Improving Productivity – Dealing with Creative Block, Part 1

Every creative person deals with bouts of inactivity.

Writers encounter times when they can’t put two words together and, if they can, the words make no sense.

Artists stand in front of a blank canvas or sheet of paper and have no idea what to do with it.

Musicians find practice a painful ordeal and dread performances because everything sounds the same and none of it is good.

There just is nothing in the creative tank.

This isn’t new to me. In fact, I expect the apathy. It’s like a visit from a tolerated relative, dropping in every now and again to remind me I’m not the genius I sometimes think I am. It’s my thorn in the flesh. Inconvenient and uncomfortable, but filled with purpose.

Since I’m dealing with some of it as I write this post, I thought I would share some of the things that have helped me shake loose of the creative doldrums in the past.

Here are five things to get you started.

Just start something. Anything will do. If I can’t think what to paint, I pick up a scrap piece of canvas or mat board and just start dashing color on it.

If I’m writing, I’ll write one word and see what happens next.

If the blankness of that canvas, paper or monitor is the problem, getting the first mark on it will often be all you need to do. Even if it’s just a slash mark!

Close your eyes and just type a line or so. I know. This sounds really juvenile. Most of the time, you’ll get something that looks like this:

wouatpyhalfjkh;dfkbhsp dr8t7=[q59 q-a3irk’skldgja;dirgu[ab0t89] a’wefj ;rio=aw40q3468 t[0auerglkg’ kl

But sometimes there will be something in that string of gibberish that sparks something more intelligent and off you go. Can’t you just almost hear an alien cussing in that line?

Work on something else, part 1. For me, the something else is usually house work or yard work. Something that keeps my hands busy and my mind occupied, but not so occupied that it can’t wander a little bit, too.

Dish washing, puttering in the yard or garden, ironing shirts or vacuuming are all good.

What sorts of things do you take for granted that might really be writing tools in disguise?

Work on something else, part 2. And no, this isn’t more yard work or house work!

This is working on something other than your primary project. I always have at least two paintings and two stories going at the same time. Sometimes a lot more.

The reason is that if I go stale on one, I can switch to another and keep going.

The fresh perspective is often just what I need to get past creative block. Before I know it, I’ve not only done some work on that project, but I’ve often gone back to the primary one and done some good stuff there, too. That is always a great motivator!

Set apart quiet time with God. Just sit there.

Don’t pray, though it’s all right to begin with that. It’s not a prayer session. It’s a listening session. It is okay if your mind wanders because that may be where the answer is.

I once was up in the middle of the night and spent half an hour just sitting in the recliner, my eyes closed. I started by asking God to either give me an idea or put me to sleep, whichever was His will.

I ended up writing three or four pages longhand, then going to sleep. It was almost like taking dictation and was better than sleeping pills for getting to sleep.


If you write long enough, you will encounter dry spells. The secret is to not fear them. Embrace them if you can. Find ways to turn those dry spells into more productive times. Or, if nothing else, use them to recharge. Maybe read a good book or two.

Or three!

If you have some neat, fun or interesting ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Read Part Two!

Improving Productivity – Dealing with Creative Block, Part 2

Tweet It!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *