Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Every writer, and every creative will find themselves at one point or another, stuck. Stuck in what we call writers block. For me, this often happens when I get sidetracked, have a long project, or am in love with my final product but the consumer that I'm making it for wants edits. So how do I get back on the saddle and get the creative juices flowing again? I look to my surroundings.
For me, the typical daily life is full of stories. Every person that I walk by. Every plant I see growing. Every building standing, and every food that is made. They all have a story of where they were yesterday, and where they can be tomorrow. Why they exist. Why they are in good shape, or why they are falling apart. Their story is endless to my imagination. So when I hit what I call, creative block (I struggle with finding more creative ways to say or do something), I write stories about things that I can see in front of me. Everything that my eyes can see has a story, and for me, it's easy to write a story about something I already know a little bit about and has no limitations.
Below I'll share an example of a recent one I did. I was on a plane stuck in writers block while trying to finish a chapter of a book that I'm writing. For a solid hour I was stuck, rereading the chapter, not knowing what to write next or how to say it. I was just in a mental drudge. So I looked for inspiration to change my thought pattern so that I could come back to my book with a fresh mindset.
To my right sat a man... and so my new story began...
10pm on a Thursday night flight from Portland, Oregon to Phoenix, Arizona sat a man for 2 hours under a lonely overhead light. Wearing a black suit, his white hair combed tightly, and roughly in his 70’s, he held a pose that seemed of deep focus.
The man never picked his eyes up off of a small notepad except when to pour more red wine into his cheap plastic airline cup, or to take a glance at his phone. He wrote diligently, and erased with emphasis. Turned pages forward and backward as he seemed to continually change his mind on what was being written.
I began to draw my own conclusions that he was preparing for a business meeting of great importance to close a deal that saves his company... or maybe he was writing a eulogy for a close friend... maybe he was going to visit a long lost love and was preparing what he wanted to say... maybe he was preparing a big speech to thousands of people... or maybe he was an author approaching a deadline.
The way he looked, and the manner in which he carried himself told me he was a man of importance and status and my curiosity beamed from the weight of his pencil on the pad. His focus showed that what he was working on needed to be finished before he landed.
So when the landing gears opened, and the cabin lights came on I struck up conversation.
“Business, leisure, or home?” I asked.
“Business” the man replied.
“If you don’t mind, I couldn’t help but notice that you seemed to never look up from your pad the entire flight. Big project you’re working on?” I asked.
“Well yeah, I’ve been trying to get this finished for months now and have been stuck on one word that is just driving me crazy. Maybe you can help. What’s a 7 letter word for Rubber from the Middle East?” He asked.
“Aladdin.” I responded.
“He rubs the lamp. Any other wishes I can grant?” I replied.
Crossword puzzle finished. Day won. Goodnight.
With this story I was able to change my thought pattern. I was able to draw my attention somewhere completely different, but have natural inspiration that didn't require myself to overthink like I was doing while stuck in my creative block. For me, when I see a visual of something, it's easier to write about it, than when I'm trying to draw from memory. After I finished this short story I went back to my book, and finished the next chapter as the wheels touched down.
Whether this works for you or not, I don't know. A few close friends that I've share this strategy with have said it has saved them countless hours of battling themselves in creative droughts, so I'm hoping that maybe for a few of you it can do the same. Finding a photo to write a story about can do just the same as well.
Find the stories around you. Go back to your way of thinking when you were a child where every person, object, and experience had so much wonder behind it. Back to where we never just assumed that we already knew the answer or that the answer wasn't important but instead became curious in the simple things. Back to when everything seemed to have a story, because we hadn't yet been ruined by continuous disappointing outcomes vs what we thought before we knew. That's where the story lays, and that's where you can flip your thought pattern upside down.
So today, challenge yourself to find a photo somewhere, or something in your surroundings to write a short story about. Be as detailed as possible to make the reader feel as if they were there sitting with you. Let your creativity flow and see if it fills up your creative juices that you've been wanting to squeeze out and share with the world. Okay, maybe don't get that detailed, but you know what I mean.