Take a look at Artax, the horse from The Neverending Story. In the scene depicted below, he lets his overwhelming doubts and fears get the best of him and he drowns in the swamps of sadness… just when Atreyu, his trusted friend and journeyman, needs him most on their quest to save Fantasia.
As a writer, I can sometimes relate to Artax. My team and our clients count on me to deliver creativity wrapped in storytellers’ words and those words and ideas don’t always come easily. If you’re creative I think you understand… At times your creativity and ideas gush so quickly it’s difficult for you to keep up with them. And other times, you’re stuck. Drowning in the mucky swamp, feeling sad and hopeless.
Maybe you’re not a writer, but you’re responsible to create in other ways. Like graphics, or music, or painting. What do you do when you’re tapped out of inspiration? When Artax drowns, Falcor, a Luck Dragon, flies in and takes over for him and everyone goes on their merry way to save Fantasia.
Where’s my Falcor? Unfortunately, nowhere to be found. When my proverbial well of inspiration is bone dry I have to dig deeper and take some extra steps to unearth new wellsprings. I’ve found these five tricks really help me, so I wanted to share them with anyone needing new ways to open the floodgates of creativity!
This one is perfect if you’ve got a really short window of time to work with. Take a look at some of your past works with a fresh perspective. For example, maybe you’ve written 5 Steps to Creating a Successful Social Strategy and one of the steps is developing a social calendar. Maybe you write a new piece focused solely on Creating a Killer Social Calendar. What gems can you dig up and expand on to recreate? Probably more than you imagine until you actually start looking.
I’m blessed to work on a team of really talented and helpful women. When I get stuck, I pull up a chair at someone else’s desk, purposefully in someone else’s space (for potential inspiration) and ask for help. Usually when I talk about where or why I’m uninspired, a teammates perspective, because they think differently than I do, is extremely valuable and in most cases sets the sail of creativity in a whole new and amazing direction for me. Collaboration births some of the most wonderful ideas!
Imagine. Look around you. Write, don’t type, WRITE words down onto paper. Play word association games. Take a walk in nature. Pick up a camera and take some pictures. Doodle. Laugh.
Spending time to relax and play, while keeping your piece in mind, can help you to think of new ideas.
Sometimes when I’m fresh out of creativity I think about things I love, know a lot about, or make me laugh that I can use as themes throughout a piece. For me, that might be using a TV show like McGyver to discuss explosive writing techniques or a famous 80’s movie like The Neverending Story to inspire peoples’ creativity when they seem to be stuck. Themes are a fun way to relate to your audience and also fun to utilize within your work.
Sometimes I try everything and nothing seems to work. That’s when I know it’s time to turn my back on the piece and walk away for a while. For me, returning after a good night’s rest is usually helpful and sparks new thoughts and inspiration. So, when you feel like the task is too daunting, walk away for a while and begin again when you’ve had a chance to get out of your head.
There may be more tactics to help make margaritas out of your creativity-blocking limes, but I find that these five work best for me. I hope you find them helpful as well. As a fellow creative, I’m honored that we get to do what we do every day. Let’s continue on our quests, not as Artax, stuck in the mud, but as Atreyu when he faces The Nothing’s servant, Gmork, in a head on battle, “Come for me, Gmork!”