How to Dig Yourself out of a Creative Rut

As a writer, I count on my creativity a lot. I need to stay inspired pretty much all the time in order to pay the bills. When I’m on a roll with great ideas, there is no better feeling. Every once in awhile though, my creativity leaves me high and dry.

I go through periods when I feel like all of my ideas are terrible, or nothing seems to come out the way I want it to. My words feel clunky, my brain seems to move at a glacial pace, and none of my work packs the punch that I want. During times like these, I really want to hide away and wallow in self-pity until the idea famine passes and I feel inspired again.

However, hiding away and hoping that I’ll find my muse isn’t exactly the best use of my time when I’m feeling uninspired. I’ve found there are a few active steps I can take to help dig myself out of a creative rut:

Put your bad ideas out there

When I feel like none of my ideas are good, I’ve learned it’s often best to lean into the mediocrity in order to move past it. Working through those bad ideas, and even putting them out into the world, can really help you overcome your lack of inspiration. It can shed light on why they aren’t working and help you break through to the other side. And who knows, maybe your ideas aren’t as bad as you think. I like to remind myself that someone once pitched a movie executive an idea about a tornado filled with sharks and found success. Throw it out there, who knows what might happen.

Unplug for a while

When I’m in a creative rut, I often dive into the internet, hoping that the endless supply of ideas will help me feel inspired. Sometimes this works, but more often, it leaves me feeling overwhelmed, and still creatively stuck. Staring into a screen and hoping inspiration will strike is usually a bad bet. Unplug for a while and give your mind a break. Constantly being occupied with technology is likely what got you into a rut in the first place, so take some time to be bored so the ideas can start flowing again. Or, consider planning a refreshing creative retreat.

Try a different creative medium

Sometimes, I’m just plain burnt out on writing and I need to find my groove elsewhere. When I’m creatively blocked, I often find it helps to switch gears and focus on something that isn’t related to writing, like unwinding with an adult coloring book or whipping up something new in the kitchen. Using my brain in a creative way that is separate from the writing I do day-to-day can really help me when I hit a wall.

If you shake up your system and still don’t feel inspired, don’t fret. Eventually it will come back to you. Keep producing your creative work and give it time. Set a timer or a goal of what you need to get done and stick to your routine. Sometimes you need to push through, even when you aren’t feeling it, in order to find your groove again. Remember, you won’t stay in a creative rut forever, especially if you keep showing up to do the work.

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Gemma Hartley

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her work has appeared on Redbook Magazine, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping and more, in addition to contributing regularly to SheKnows, Ravishly, and Romper. She lives in Reno with her husband, three young kids, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.