My last year of college, I entered into a creative slump.
I recognized that something might be wrong, but I told myself that I was just focusing on school. I would regain my writing mojo when I graduated.
Then I graduated and my creative well was still dry. January rolled around and that year (2018) I made it my goal to finish a new manuscript. But none of my ideas seemed to work anymore. I tried writing for April’s CampNaNoWriMo and every hour was a struggle. I hated everything I typed.
For a few months, I was certain I’d completely lost my spark. Peaked and hit burnout before I could even lay hold of my dream.
Then I suffered a 5-day psychotic break with reality.
[If you need to PRESS PAUSE for a second… Hi! I’m Ally. I have a mental health condition where I have periods of depression and (separately) suffer symptoms of psychosis. Above break was my third (of four) significant psychotic breaks with reality. Yes, I’m taking medication and it seems to be working really well for the most part, thank you for asking.]
It struck like a supernova. Elaborate plotlines and scenarios overtook my conscious, and other worlds collided and cascaded through my mind. It was intense dreaming while I was awake. When I came to lucidity, I had an idea that shaped into a novel.
Now, I cannot stress how much I do not recommend seeking out psychosis to escape a creative slump. 0 out of 10. Terrifying. Drove half-naked. Lost job. Could have died. Awoke in a psyche ward wearing those stupid grippy socks. Don’t do recreational drugs and always remember to take your meds, kids.
But there were lessons I took away from the experience that I think can help others escape a creative slump as well.
First thing to do in order to escape a slump: Know that escape is possible. No matter how long it’s been, you can get out.
Next thing, try one of the items on this list.
1. Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you usually stick to reading, writing, and watching certain genres, branch out and try something different. Cross the lines of medium too.
For instance, if you are a science fiction reader then try a true crime podcast. If you are a fan of romantic comedy films, then try a cozy video game. If you are a writer, attempt watercolor painting. And so on.
You might find that, once you start trying new creative projects and experiencing different forms of art, your creative energy is flowing! It might not be in your original comfort space, but you might be able to take the forward momentum you’ve found back to your comfort-zone projects.
2. Take Five Minutes
Sometimes you can initially feel stuck, but the creative energy just needs a little nudge to get going. So, take a baby step. Tell yourself that you’re going to brainstorm, write, draw, or create for just five minutes.
Maintain focus for just five minutes. Write or create whatever you feel most inclined to create in those five minutes and don’t worry about whether or not it’s good. When your timer goes off, assess how you feel. Do you think you can keep going?
Answer YES? Go for it. Run in that direction for as long as you have momentum.
Answer NO? Don’t panic and don’t despair. This is just one tip of a multitude that you can try! Try the next thing.
3. Explore and Experience
Go beyond your blank page and look for new things to try. Visit an art museum, walk through a botanical garden, take a trip, change your scenery, and meet new people and ask them their stories.
Take notes about your new experience, and then write or draw something afterwards that reflects on that experience. It can be as simple as a journal entry or a sketch of something you saw. Maybe you’ll feel moved to write a poem or create a piece of abstract art.
Try some exercises that stretch your creative muscles. I have found the vast majority of my writing exercises in What If by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. They range from writing a story in one-syllable words to taking a line of poetry and using it as the first sentence for a short piece of fiction.
Or you can try some writing prompts like the ones in Short Order as organized by Moria King. Sometimes having a starting point is enough to get your ideas flowing.
This final experiment is something I haven’t tried for myself, but I’ve heard it’s remarkably effective for some people: Try changing the font in whatever manuscript you’re working on. I hear Comic Sans is the popular choice.
5. Dream (At Night and By Day)
Dreaming is a lot like psychosis actually. Your brain moves uninhibited in a thousand different directions and makes connections you might never have thought of in the waking world. Several of my ideas have come to me in dreams.
Here are a few ways you can start unlocking the creative power of your own dreams:
- Write down your dreams. Even if they feel mundane or uninspiring. Writing down your dreams builds your dream recall muscle and you may remember your more interesting dreams better in the future.
- Try lucid dreaming. When you are conscious of the fact that you are dreaming, you experience dreams in a new way. Some people experience a certain level of control in their lucid dreams. Personally, when I realize that I am dreaming then I like to explore and just let the dream flow in its own direction. Lucid dreams are sometimes easier to retain when you wake up as well.
- Do something mundane and daydream. When you’re doing something repetitive or dull, let your mind wander. Sometimes your mind starts to come up with scenarios or ideas just to fill the time.
My Spark is Back, How Do I Keep it?
I think creativity is just like a muscle. It can get stronger if you continue to use it. It can grow numb if you cut off its blood supply. I don’t believe it can ever truly be lost, even though it may feel that way.
So how do you keep a slump from happening again? Simple: Keep doing all the things you did to get it back. Even if it’s back in full-force. This way, you can maintain and push your creative energy to go even further.
These are just five possible ways to help unlock your creative energy again. If you’re still in a creative slump, then try seeking the counsel of other creative people. You will realize that you’re not alone in your feelings, and that many people have been through a slump that they later managed to escape.
You can do this. Happy slump-slaying!
Read my serial sci-fi story The Control only on Mythrill!
Like my content? You can support me through Buy Me a Coffee with single donations and monthly memberships.
Until next time, my glorious herd! Imagine, dream, and believe.
🦄 ❤️AllytheUnicorn❤️ 🦄