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••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Creativity

In a Creative Rut? Here Are Some Exercises and Actions You Can Do To Improve Your Writing
• Indiana Lee


For so many people, writing is seen as an art form, an expression, a medium through which emotions and stories can be told — and in a certain sense, that’s exactly what writing is. However, when the thought of writing as an art form is romanticized to an extreme, it can set up a significant level of false expectations.

This alluring misconception of a writing career as one of care-free, artistic expression has led to many a frustrated professional writer. As their creative expression dries up in the face of deadlines and dry assignments, it’s easy to feel that initial love of the written word shrivels up inside.

Fortunately, when you find yourself in a situation like this, you don’t have to throw in the towel. There are many ways to keep that creative spark alive and well. Here are a few specific, actionable suggestions to reignite that passion and help yourself climb up out of that creative writing rut.

Take a Break

This first one is obvious — on the surface at least. Here’s the thing, though. It’s very easy to abuse breaks. If you’re in a creative rut, chances are that you don’t want to write at all, and indulging that desire out of hand can exacerbate an existing problem.

Instead, try to take strategic breaks. Set yourself a personal objective, such as getting to a certain word count or through a particular section of a writing assignment, and then plan on taking a break when you reach your goal.

Then, once you’re taking the break, really take a break. Look for something else to do, such as:

  1. Going for a walk.
  2. Taking a power nap.
  3. Eating a meal.
  4. Reading a book.
  5. Socializing with friends.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re not thinking about the writing. Often creative ruts come from burnout, and overtaxing your brain can drain your creative output quickly. In order to get that creative fire burning again, give yourself small goals that lead to breaks whenever possible.

Take a Sabbatical

While small breaks can be a helpful way to get through a day or even a week, if you’re suffering from a chronic inability to write, you may want to up the ante a bit. Depending on both your financial and living situations, this can be anything from taking a long weekend to recuperate to going on a full-blown road trip. Staycations are another great sabbatical activity, as well. Once again, the important thing isn’t the specific activity so much as the fact that you’re giving your mind a prolonged hiatus from your normal writing activity.

If you do decide to take a longer break, make sure to schedule an exit strategy. The longer you go without working, the harder it will be to shake off that rust and get back into the flow. In fact, it’s generally a good idea to avoid a longer sabbatical unless you genuinely feel the need for a hard creative reset.

Find a Physical Hobby

One of the more fun ways to get those creative juices flowing again is to find a fun hobby to focus on. Often the weight of writing — especially when it’s work- or school-related — can have a stifling effect.

If that’s the case, it can be helpful to look for other hobbies and activities that can spark your imagination in new and exciting ways. These can be both traditional and out of the box. A few suggestions include:

  1. Playing a pick-up sport like soccer or basketball.
  2. Going hiking.
  3. Taking up metal detecting.
  4. Finding a good fiction book.
  5. Learning an instrument.
  6. Playing a game.

Whenever you feel that burnout coming on, plan in some time to disengage from work and focus on a hobby for a bit.

Use a Pomodoro Timer

If you’re taking breaks and trying hobbies, but you still can’t climb out of that rut once you get back to work, it may be time to take a slightly more aggressive stance towards your writer’s block.

One way to help stimulate your brain is by using a Pomodoro timer. This is simply a timer that breaks your day into 25-minute work segments followed by 5-minute breaks. You can feel free to adjust the specifics — many people will do closer to 40-minute work segments, for instance.

Using a Pomodoro timer can be helpful, as it spurs you to be productive in small spurts, with the knowledge that a break is coming on a regular basis.

Write Something Fun

Another way to break things up is by taking a break from any high-pressure assignments to write a low-pressure piece of fiction. Writing stories that illustrate humor or handle a common scenario in an interesting format can be a nice way to let your raw writing talent flow, unfettered by the bonds of professional restrictions.

Consider Maslow

One area that can be easy to overlook as you fret over your inability to produce, is your health and wellness. However, if you’re overly tired, under-fed, or out of shape, it can interfere with your writing.

That’s why keeping yourself healthy is important. Regardless of your current situation, try to find ways to:

  1. Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day.
  2. Eat healthy foods in good proportions.
  3. Get regular exercise.

If you can address the basics on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you’ll be better equipped to physically and mentally get through each day of writing.

Sharpen Your Skill Set

Finally, you can always look for ways to sharpen your existing writer’s skill set. For instance, you can consider going back to school. You don’t have to get a degree or anything. Simply consider auditing a writing class or two at a local college, or even take a class online.

Re-immersing yourself in the academic world can help you brush up on forgotten skills, expand existing abilities, and learn new talents. All of these can bolster your writing repertoire and can help to give you a new sense of passion, focus, and vision.

Getting Out of a Writing Rut

Whether you’re getting a little extra sleep, taking a class at a local college, or picking up a new hobby, there are plenty of ways to overcome a writing slump. If you take the time to experiment with the various tools outlined above, you can identify which ones are particularly effective for you.

Then, whether you’re working as a freelancer, a content writer, a grant writer, or any other writing career, whenever you hit a snag in your professional compositions, you can use them to help you refocus and stir up that creativity in a fresh, new way.

© Indiana Lee - May 2020

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