Five tips for the stifled creative

June 27, 2018

Today is National Writing Day, so it seems like the perfect time to share some of the thoughts I’ve had recently about writing and its place in my life.

 

First and foremost, let me say I am very aware that chat about “writing and its place in my life” may seem achingly pretentious.

 

Please bear with me, though – because whatever your creative bag might be, I actually think there’s nothing wrong with (and everything to be gained by) giving yourself permission to take it a little more seriously.

 

I’ve been a writer of one kind or another since always, and as an adult have been lucky enough to make a living from writing about topics as diverse as train tickets, soft drinks and bespoke perfumes. Until very recently, however, I had done little in the way of “creative” writing for many years.

 

It’s surprisingly difficult to figure out why. Full time work, then the challenge of combining family life with freelancing are certainly factors.

 

Nevertheless, they don’t sufficiently explain my reluctance to put pen to paper and simply try to tell a story – something that as a child, a teenager or even in my early twenties, I’d have done with merry abandon.

 

The truth is that I was creatively moribund for reasons I’d taken neither the time nor the trouble to explore.

 

Mostly, I didn’t prioritise reviving my creative mojo when it first went a bit floppy – and consequently it ended up like the pot plant in my dining room after a few days without water: weak, wilted and at death’s door.

 

Being “a creative person”

 

In her excellent book “Big Magic”, Elizabeth Gilbert states unequivocally that all people are hardwired to be creative. I agree.

 

You might not be a writer, but perhaps you love to sing. Maybe drawing is your bag, or you find incredible freedom in acting.

 

Maybe it’s been so long since you attempted anything “creative” that you’ve forgotten what makes you feel good. If that’s the case, I’d urge you to spend a little time thinking about it. Ask yourself what you loved to do as a child and go from there.

 

Creativity in some form, I think, comes naturally to us all – but when that creativity is stifled, we don’t live life as richly as we could.   

 

My birthday gift to myself this year was a writing course, and a promise I’d let it galvanize me into using ‘muscles’ that had long since become flabby and idle.

 

Here are five other tips that have helped me restart my creative engine this year. I hope they work for you, too!

 

1. Let go of perfect

 

So many of us – myself included – worry before we even attempt something that it won’t be any good.

 

Concern about the quality of what we *might* create leaves us hamstrung, afloat on a warm, gentle wave of procrastination.

 

This feels way more comfortable than producing something that might not be perfect – but it’s nowhere near as good for your soul as writing, singing, drawing or joining your local theatre group.

 

Refuse to spend energy worrying about whether your creative efforts will be laughed out of town.

 

Instead, channel that energy into doing whatever creative thing works for you.

 

2. JFDI

 

I mentioned the concept of JFDI in a recent blog post about my working life, but it’s relevant here, too. It stands for “just fucking do it”.

 

An alternative way of putting this might be: “Give it a try,” or “COME ON, have a go.”

 

This should be easier once you have silenced your inner perfectionist.

 

Finding the time to do something creative can be really tough, but – even if your calendar is chocka – it’s so worth carving out a slot for.

 

I’ve come to believe that the most critical difference between someone who gets their book published and someone who doesn’t is whether or not they bothered to actually write it down.

 

3. Consume more mindfully

 

Now, I like trash TV and scrolling Instagram as much as the next person. More, probably. But as someone wise once said: “Eat only what feeds you.”

 

When I feel a bit creatively blocked, I try to open my eyes and mind to media that feel a little more, er, *nourishing* than re-runs of Toddlers and Tiaras or my House of Elliot DVD collection.

 

This isn’t to say that inspiration can’t be found in the most unlikely of places – just that stretching your brain a little is likely to do you good if it’s feeling a bit choked up.

 

I’ve recently made an effort to read more, seek out new music and spend a little less time online, and it’s done me the power of good.

 

4. Dump the distractions

 

Catherine Price’s book “How to Break Up With Your Phone” was a revelation to me earlier this year and I’d urge everyone to read it.

 

Faffing on a phone for up to several hours per day – which, apparently, is AVERAGE – does terrible things to your brain.

 

Neuroplasticity aside, if you’re trying to engage with creating something, the last thing you need is your phone going off every two minutes to tell you someone’s Tweeted or liked your latest Facebook post.

 

I have by no means kicked my iPhone into touch – I love it and wouldn’t want to be without it. However, I have become more mindful of how I use it in the past few months.

 

If I’m trying to write, something as simple as putting my phone in a separate room, or out of easy reach, can seriously improve my productivity.

 

If you are similarly distracted by websites, the radio or your emails, switch off your WiFi or music for as long as you need in order to concentrate fully.

 

5. Just put it out there

 

Last but not least, when you’ve worked on something creative you must be brave enough to share it.

 

Don’t hide your light under a bushel, as my grandma (and indeed, Take That) would have said: let it shine.

 

In my experience this is the scariest, but possibly the most crucial, tip to follow. Letting people see your stuff can feel terrifying – but every time you put something out there and accept that people may *or may not* love it, you become freer to create and share the next thing.

 

You don’t have to bare your creative soul to the whole world, but you do need to let at least your friends and family catch a brief glimpse of it.

 

Good luck, and happy creating! If you have more tips to throw into the mix, please post them below.

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