Creativity

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

Lately, I’ve been in a real creative slump.

It began when I finished running my first course, Wild Intuitive Journaling, and I noticed my creative well was dry. I’d poured so much into the creation of the course that I had little left by the end of it.

Add to that the fact that I’ve been feeling unwell for about a month and I’ve had no interest or energy to create anything at all. I barely picked up my journal, struggled to write any blog posts or share on social media.

Yep, I was well and truly in a creative slump. 

I did what I usually do at this point – panic that all my creativity and inspiration had left me for good. That I would never write or paint again. That, it turns out, I’m not an inherently creative being – that was just a front I’ve kept up for a few years – and really I’m this sad and hopeless person underneath.

But I’ve been through enough creative slumps now to realise that none of that is true. More than that, I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes. It made sense that after a period of intense creativity, coupled with needing to look after my unwell self, that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to create.

I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes.

So I allowed myself the time to do nothing. To step back and be gentle.

But as the weeks turned into a month, and I found myself feeling better, I wondered how, exactly, I could get my creative mojo back. I was ready to jump back in but had no idea where to start.

Here’s what I’ve found helpful as I carefully step back into the creative arena.

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

1. Go easy on yourself

First of all, don’t beat yourself up for not creating. Don’t add blame and guilt to fire. If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a creative slump, chances are there is a good reason you are there. For me, that reason was illness and needing to refill my creative well.

And you know what? Even if there isn’t a ‘good’ reason that you can identify – that doesn’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel worse by adding guilt or shame – let yourself off the hook. You’re allowed to take a break.

2. Seek out inspiration

This, honestly, has been my favourite part. I’ve taken it as a chance to soak up the work of others, to seek out what excites me. I’m scouring the blogs of my favourite journalers, I’m going back through my Pinterest boards to see images that fill me with inspiration. I’m watching YouTube videos and going back through materials from past journaling courses I’ve taken.

I have certain journalers whose work I love, who never fail to inspire me. Looking at their work sparks a little inspiration inside, and the more I look through it, the more it fans the flames. Before long I’m grabbing my paints and scribbling in my journal.

3. Join a challenge or group

There are so many free art groups and challenges out there. The best thing about joining something like this is the accountability. You feel you need to show up and participate – especially if you’ve declared publicly that you’re doing it.

Not only that, but there is so much support from other creatives. The more you share, the more people will cheer you on. That feels really good. And when you hit a wall, if you share that with the group, you’ll be amazed to find others are feeling the same. Sometimes we think we are alone in our struggles, but when we share them with others we quickly learn we aren’t.

Another good thing about joining a challenge is that it can be a good way to jump-start your practice. Often a challenge will have a theme or prompts, or other guiding material which can help guide you as you step back into your creativity.

Here are some of my favourite art/journaling challenges and groups – all of them are free. Some of these have time frames and some are ongoing:

Journaling Dangerously challenge and Journaling Dangerously group

15 Minute Practice challenge and 15 Minute Practice group

Index-Card-A-Day challenge and ICAD-2016 group

Inner Excavate Along challenge and Inner Excavation Group

Journal 52 challenge and Journal 52 group

30 Day Journal Project

100 Days Project

4. Treat yourself to new supplies

This can be a really fun way to get out of a creative slump. And let’s face it – who among us doesn’t have a massive list of dream art supplies? Don’t break the bank, but it surely wouldn’t hurt to allow yourself to grab a few pots of that paint you’ve always wanted to try, or some new brushes, or a few balls of that gorgeous yarn.

Sometimes the excitement of trying a new material, colour or tool can be enough to get us creating again.

5. Sign up for a course

Is there an online course you’ve been eyeing for ages but never allowed yourself to sign up for? Now’s the time. Find an artist or teacher you love or whom you’ve always wanted to learn from, and indulge.

A word of warning – this can be an easy way to waste money, if you’re not careful. Obviously, signing up for the course alone won’t get you out of the slump – you’ll need to show up and do the work. But, if you sign up for a course that truly inspires you, one that ignites that creative spark inside, then that should certainly be a good investment.

Another thing to consider here is to take baby steps – don’t sign up for the six month intensive, maybe just start with the four week introductory course and go from there. The last thing we want is for you to feel overwhelmed, and then guilty for not following through!

6. Take time out from other things

It might be that you’re in a creative slump because you haven’t had the time or energy to create – your life has been too full. Maybe you’ve found yourself working extra shifts at work. Maybe you’re taking on more responsibilities around the house, or helping a friend or family member with something. Perhaps you’ve signed up for a new exercise programme at the gym.

