Creative Downtime

Are fledgling writers immune to it?

Photo by Ivan Samkov on

ASPIRING writers, it is safe to assume, are those who are serious and eager in pursuing a career in writing. They may also be those who already have a foot inside the publishing industry and are doing their best to succeed in their chosen career.

As fledgling writers, it is also assumed that they have a well-stocked storage of ideas for whatever types of writing they have set their heart on to focus and create.

Why, you may ask, are fledglings deemed to have an overflowing stockpile of creative ideas?

It is realistic to expect that a budding writer has loads of ideas or plots, be it for a short story, a novel, a novella, essays or articles, a set of poems, even for a graphic novel, or for creative non-fiction. The reason is simple.

A fledgling writer has not yet produced a number of published works, and has, therefore, a rich supply of creativity that is waiting to be tapped.

In other words, an aspiring writer is presumed to have some leverage over a long-time writer in terms of fresh ideas and up-to-date unique experiences (first- and second-hand) to write about.

This is the assumption.

But as assumptions go, they are not written in stone.

Writer’s Block / Creative Blockage

Can an aspiring writer claim to have writer’s block?

If this is so, then what happened to the cache of creative nuggets forcing themselves out, like steam from a pressure cooker, wanting to escape and create imagery and establish connection with the readers via written words? Can a fledgling, who does not yet have a decent body of work in print that was achieved from ample time spent in rigorous writing, experience creative downtime? Has the well of creativity, which has not yet been tapped, run dry?

Is being unhappy exclusive to established writers?

In a feature which focused on a study done by Yale University’s Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios on a diverse group of writers, it was found that those experiencing writer’s block were unhappy. This cluster was further grouped into writers –

(1) suffering from anxiety and stress,

(2) expressing unhappiness through anger and irritation towards others,

(3) showing apathy and disengagement, and –

(4) with strongly negative emotions.

Their creative block was, therefore, a consequence of their being unhappy. Other factors contributing to writer’s block, still according to the study, include sagging motivation, having less pride and satisfaction, feeling less ambitious, and perfectionism.

Based on the above results, majority of people then – including aspiring writers – are not exempt from this range of emotions as outlined. For who among us, mortals, do not experience a spell of feeling unhappy occasionally and therefore uninspired?

Breaking through creative downtime

Help for getting past one’s creative downtime abounds on the Internet. Just type “writer’s block” on the search bar of your choice, and a glut of guidance in overcoming creative blockage will pop up from respectable sources.

A slew of motivational articles from other writers on how to break free from creative downtime can be accessed here, here, and here. And if you want further motivation, check this article, and this one. This challenge to overcoming writer’s block is also a good read.

Meandering spark of creativity

Photo by the author

But let me share a few other tips in clearing up the creativity fog.

These techniques were shared to me by successful colleagues when creative downtime interrupted them in the middle of writing a book.

Creatives, both aspiring and professional, may be interested in any of the following:

*Take a day trip in the countryside on the train or the bus

  • Feast your eyes on the beauty of nature without you driving and being mindful of the road.
  • Mute your mobile gadgets and listen instead to your choice of music on the headset.
  • Empty your mind of any thoughts, any concern.

*Hold a soft conversation with plants

  • This may sound a bit wacky but talking to plants, whether they’re located indoors or out in the garden, could be soothing to the soul.
  • The beauty in talking to plants is that they can’t talk back – and isn’t that wonderful in energizing the creative cells in the brain?

*Read books by long-time favorite authors

  • An infusion of fresh enthusiasm from the writings of authors who serve as your Muse can only light up that meandering spark of creativity.

*Listen to soothing music with a glass (or three or four maybe) of brandy

  • Drinking with soft music in the background sounds quite relaxing.
  • But drinking in excess might send you to sleep, unless you’re Stephen King, or Truman Capote or Ian Fleming among other famous writers who wrote their famous novels “while wasted”.

*Cook or bake while housemates are asleep

  • The preparation of ingredients, assembling the same on the kitchen bench like toy soldiers about to go into the oven or stovetop, the whir of the mixer or the ding! from the oven when preheat is achieved, the delicious waft of the buttery cake when done – imagine how calming and relaxing that is to a mind undergoing defogging.

*Play the one-armed bandit in the casino*

(Yes, coin-operated slot machines are still out there despite the advent of digital slot machines.)

  • Another colleague shared, laughingly but not untruthfully, that playing the old-fashioned slot machine gave her a lift. The sound of coins tinkling and plunking as they drop on the tray emptied her mind of all concerns.
  • The puffed-up excitement of winning takes over and over each time a silver coin is fed into the bandit, until she broke through her creative rut.
  • I strongly urge you to NOT try this method of getting over your creative downtime.


Lose yourself in the ‘now’ of your creativity fog to be able to recover from your meandering creativity spark.

In other words:

(1) take your mind off (temporarily) writing,

(2) de-stress in ways that are guaranteed to calm your psyche, and –

(3) find a happy place while remaining unconsciously open to fresh doses of creative hits.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

First published here.

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