Do you feel like your creative well has run dry? Read on for my advice on finding inspiration.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that my husband and I are moving to Canada later this month. I am beyond excited to be returning home after nine years abroad, but I’m also exceedingly busy with packing, sorting out finances, visiting friends and family, etc. Small wonder, then, that I’ve fallen off the internet in the past couple of weeks.
But there’s another reason I’ve been quiet.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my lifelong goals is to be a published author. I’ve been making up stories since childhood and, for me, writing is the ultimate in creative release. I’ve had periods of self-doubt and insecurity, worrying that I’m a horrendous writer and no one will ever read what I’ve written, but I always come back to it, because the stories in my head are there and begging to be told.
Two weeks ago today, I picked up an old draft of a novel that’s very dear to my heart and started redrafting. As of today, I have nearly half of a new draft on my computer. It is the strongest, tightest, most cohesive, best work I’ve ever written, and it’s the first time I’ve written something I acutally think other people might read. (Oh, and also? I feel like a badass when I can say I wrote 38,511 words in 14 days).
I am indescribably proud of what I’ve written. It is undoubtedly my best work to date, and I feel like I’m making real progress towards that lifelong goal of Real Author ™.
But I’m also ashamed. I’ve not been as present in life as I might have been, and I’ve been neglecting other things, such as this blog, wandering through life as though the real world is veiled under the world of my novel. There have been days I’ve sat in my pyjamas and forgotten to eat because I was so absorbed in what my characters were doing. It’s not a healthy state of affairs.
It’s gotten me thinking a lot about inspiration, When it comes to inspiration, you often see advice for creatives on not waiting around for inspiration to strike, but to work hard.
Right now, though, I feel like I have the opposite problem. I’m walking through life in a cloud of inspiration, my fingers itching to return to the keyboard, my mind whirring through the dialogue in the next scene.
And, I know. It’s the ultimate humblebrag. “I want to be a writer but I have too much inspiration!” Said no one ever. And I’ve been on the other side, feeling as though my well had run utterly dry and every word I tried to write was like pulling teeth, and I can guarantee you, this side is better.
But it’s clear that what my creative life needs is balance. I need to create, to write stories, but I cannot wither away in imaginary worlds, either.
There are two sides to this. On the one hand, there’s the situation I’m currently in, and I welcome any advice on how to adult when all I want to do is sit in my pyjamas and let the words flow.
On the flip side, there’s the struggle to find balance when you can’t find any inspiration – when, as a writer, you’re suffering from writer’s block. This is what I’m going to address in this post, as it’s what I have the most experience with.
It’s a horrible, soul-destroying situation to be in, but it’s one we all face at some point or another: That sinking feeling that your creativity has shrivelled up and died. But fear not! It can be fixed (and then, if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself swept up in the creative flow and not want to come back down to real life).
Read on for my advice on dealing with creative blocks and finding balance.
If there is one thing I could tell you to do that would make the biggest difference, it’s this. It sounds counter-intuitive, because setting aside time for creative work every day seems like the exact opposite of encouraging inspiration, but it works.
I quit my job a couple of weeks ago in preparation for our move, but when I was working, I always wrote fiction first thing in the morning. This worked great to get me out of bed (is there any better feeling than waking up excited to write?), but it also conditioned my mind to expect that. Within a few weeks of establishing this routine, my mind automatically went to my story as I was making my tea, and by the time my tea was finished I was ready to write.
In a similar vein, by developing a creative ritual you signal to your mind that it’s time to create. For me, for instance, I get up in the morning, make a cup of tea, and sit down at the computer, and all that signals to my mind that it is time to write stories.
Seek out inspiration
We talk about waiting for inspiration to strike, but if that’s just not happening for you, then you need to be more proactive about it and seek it out. Read books, listen to music, that kind of thing. Let yourself be bored, as Neil Gaiman advises.
Think about inspiration specific to your art, too. I write fantasy, and one of my favourite ways to find inspiration is by visiting museums and castles. I swear, any time my husband and I visit a castle I spend half of it on my phone, taking pictures and making notes. I’m sad like that.
Take a break
Unless you do your creative work professionally, then you don’t have to keep producing. Sometimes, it helps to take a step back and give yourself a chance to remember why you love it.
You can take a full-on break from creative endeavours, or you can switch to something different; it really depends on your frame of mind. If you write fiction, for instance, you might switch to a different story, maybe even a different genre, if there’s a story idea nagging at your brain.
If there’s nothing, though, and you can’t even summon the interest in reading, then go ahead and binge on Netflix and leave the writing a while. Sooner or later you’ll have characters clawing at the bounds of your mind, desperate to get out.
Although I write pretty consistently, I hadn’t touched the story I’m working on right now for over a year when I picked it up a fortnight ago. By the time I got around to it again, I’d forgotten just how much I love the characters and the world, until I got stuck into it again.
And I think that’s a big part of why I’ve been having so much fun with it and I’ve been writing so much: because, rather than forcing myself to finish it a year ago, I took a break, moved on to something else, and then picked it up again and fell in love all over again.
This is my last post of 2016, as I prepare to spend some much-needed time with my family and friends back home. I hope your holiday season is filled with joy and love and plenty of creative inspiration.
Over to you
What do you do when you find your creative well has run dry? Do you have any advice for balancing creative work with real life?
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