creative dry spell

Am I Out of Ideas? How to Handle a Creative Dry Spell

You shake your pen and nothing comes out, but it’s not the ink that’s dry—it’s your idea well. If you’re feeling stuck beyond writer’s block, feeling uninspired, or even anxious about writing, you might be hitting a dry spell. Whether you’ve been trying to write for a week, a month, or even a year (or longer), remember this first tip: don’t panic. Remember that some days the words flow more easily than others, and that is completely natural. 


Cut yourself some slack

We’re much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Take a moment to check your self-talk. Would you tell a friend the same things you are saying to yourself? If not, take a step back and consider what you might say to a friend going through the same thing. 


Step away from the project

If you’ve been staring at the same spot on the screen for multiple writing sessions, it might be time to take a break. Remember that you don’t always have to pick up where you left off in your last writing session. Grant yourself the freedom to gather more inspiration (either online or from the world around you), edit a previous project, or start something entirely new. Your work will still be there when you come back. 


Make something for your eyes only

Sometimes the pressure of success can stop us in our tracks. It turns us into performers rather than writers, and that’s no good for our creative side. Rather than worrying about the end result, consider creating something that is made just for you. Whether you write out a far-fetched fantasy, advice to your younger self, or a goofy haiku, make no plans to shop it around. Use this as a reminder of what you love about the process, not the product. 


Make something bad on purpose

Not so far off the “for your eyes only track,” consider writing something you wouldn’t normally like. It can be uncomfortable at first, even cringe-inducing, but soldier on. When you’re done, consider the consequences. Has the sky fallen? Has your computer gone up in flames? This activity is a not-so-gentle reminder that it is okay to write, rewrite, rework, and even abandon things that don’t work out. There are no writing police to stop you. 


Collaborate with a friend

There’s no reason to go-it-alone. If your solo writing sessions aren’t as productive as you’d like, consider teaming up with a trusted friend for a new project. It can be equal parts fun and rewarding to bounce ideas off one another and build something new with someone you feel close to. Plus, the two of you will be able to hold each other accountable for making progress on the project. 


Change up your environment

Poet Emily Dalton completed her debut memoir-in-verse, Be Straight With Me, after quitting her job in New York City to return to her hometown. While a life-shifting change might sound appealing, remember that you don’t have to uproot just to shake things up (but you sure can if you want to). Changing up your environment could be as simple as moving your desk to face a window or writing in a new spot (a coffee shop, a park, or sprawled out on the floor in your living room). 


Embrace a slower pace

If your DIY-deadlines have come and gone more than once, or if they cause more stress for you than motivation, consider switching up your approach. Rather than trying to complete the project by a certain date, just promise yourself to spend a certain amount of time on the project. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, either. You might promise yourself just ten minutes a day, for example. If nothing productive happens in those ten minutes, simply step away. A less intense writing structure can relieve some of the undue pressure that stops us from writing. 


No matter what approach you take, remember that dry spells are natural. Trust that your coveted flow state is not as far away as you think. It’ll be there waiting for you when your mind is ready to return to that space.