Whatever it is, if you want to have the time and energy to create again, you might need to make some sacrifices somewhere else. I’m not suggesting you quit the gym or leave your job, but you might need to ask for help from someone else to allow you a little time to create. Ask your spouse to watch the kids one night a week so you can journal. Take your knitting to work and use your lunch break as a chance to knit. Wake up a little earlier to get 15 minutes of writing in.

Try to find a way to allow more time and energy in your life to get creative, even if that means taking some time or energy out from another area of your life. Chances are, you’ll feel better for it.

*  *  *

I’m now finding myself taking careful and gentle steps back into my creative self-expression. Writing this post is one of the first ways of doing that, and I hope it helps even one person find their creative footing again.

Remember, you’re not alone and your inspiration isn’t gone forever – it will come back around when the time is right.

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Creativity

What are your words hiding?

When you establish a regular journaling habit, and you have been at it for a while, you will start to notice something.

There will be certain words or phrases that are repeated, maybe unconsciously, throughout your entries.

You may even notice as you’re journaling that you’re repeating something you’ve already said that day, or a few days earlier. Or you may only notice when looking back through entries that you have a habit of repeating certain words or phrases.

When I’m journaling, words that come up time and time again are exhausted, fear, creative, inspired.

I almost always realise when I’m writing ‘I’m just so exhausted’ again, but I didn’t realise quite how much I used this word. Looking back through past journals, it’s in almost every second entry. I also tend to use ‘creative’ and ‘inspired’ in most entries – which is hopefully a little more positive than ‘exhausted’!

Our tics are a road map to our most hidden and sensitive wounds.

Shapiro says, ‘If we are interested in delving deeply, if we are students of the observed life, we’d best take a good hard look at these easy fallbacks. Repeated words. Familiar phrases. Consider them clues. When you discover them, slow down. In fact, stop. Become willing to press against the bruise – it’s there anyway – and see what it yields.’

That makes me wonder, why do I feel the need to constantly state that I’m exhausted in my journal entries? Is it because I am usually journaling first thing in the morning (6am) when I haven’t quite woken up and, quite literally, feel tired? Or is it easy to use a blanket term like ‘exhaustion’ to cover all the different negative emotions I feel – particularly in my job – like boredom, apathy, frustration or anger?

When my life isn’t going how I want it to go it’s easy to say I feel exhausted. But I think in many cases if I were to look closer, there would be more to it than that.

It’s not until I can be truly honest and confront these difficult emotions that I will make progress. The next time I go to write ‘I’m just so exhausted…’ I will pause and ask myself, is that what I am really feeling?

Have a look back through any journals you have and see if there are any patterns – any phrases or words that you tend to repeat. What might they be covering? Press against the bruise.

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Morning pages journal

What are morning pages?

Basically, they are three pages written by hand first thing each morning. They are simply stream-of-consciousness and can be repetitive, whiny, complaining – there are no rules for the content, simply that you get out whatever is in your head onto the page, without stopping, for three pages. Another way of looking at them is as a ‘brain dump’ to get everything out of your mind. It is the junk in our mind that blocks us creatively, which is why the pages work well as a tool for creative recovery.

Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Way – says that morning pages are not negotiable:

Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn’t matter… We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t.

Some people swear by morning pages and won’t start the day without them. Others have tried many times to get into the habit, but can’t quite find their morning pages groove.

One of the other guidelines that Cameron recommends for the morning pages is to not reread them, at least not for a while – in fact, some people throw them out. This emphasises how they are intended as an exercise in emptying the mind of junk (something we would throw out) rather than gathering memories or recording our lives (something we would keep). Cameron describes morning pages as the following:

Three pages of whatever crosses your mind – that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write “I can’t think of anything to write…” Do this until you have filled three pages.

However, some believe that morning pages can hold wisdom in them, if we want to go back over them at some point. This makes sense. After writing them for a period of time – such as three months, say – if we look back over them then some things will become quite apparent: things we continuously complain about but never do anything about, patterns and habits that are not serving us, ideas for creative projects, areas in which we have grown, etc. Used in this way, the morning pages are not only a tool for creative recovery, but also a tool for personal growth.

Some people might not keep a separate journal for their morning pages – in fact, they might do their morning pages and journaling in the one notebook (and yes, morning pages and journaling are two different things). This is what I do, because I don’t strictly follow the morning pages ‘rules’ and I want to keep what I’ve written.

