Sometimes you have to step away from your writing, take a break and clear your mind. Maybe you’ve written your plot into a dead end, or you’re realizing it doesn’t make sense for your character to do the really cool thing you wanted him to do. Or maybe you’re even struggling to come up with the next story idea you want to tackle.
The following are some ideas of how to break from your writing or brain storming in order to up your creativity. Specifically these are ideas that anyone can try and any time. I think things like traveling or meeting with friends can be really helpful in terms of generating new perspectives, but those aren’t always options that are readily available, and, to be honest, I don’t think you have to go on some wild adventure to get your creative juices flowing.
Getting moving can get ideas circulating. When you exercise you can try thinking through some of the issues with your story or brainstorm on new ideas. Just being away from the writing desk and being active might make that easier for you. At the very least I find that doing some exercise (even light exercise) gives me a break from work that makes me feel positive so I can return to work with a good attitude, rather than that negative or frustrated feeling I get when I realize I’m procrastinating or just trying to mentally plow through an idea and not making any headway.
Taking a Walk
Similar to exercise, though possibly with a more scenic addition and certainly less exertion. If you have a park or something near your house, or if you happen to live in a rural area, a change of scenery can help with ideas. You’ll have new information to take in, whether it’s passing someone who looks interesting or walking down a street you’ve never been down before. These may seem like small or insignificant things, but if you see the right thing, it might kickstart an idea in your head. At worst some fresh air never hurt anyone.
Taking a Shower
I could maybe put taking a nap here as well. I think in both cases the body relaxes, and the mind is able to open up more. I know that I get a lot of ideas right before I go to sleep. Similarly, a shower is a break that puts me at ease, and sometimes that generates an epiphany for me.
It could be a chapter of a novel or a short story, but I think getting into the head of another author and seeing how he or she uses words or seeing how he or she develops plot and character can be really inspirational. I think it’s very possible to derive inspiration or to learn things from other mediums like TV or film as well, but I also think that when you’re facing an issue with your writing, it’s easier to tune out once the TV goes on rather engage with it and follow all of the mechanics of the story.
Looking at Art
This one certainly helps me, especially as a sci-fi and fantasy author. There are some really great artists out there whose work you can find on Deviant Art or Pinterest. Looking at different imagined settings, technologies, or characters gives me ideas for my own scenes or stories all the time. This is especially helpful when trying to put together a new project, but it can also be inspiring when I don’t have a good sense of what a setting in my work in progress looks like.
I haven’t tried this one, but I think that sometimes creating something, even a doodle, can open up different pathways in the brain that can lead to new ideas or solutions. If you’re stuck on a scene, perhaps just sketching out a diagram of what’s going on might make you think about it in a different way than you had been before. Or if you’re trying to come up with something new, maybe a doodle will lead to a character or setting idea you might not have otherwise considered.
I’m not a chef, and I’ve never cooked anything complicated, but, as I pointed out with drawing, the act of creating something can be rejuvenating. I think even just putting together a very simple dish, something that isn’t store bought or our of a box, can provide some space to think outside of your writing. It’s these breaks in the work flow that can lead to some fresh perspectives and ways of thinking, and I think even small activities can help create that space.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you a few ideas of things you might do when you’ve hit a block in your writing or world building. Ultimately I think that creativity comes from engagement, even when you’re just engaging in small activities. While of course the most important thing is always doing the work, sometimes staring at your computer screen isn’t going to solve that problem you’ve written yourself into. Take a break, do something else, engage with the world, and more likely than not you’ll find some of the answers you’re looking for.
Are there any activities you do to open up your creativity that I didn’t mention? Leave a note in the comments and let me know!
The inspiration for this article comes after reading “7 Non-Writing Activities to Boost Your Creativity” by Amanda Shofner, which I also recommend you check out.