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Outliving the Creative Slump

Copyright: Juleigh Howard-Hobson– All rights reserved


It happens to us all sooner or later. The creative slump. You want to write, but nothing comes to you. Zilch. Nada. Not one iota of inspiration arrives in your head. It’s maddening. It’s disheartening. It makes you hard to live with.

Not to worry, though. These things happen to the best and there are any numbers of solutions out there to help you over that hump.

Could be that all you need is a week of writing variations of "I have nothing to say" over and over again to set your muse back on track and you on the way to a best selling thriller. Or, perhaps you need the sudden gulp of inspiration that writing prompts such as "write about what happens after you open a heavy cardboard box…" can give you toward finally finishing that memoir you began. Tricks like these are easy to tackle and often work wonderfully.

But…every so often it happens. No matter how many prompts you read and try to work on, no matter how many sets of "300 words" you throw at the monitor, no matter how many writer how-to books you read, no matter how many writer block sites you hit…nothing shifts your creative slump. You are Slumped with a capital S.

A slump like this becomes worse the more you try to figure out how to make it go away. The best way to deal with a Slump like this is to stop. Stop trying to write. Stop thinking about how you are slumped. Recharge your soul. Refresh your synapses. Let your muse play in the sun. Give yourself a week or two off—take up to a month if you feel like you need it—and try some of these non-writing exercises designed to replenish your inner writer’s materials, and provide a wealth of renewed inspiration so that  you will be full, once more, of things to draw upon and write.

1.      Go and look up at the sky this evening--take it all in. Absorb as much of it as you can.

2.      In your head, hear these sounds: a hand on a door (doing what?); metal creaking in wood (what is it?); glass falling on concrete (high fall? slight fall?) the crunch of something delicate under your foot (did you mean to do it?).

3.      What did you do this day last year? Can you recall?

4.      Find five minutes just to look at clouds today.

5.      Make a list of who and where you are now, and who and where you want to be in one year, five years...

6.      Think about images that come unbidden to mind when you see the word: WARM, WINTER, YELLOW, BLURRY, WRITER.

7.      Drink a glass of cool water--think about describing it while you are drinking it.

8.      Go the library and pick up a book you normally wouldn't read, flip through it--why does it not move you? What is it about it?

9.      Watch a classic horror movie--just watch it--suspend your inner voice and watch it like it was meant to be watched fifty years ago, before special effects took away audience imagination....

10.  Find a sunny window and just look...

11.  Clean up the clutter around your computer and desk.

12.  Find new ways to say: hot, suddenly, look, dark, fall.

13.  Listen to the music of nature, just sit somewhere outside and listen for ten minutes.

14.  List (approx) five childhood books that shaped your taste in reading.

15.  Find letters in the branches of a tree...A, B, C...there should be all of them if you look long enough...

16.  At evening, watch the sunlight stream in a window and highlight even small pieces of dust.

17.  Open a drawer, any drawer, and look at its contents, really look at them. What do they say to you...about you?

18.  Dust your book shelves, re-arrange your books.

19.  Re-read a best loved poem or short story; give yourself enough time to really enjoy it.

20.  Spend the day being really aware of how things taste--all day.

21.  Breathe! Smell!!

22.  Spruce up your favourite place in your house. Dust? Wash? Clear? Get that chi moving!

23.  Make something to eat/drink--even just a cup of tea-- watch yourself do this, as if you were a character in a very interesting book written by you...

24.  Listen to water run, no matter the source (fountain or tap), does it burble or pound or thrust or gush or???

25.  Imagine what you would be wearing if you were you, but it was some time in the past? Why do you pick that certain date in history over all the others?

26.  Look carefully at your hands, both sides of them, note the wrists and the nails, what sort of watch do you have, do you have rings?

27.  Colours are all around you--look and see and notice how they interplay and how they change in shade and light.

28.  Think of famous characters (movies, books, historical...)--who do you relate to the most? Are these people the same that you admire the most??? Hmm...

29.  Look through a book of art--any art--what do you like in art? Do you like several styles? Only one movement? Men artists? Women? Portraits? Trompe l’oeil?

30.  Look back over the month...has anything changed in you? Outside you? For you? To you? What did you do this time last month? What do you think you will be doing this time next month?


Taking some time to nourish and restock your inner writer’s self can lead you out of the Slump and back in touch with your wellsprings of creativity once again. Think of it as a little R & R for your muse.


About the author: Juleigh Howard-Hobson is an award winning author and poet. Her work has appeared in many places, from Clamor Magazine to the New York Times Best Selling anthology Nesting, It's A Chick Thing. She has moderated writing sites such as Mamaphonic.com (2001) and YouAreStillHere.com's: The Muse (2002-2004) combining supportive critiques, informative coaching and infectious enthusiasm for all things writerly. While under her moderation, The Muse was recommended as a place to 'check out' in  The Zine Yearbook Vol. 7.


         Last updated: February 19, 2007