Monday, August 26, 2013

25 Quick Ways To Get Unstuck

There are two kinds of creative people: 

Those who get stuck from time to time...

And liars.

I'm a timer!
Here's 25 Quick Ways, in no particular order, that have helped me and people I know to get unstuck. One warning - a timer (or knowing how to set the timer on your phone), is indispensable. Do set time limits on your breaks, lest you wholly evade your writing and get sucked up into your break activity.

Hand Pump on a Hillside Well
Via dok1 @ Flickr Creative Commons
Just keep swimmin'. The BIC (Butt In Chair) method of forcing yourself to stay put until you have written XX number of pages, no matter how crappy, is something that works well to prime the pump for many writers. Like water from a well, it may start out rusty and nasty, but the clear stuff will eventually follow, if you keep pumping

Phone a friend. Not tweet, not IM, not e-mail - actually pick up the phone and talk to another human being with your mouth for a few minutes. (But only for a few minutes!)

Write a quick book review. You've undoubtedly read something lately that you liked a lot. Take a few minutes to share the love on B & N, GoodReads & Amazon. The author and other readers will appreciate it.

Nap. A good 20-30 minute nap can recharge your batteries without leaving you unable to sleep at bed time.

Walk this way. Take a quick stroll around the block (or around your estate, if you live on a big spread).

Read something. (Set that timer so you don't get sucked in!) Poem, short story, chapter of a book. If you are writing on your computer, try not to also read on your computer; give your eyes a break.

Dance break. The opposite of BIC. Put on a boogie song you love and dance your heart out; twirl like Stevie Nicks or Get Up Offa That Thing like James Brown. Sing along and move with the music. (This works best at home, though undoubtedly peeps at Starbucks or B & N would be vastly entertained.)

(Did you dance along? How could you not?)

Eat me. Have a quick, refreshing snack.  (Keep carrot sticks, celery, and other raw fruits and veggies and healthy snacks handy.)

It's a numbers game. Play a couple rounds of suduko or solitaire, or balance your checkbook.  Many writers swear that switching to games or tasks that require math skills (the other side of the brain) helps them quickly refresh the creative side.

Pink jasmine, yummy!
Sniff something. (No, not that.) Use aromatherapy: spritz yourself with cologne, burn some incense, light a candle. Myrrh is good for getting unstuck; also helpful is eucalyptus and citrus scents. Jasmine is supposed to inspire creativity. If you have a garden, cut and bring in some fresh and fragrant flowers.

Play dress up: figure out what your characters are wearing in the scene. Is a new pair of thong underwear making her feel sexy and confident, or perhaps horribly uncomfortable and self-conscious because she's never worn them before?

Hydrate: they say most people don't drink enough water. Drink a glass of water, savoring the way it feels sliding down your throat; envision all the tissues in your body plumping up and saying thank you. Or splash water on your face for a quick pick me up. Water your houseplants.

Flip open the dictionary and pick a random word.  Find a way to integrate it into your story.

Do a set of data backups.  Like hydration, most people don't do it enough. And why not floss your teeth while the backup is processing?

via Wikimedia Commons
Get up and slowly, methodically stretch for five minutes.

Take out the trash - if you've got shredding to do, shred it. Empty the shredder, the trash, the recycling, and tell the Universe you're creating room for the good ideas to come in.

Brush your hair, or, if you don't have hair, massage your scalp. Imagine your newly stimulated scalp sending happy messages to the creative parts of your brain.

Play set dresser. Imagine your characters' physical environment. Is it a mosquito-laden, warm summer evening, a misty morning before the sun has come up? Is it hot, cold, rainy? Is there a fire in the fireplace adding to the romance or backing up with smoke into the room? Is it a busy street corner where three pedestrians have been mowed down in the last year? How does the atmosphere around your characters impact their behavior in the scene?

Housework. Yes, really.  Write a scene, go clean your toilet. Write another scene, vacuum the living room. With any luck, you'll end up with both a chapter written and a cleaner household environment, but don't let yourself evade writing by focusing entirely on your housework. If you find yourself on a writing jag, keep going. Those dust bunnies ain't going anywhere.

Fun with fur. Take the dog outside and throw a ball for him; play "mouse" or "string" with your cat for fifteen minutes. Or simply pet or brush them for a little while.

Get crafty. Pull out your knitting/cross-stitch/mandala coloring book. Grab that jacket that's been in the mending pile for weeks and sew the damn button back on.

Sex. Surprise your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/vibrator with a quickie. It may well start your creative juices flowing, and if not, at least you'll have a smile on your face.

oooh, bubble wrap!
Re-read the previous chapter/poem/story.

Make some noise. Pop some bubble wrap; stomp some aluminum cans flat; rip up some junk mail. As long as it makes a nice, satisfying noise.

Breathe. You know, the slow, deep, in-through-the-nose, hold, out-through-the-mouth Lamaze breaths you learned in class or saw in the movies. Your latest project is something you're giving birth to, right?

What are your favorite techniques to get unstuck?
Leave a comment and let everyone know what worked for you.