Get up and out, or let it out: solutions to the creative dilemma

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Honestly, sometimes writing is like thrashing in a rip. No idea is a good one. I can’t concentrate. Then I get frustrated with myself, which makes it even harder to write. I put the computer onto flight mode to limit my distractions. I o pen the curtains to check on the sunrise – it’s too early. I stare into space for twenty minutes in between sentences. I light a candle. It smells awful. I write a list of all the websites I want to check in on. I stumble through the start of three terrible posts. I check the sunrise again – it’s too cloudy. I give up and check Slack and the weather and my emails. I slump down to breakfast, feeling defeated.

I have found that if I’m struggling to get anything coherent out, usually one of two things has happened, so therefore one of two things needs to happen.

Either I’m under-stimulated or I’m overstimulated. So, something needs to go into the tank to get me thinking, or something needs to get untangled and dissected, so I can move on.

If you’re like me, if sometimes you need inspiration, recalibrating, a new sense of perspective, or simply a creative jolt out of the ordinary, here are some of the things you might do.

Commit to a morning each week without your phone on your desk or in your pocket.

Leave the house and go to the nearest library.

Go to bed earlier.

Volunteer at a local charity you’ve always admired. It could just be an hour a month – doesn’t matter. Sign up, follow up, and go in.

Go to a suburb you’ve never been to in your city. Walk around the streets.

Make a commitment to say hello to the next street person you see.
Make a commitment to stop and talk to the next one.
Make a commitment to kneel or sit down with the next one.
Don’t expect to know what they’re going to say.

Get to your nearest body of water. If you can, go for a swim. If you can’t, sit and watch how it moves – it’s good for you.

Message someone you haven’t seen in over a year. Take them out and see how many questions you can ask. Listen.

Walk up a hill. It doesn’t matter how high it is – what I want you to experience is the rise of your breath and your heart rate, the thrill of looking down on where you were, the feeling that you’ve accomplished something, and the new perspective of a changed scene.

Leave your city for the day. You’re not allowed back into your house before dinnertime. Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you invite with you?

Alternatively, I may not be able to put my best work out there because I’ve crossed the line and I’ve done too much. I’m holding more than I can process because I’ve been too stimulated. My life may be too full, or there may be things weighing on my mind that don’t deserve to be there.

I’ve started to notice that there’s a pattern with these days. Something is asking for my attention, and it often masks itself by showing up as distraction, frustration, disappointment or anger.

If you know that feeling, when something’s encroaching on your mental space that doesn’t deserve to be, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to have a private space to let rip. Whether it’s an email to yourself, words scrawled across the page of a journal, a run down the beach where you yell at the sky, a drive down the motorway where you cry onto the steering wheel, or an activity that keeps your hands busy so your mind can calm down as well… doesn’t matter. You’ll know what works for you.

What’s important is for you to give this feeling a voice. It’s probably blocking the path of your sermon or book or song or recipe or piece or script or strategy, so let it out. The only way out is through.

So, if you’re finding it hard to concentrate, to create, to do the work that you think really matters, bookmark this page. You may need to open the front door to get out. Or, you may need to close the front door and simply let it out.

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