For those that are consistent with their morning pages, I can see how doing them in a cheap school exercise or composition notebook would make sense, because you would go through them pretty quickly. If you are using a beautiful journal for writing morning pages, you might find yourself trying to keep your writing neat, tidy and possibly even censoring parts of what you are saying, so as not so ruin your nice journal with whining or negative thoughts. In that sense, the morning pages won’t work nearly as well.

If you’re new to morning pages, I would recommend getting a cheap notebook to use. Make sure it is not something precious. You are going to be writing quickly, you are going to be writing about any and everything – sometimes it won’t even make sense. You are going to end up repeating yourself and probably complaining. But that’s ok – in fact, that’s good, because that is the whole point of the morning pages – to get that out of your head. It’s better on the page than in your head. Cameron says,

There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing… Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.

And after all this, you might be wondering why even go to the trouble of writing three pages each morning? Besides unblocking your creative energy as mentioned above, morning pages have two other, very powerful outcomes:

  1. You will start to get sick of hearing yourself complain about the things you don’t like in your life, and this will lead you to take action. As Cameron says: ‘It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.’
  2. You will connect with your own inner wisdom and intuition, which can guide you in any area of your life: ‘Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.’

Do you write morning pages? Or would you like to start? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Personal journal

The personal journal is your ‘dear diary’ sort of journal, where you pour all your thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, fears and doubts onto the page.

Some people argue that the terms ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ have different meanings – that a diary is to record daily events and experiences, whereas a personal journal is a lot more, well, personal.

Regardless of what you call it, it’s the sort of notebook where you are usually quite candid and it’s the kind of thing you tend to keep private.

I started keeping a journal (although at the time I called it a diary) when I was about 11 years old. At that time it mostly was a daily record of events, with a few thoughts and feelings mixed in. Slowly I started to include crushes, conflicts with friends, worries about the future, feelings of inadequacy.

IMG_8803
My first journal, started at age 11. Somehow this tiny notebook lasted me for two years!

I didn’t think much about what I was doing or why I was doing it, although it was right when I started middle school (what we call intermediate school in NZ). I think I did it to have a record of my experiences, but the practice grew into so much more.

My personal journaling practice has grown and evolved over the past two decades.

I spent most of my teens and early twenties turning to my journal mostly in times of trouble: breakups, career concerns, friendship dilemmas, existential crises. It was my go-to place to process these things, and I almost always felt better for doing so. When I was deep in a depression a few years back, simply writing in my journal each day made me feel much better.

Now I keep a personal journal for many reasons, including processing emotions more effectively, developing a sense of self compassion, overcoming fears and creative blocks, and increasing my self confidence, among other things.

I certainly still turn to my personal journal in tough times as I’ve always done, but I write a lot more often and explore many more positive things too.

It functions as a record of my life, a portable therapist (accessible 24/7 and a fraction of the cost!), a friend and mentor, a creative coach, a life coach, a container of fears, dreams, secrets, and the mundane.

If you’d like to keep a personal journal, it’s very simple.

You write by hand (it can certainly be done digitally but I think there are many benefits to writing by hand). You write stream-of-consciousness, you write honestly, and you try not to edit yourself. You don’t share what you write with others.

You can literally write about whatever you want, but the aim is to include personal aspects. If you want to describe your day, great, but bring in the personal elements of it too – how did you feel today? What did you think about? What do you hope for tomorrow, or next week, or next year? What bothered you today? And so on.

There really aren’t that many rules when it comes to keeping your own personal journal. You can write as often or as little as you like, however, writing more often than not can be very rewarding.

I think the most important thing is to write for yourself, not for someone else – that means keeping the journal private and writing openly and honestly without censoring yourself.

Do you keep a personal journal? What do you include in it? Share your personal journaling experiences in the comments.

Creativity

Why fear is a friend, not an enemy

Last night a had a dialogue with fear in my journal. It was simply a case of me writing what I wanted to say to fear, then waiting to hear what fear had to say back, and writing that down.

I’ve done dialogues in the past, and they always feel a little silly. Each time I go to use this journaling technique I think, but isn’t it just me writing those words?

Well, yeah, of course. But the fear is a part of me.

And this turned out to be an incredibly useful exercise.

