solitude. This is your personal retreat. It’s just you, a couple of books, your journal/writing pad, and nature.
This is self-care.
This is an acknowledgement that your time, your voice, and your rest is important.
Every creative writer should aim to take a personal retreat and let nature be their muse at least once a year. Or better still: once a season. Fresh air, sunshine and a star-filled night might be just what you need to get your words flowing again.
What’s the alternative?
If all your earnest attempts to get your creative flow happening don’t work, then stop trying.
Sometimes our creative ideas have a necessary gestation period before coming to life. Give yourself permission to be in that space. Enjoy feeling it grow inside of you. And allow yourself to simple “be”, rather than trying to “do”.
But if you’re on a deadline or need to get your words flowing a little more quickly, it’s okay to ask for help!
We provide writing support for speakers, authors (published or aspiring), and entrepreneurs who are committed to making a genuine difference in the world.
Sometimes even a quick 15-minute clarity call can help shift some blocks.
So if you’d like to chat, please get in touch. I’d love to get to know you and hear a bit about your project.
May these ideas be of service to you and your creativity,