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DeezerQueue's avatar

What do you do when you have writer's block or are in a design rut?

Asked by DeezerQueue (2022points) May 18th, 2008

I’ve been here for a few weeks now and I can’t seem to get out of the funk and into the groove again. Do I just ride it out? I’ve been to a few sites that had inspired me in the past but it all starts to look the same again. How do I break out of the creative box I’m in and do something different?

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13 Answers

cookieman's avatar

Stay away from writing and design work (yours or others) – Get lots of sleep – Listen to music – Get outside. Do this for a few days (or a week), and keep a notebook and pencil handy. As you imagine new thins (sketches, snippets, sentence fragments, whatever), jot or sketch them down (quick and loose). They will not be complete ideas, but – inspiration.

playthebanjo's avatar

I find myself typing in random terms on a google image search. Sometimes an idea gets sparked that way.

rawpixels's avatar

one word….weed

benseven's avatar

@rawpixels – strongly disagree. Weed can be a terrible demotivator.

Crack, on the other hand, will sort you right out!

Fallstand's avatar

^^ hahaha

I just get out and do something for a bit and come back to it

wildflower's avatar

Take the pressure off. Whichever way works for you. Maybe get stuck in to a practical task or project. Paint the living room, re-organise your shoe-collection, gardening (I’m kinda stuck on this one at the moment), late spring-clean…..
When you get your mind off it, inspiration will come back – at least that works for me.

marinelife's avatar

Maybe get of a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Some of the indirect exercises can be rekindling for me if I view them as ends in themselves and don’t put pressure on myself to deal with the immediate block problem.

I don’t know if these quotes would be as helpful for a visual artist (although I think they might), but I always turn to this site when I am stuck For example, here is today’s quote: Meredith Willson

“Never let the demands of tomorrow interfere with the pleasures and excitement of today.”

it happens to all of us. This too shall pass.

Bri_L's avatar

Take a walk, eat something, watch the simpsons, watch a comedy, pace, wait until the pressure builds up until I have no choice.

DeezerQueue's avatar

Great suggestions, thanks, there are definitely a few I’m going to take a whack at. But I get the general message that I need to just back off for awhile.

lifeflame's avatar

Yes, back off, but also try approaching it with different mediums.
Also, you can give yourself side-projects: e.g., get a camera and go of taking photos about a part of the city. Free-writing off a random word in a dictionary. Draw to music. Dance to music and then draw or write what comes out.

The other thing is you can do to support yourself is to surround yourself with creative people. Start a writer’s circle, or visual artist’s circle. I dunno, sometimes having someone who I have to be accountable for and will get on my case if I am not producing can help give me some external structure.

While we are on books, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has been really helpful for me in developing a strong creative habit… she’s very big on free-writing, and in there is a bunch of good advice there. I also like reading about how other artists work… I get quite inspired when I do that. Recently I have been reading On Writing by Stephen King (this one is so-so, but it has some good points about the importance of an Ideal Reader… having someone you imagine writing for, which I thought was helpful); one of my all time favourites is The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film – which is a series of conversations between writer Michael Ondaatje (who wrote, among other things, The English Patient), and Walter Murch (who edited The English Patient. The Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now, etc)

Hope this helps.

hsrsmith's avatar


Hack your way out of writer’s block
Merlin Mann | Nov 18 2004

I recently had occasion to do some…errr…research on writer’s block. Yeah, research. That’s what I was doing. Like a scientist.

I found lots of great ideas to get unstuck and wrote the best ones on index cards to create an Oblique Strategies-like deck. Swipe, share, and add you own in comments.

* Talk to a monkey – Explain what you’re really trying to say to a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout.
* Do something important that’s very easy – Is there a small part of your project you could finish quickly that would move things forward?
* Try freewriting – Sit down and write anything for an arbitrary period of time—say, 10 minutes to start. Don’t stop, no matter what. Cover the monitor with a manila folder if you have to. Keep writing, even if you know what you’re typing is gibberish, full of misspellings, and grammatically psychopathic. Get your hand moving and your brain will think it’s writing. Which it is. See?
* Take a walk – Get out of your writing brain for 10 minutes. Think about bunnies. Breathe.
* Take a shower; change clothes – Give yourself a truly clean start.
* Write from a persona – Lend your voice to a writing personality who isn’t you. Doesn’t have to be a pirate or anything—just try seeing your topic from someone else’s perspective, style, and interest.
* Get away from the computer; Write someplace new – If you’ve been staring at the screen and nothing is happening, walk away. Shut down the computer. Take one pen and one notebook, and go somewhere new.
* Quit beating yourself up – You can’t create when you feel ass-whipped. Stop visualizing catastrophes, and focus on positive outcomes.
* Stretch – Maybe try vacuuming your lungs too.
* Add one ritual behavior – Get a glass of water exactly every 20 minutes. Do pushups. Eat a Tootsie Roll every paragraph. Add physical structure.
* Listen to new music – Try something instrumental and rhythmic that you’ve never heard before. Put it on repeat, then stop fiddling with iTunes until your draft is done.
* Write crap – Accept that your first draft will suck, and just go with it. Finish something.
* Unplug the router – Metafilter and Boing Boing aren’t helping you right now. Turn off the Interweb and close every application you don’t need. Consider creating a new user account on your computer with none of your familiar apps or configurations.
* Write the middle – Stop whining over a perfect lead, and write the next part or the part after that. Write your favorite part. Write the cover letter or email you’ll send when it’s done.
* Do one chore – Sweep the floor or take out the recycling. Try something lightly physical to remind you that you know how to do things.
* Make a pointless rule – You can’t end sentences with words that begin with a vowel. Or you can’t have more than one word over eight letters in any paragraph. Limits create focus and change your perspective.
* Work on the title – Quickly make up five distinctly different titles. Meditate on them. What bugs you about the one you like least?
* Write five words – Literally. Put five completley random words on a piece of paper. Write five more words. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page.

On the other hand, remember Laurence Olivier.

One day on the set of Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman showed up looking like shit. Totally exhausted and practically delirious. Asked what the problem was, Hoffman said that at this point in the movie, his character will have been awake for 24 hours, so he wanted to make sure that he had been too. Laurence Olivier shook his head and said, “Oh, Dusty, why don’t you just try acting?”

So, when all else fails, just try writing.

chaddq's avatar

The most important thing I learned about writing in grad school (finished my MA in Writing in 2005) was to sit at the desk and write for a few hours a day, every day. Taking a break from writing never worked for me, it just encouraged me to procrastinate even more. I had friends who took week-long breaks, though, and they wrote a great deal when the break was over. I’d suggest you keep trying new strategies til you fond one that works for you (don’t give up!).

DeezerQueue's avatar

I really like some of these suggestions. So far, so good, I’ve backed off a bit and it seems to have given me more mental space to use creatively, which in turn has given me some new ideas and perspectives. So far, so good!

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