You see, it started out as a rant. I’ve been pushing myself to dream bigger lately, with creating an online course and offering my coaching services online, as well as redesigning the website. I have a lot of ideas and inspiration floating around at the moment.

And then fear comes along and – as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic – screams the one word it knows: STOP. STOP STOP STOP.

So when I sat down to talk to fear last night, I was all ready to give it a piece of my mind. I was sick of it getting in my way, ruining my plans and basically just crapping all over everything.

But the strangest thing happened.

I found within myself a sort of compassion for my fear.

It is so worried about me, about protecting me and keeping me safe. It’s like a little child who just wants us to hide under the bed. Instead of yelling at it and pushing it away, I took a moment to see things from fear’s perspective. No wonder it’s so worried – going after big dreams can be a scary thing!

And then I realised another thing – I actually need fear. Fear is a great indicator that I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever fear starts to pop up, I know that I’m growing and challenging myself.

So I reassured fear that I wasn’t trying to get rid of it, but that I just needed it to trust me. I said:

But here’s the thing: I’m going to keep going even when you feel like stopping. And I know we will be safe, because of faith. I have faith that things will work out – I certainly wouldn’t be asking you to quiet down and let me continue if I didn’t have faith! So I need you to trust me, to trust that I know things will be ok. I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and I am absolutely on your side. It’s just that I have access to information that you don’t – and that’s my faith. You know, if you worked along with faith, we could do some amazing things.

I’ve always thought of faith and fear as polar opposites – natural enemies. One of my favourite sayings is, ‘let your faith be bigger than your fear’. But what if they could help each other?

Imagine that – getting faith and fear to work together!

Fear pops up and says ‘stop! This is too scary!’ and faith says, ‘thanks for that – we’re definitely on the right path then. Ok, we can keep going, just trust me.’

Maybe this sounds silly to you. It feels a little silly as I write this, in all honesty. But I can tell you one thing for sure: I feel so much better for talking with my fear, for reassuring it that I need it and it is heard.

And from now on, I’m going to approach fear in a much different way: less anger, resentment and irritation at its arrival, and more compassion, reassurance and trust instead.

How does fear hold you back? How could fear become a friend to support you?

Creativity

Overcoming fear in the creative process

4 ways that fear can hinder the creative process and what to do about it

Of all the things I’ve thought about myself, I never would have thought to describe myself as ‘fearful’.

But, when I began a regular dialogue with myself by journaling every day, I started to see how much fear held me back in my life. I have lived a lot of my life in fear, mostly without knowing it.

As I developed my journaling and creative practice, I noticed a strange thing happening. As much as I loved creating, I also found a great deal of resistance towards it. I would sign up for the latest course, buy the art supplies I’d been lusting after, then stop.

The tricky thing about fear is that it has so many disguises, we sometimes don’t even recognise it. I wasn’t not creating because of fear! How silly. No, I was just really busy, you see. Plus, I wanted to do it just right, so I was waiting until I had the skills and time to perfect it. Also, it was really important that the house was clean and I checked my emails before starting.

No, it wasn’t about fear at all, right?

Nonsense. It was fear all along.

But because of the way that fear is so sneaky it took me a while to realise what was actually going on. Resistance is fear. Avoidance is fear. Perfectionism is fear. Procrastination is fear. It was just fear in its many disguises.

I suspect I am not alone in battling the many faces of fear when creating. I wanted to share some of the things I have learnt and the tricks I have used to beat fear at its own game.

This is one of the easiest ways fear gets us, because it can seem so legitimate. Of course you have to clean the house, that’s not fear – that’s being responsible. And you’ve been meaning to organise your bookshelves for ages anyway, so now is as good a time as any. And today is probably a good day to sort out the dry cleaning you’ve had waiting to take in. And of course, you can’t begin until your desk is tidy.

STOP!

It is amazing what we can convince ourselves to do when we are procrastinating on a project. I can put off folding the laundry for days if I feel like it, then as soon as it’s time to start writing a blog post I can hear the laundry calling my name.

Or, it could go the other way: I sign in to my computer to see the next video in the art course I’m doing, and before I realise it I’ve spent two hours on Facebook and another hour reading blogs.

That’s the thing about the internet – it is the ultimate procrastinator’s tool. It can start with a simple ‘I’ll just check my email’ and then you fall into the procrastination vortex, only to resurface an hour later wondering what happened.

But procrastination is nothing more than fear, particularly when it comes to the creative process. You need to be wise to the signs and look it right in the eye.

