Breaking Through Creative Blocks
By Cay Randall-May, Ph.D.
Are you starting a new school year? Does getting ready to read that mountain of textbooks seem like preparing to climb Mt. Everest? If you’re feeling a bit blocked by the size of the task ahead don’t be surprised and don’t feel alone. Overwhelm is common when we start lots of projects all at once.
One secret to breaking through creative blocks is to start somewhere; anywhere. A good place to begin is to read the summaries at the end of the first chapters of each of your texts. Set a timer to limit these start-up study sessions to ten minutes. Take time between reading sessions to walk, do some free-form dancing, strum a guitar, or paint a picture.
Alternating between reading/ writing and painting/singing is excellent creative calisthenics. Different areas of the brain are called upon during different types of activities. That brings us to the second secret to breaking through creative blocks: go around them.
If picking up a paint brush seems as strenuous as lifting a 150 lb barbell, then take a swim in soothing jazz instead. A dancer friend of mine reminded me to ‘dance as if no one is watching’ and that applies just as much to writing a short story.
In a writing workshop I was handed a photo of an unknown man. My assignment was to write anything I wished about this person. With no one to edit or criticize my thoughts I ice-skated on the surface of my mind. In two minutes I had named the man Bill, placed him in a bus terminal phone booth where he was calling his estranged sister. She reluctantly agreed to give him a ‘loan’ of fifty dollars if he could get to her trailer before her husband returned. Who knows where this fictional free flow would have carried me had our workshop leader not interrupted to ask us all to compare what we had written. No one had failed to write something.
In this case, looking at the photo of the unknown man had been the visual catalyst to writing. Creative blocks usually melt away when approached from a different sensory path. Blocks can serve us well when we realize that they indicate we are over relying on one limited part of the brain. So, to summarize:
To break through creative blocks:
ALTERNATE BETWEEN VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL APPROACHES
DITCH THE SELF-CRITIC