Creativity hacks: beating the blank page


Struggling to get your blog written every week? Our #ResidentWriter Sam shares his top tips for beating writer’s block and boosting your creativity.

I’ve heard it said that the thing writers fear most is the blank page. Creating original content consistently is a challenge for anyone. And anyone might face the endless oblivion that is writer’s block. It’s frustrating at best, but if there’s a deadline approaching it can be doubly lethal. So what can you do to avoid creative walls, or to reach the other side?  

Creative cross-training

Sometimes you’re stuck in one mode of thinking and your mind needs to see from another perspective. Most of the time the ‘stuck’ mode is an overly serious, stressed one. By playing with other outlets of creativity, we can loosen up and become more playful. Srinivas Rao, founder of The Unmistakable Creative podcast says, “When we’re willing to play outside our primary domain and experiment we open up a lot of possibilities that may not have occurred to us before.”

So maybe after work you need to walk for a while with a camera and take photos. Or sit down with that guitar you haven’t touched in years. Or if you’re at work and you have the freedom to do it, start drawing cartoons on the nearest piece of paper. If you’re terrified of drawing, then doodle to dislodge your perfectionist thinking.

Start working now

It was E.B White who said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

When we’re wound up too tightly to even begin, we certainly won’t ever finish.

I’ve experimented with free writing: writing without hesitating, editing, or necessarily making sense. If I’m facing a blank page for longer than a few minutes, I will just start putting words on it, regardless of their quality. It’s a way of disengaging with my inner editor, the side of me that wants a great end product. It’s good to want to control the quality of what I write – but it’s impractical to try to do it at the start of the process. Ideas spring from motion.

If your planning has turned into procrastination, consider the words of Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and author of Creativity Inc: “Overplanners just take longer to be wrong.”

Take care of yourself

If your mind is always in a state of ‘go’ then you’ll find it hard to keep thinking creatively. Taking regular breaks - including five minute breathers - can go a long way. The Pomodoro method of time-management requires you to take a five minute break every 25 minutes so that your mind can stay refreshed.

The moment you step outside and let your mind rest could be the moment inspiration eventually strikes. As Stephen King said, “Good story ideas seem to come literally from nowhere… two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun.”

Remember who you are

If you’re struggling to think beyond the clichéd and obvious, write the obvious down and then start thinking beyond it. There are nuances that are unique to you and your organisation. If you need to come up with content themed around confidence, for example, there are plenty of platitudes you can use. But there’s also a lot that belongs to your story.

Often we tap into our deepest creativity when we consider what matters to us. It’s impossible to take yourself completely out of what you create so you might as well embrace the fact. You can learn a lot through imitation but your best work belongs to you alone.

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