Try this:
  • Make a list of all the ways you procrastinate. Be as specific as possible.
  • Post this list somewhere you can see it so that you can be aware of when you are procrastinating.
  • If you’re prone to online distraction, use an app that blocks access you the internet for set periods of time (yes, you will survive).
  • Something a bit different: In your allotted ‘creative time’, deliberately do all the things on your list (or as many as possible) instead of creating. Procrastination is often an unconscious process, so once you start trying to procrastinate, it usually stops working.

There is a lot more to procrastination than what I’ve covered. For more amusing and insightful reading on procrastination in general, you can’t go past this article and then this one on Wait But Why. Yes, I spent some time reading those posts instead of writing this one.

Perfectionism

This one is a bit tricky because it can be quite deeply ingrained, especially if you are a bit of a Type A personality or prone to perfectionism in many areas of your life. This is something I struggle with constantly when creating.

In fact, I like to buy spiral-bound notebooks for art journaling because I can always rip a page out if I ‘mess it up’. In my mind, working in properly bound books is tantamount to getting a tattoo on my face. It cannot be undone! It takes all my strength to just create anyway.

But your work will never be perfect. And that is why perfectionism is one of the most destructive ways we stop ourselves from creating – because it is based on a myth: that our work could possibly be perfect, if we just try hard enough.

No. That’s a lie that fear tells us.

And in believing that, we are really short-changing ourselves because often we know that if we don’t start it, we won’t mess it up. If we keep it in our minds, it can remain perfect. I love this line:

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly – Robert H. Schuller

Or, stated more simply: a done something is better than a perfect nothing.

Try this:
  • Buy yourself the cheapest notebook/journal/supplies possible. This should take away the ‘preciousness’ of them. Fill them with wild abandon and then buy another cheapie.
  • Do something poorly on purpose. Don’t try to make it good – just do it as if you didn’t really care. Then do another and another. Practice being ok with not being perfect.
  • Make a copy of the quote/saying above and place it somewhere prominently in your workspace.
  • Something a bit different: I think that the benefits from journaling or art journaling are often found in the process of creating, not in what we create. When you sit down to create, try to focus on the process instead of the product. Take a few deep breaths before beginning and bring your attention to the present. Eliminate any other distractions. Take pleasure in the movement of the pen across the page, the sweep of the brush. And when you are done, throw the finished product away.

Avoidance

This could potentially have been put under the heading of Procrastination, but I wanted to pay particular attention to the way that avoidance can manifest itself in other ways.

Similar to procrastination, we can often find ways to avoid doing what we deeply long to do, simply because we feel fearful. In particular, I find busyness and numbing to be two powerful avoidance tactics.

Busyness is symptomatic of life in the twenty-first century. We are more overwhelmed by professional, social, familial and financial commitments than ever before. Add in possible health commitments, domestic commitments and other distractions and it starts to become impossible to imagine fitting in time for a creative practice.

But if you want to make time to create, you will – you can. Make sure that you are not using busyness as an excuse to avoid creating.

Numbing is another tactic that can help us avoid creating.leap

Creating is scary stuff: we have to be comfortable with making mistakes, growing, being vulnerable. It’s easy to avoid the dangers of this if we just watch TV, or have a drink, or go shopping, or have another nap. These things can take the edge off our feelings of fear, and disconnect us from ourselves.

The scary thing is that we can’t just numb some feelings – when we numb feelings of fear and vulnerability, we also numb good feelings.

It is only through facing the scary feelings that come with creating that we get to experience the growth, inspiration, accomplishment and bliss it can bring. That’s not to say that all creative experiences will be a bed of roses, but, more often than not, facing the fear and vulnerability head-on leads to a rewarding experience.

Try this:
  • Literally schedule in creative time. Write it in your planner, on the family calendar, put an alert in your phone – whatever. Tell your friends/partner/self that this time is sacred and will not be given up. Try to make it the same time every day/week so that you and others know that Sunday evening is creative time and you are unavailable then. Getting into a routine can help to make creativity a habit.
  • Make a list of all the ways that you numb. My main numbing activities are watching hours of TV episodes, eating when not hungry and oversleeping. Yours might include online shopping, watching lots of movies and drinking. Whatever these numbing habits are (no judgement please!), you need to bring awareness to them.
  • I have found journaling to be invaluable in bringing awareness to my numbing habits. Often I will sit down to journal and think, ‘I don’t have much to say, there isn’t a lot going on’. This is usually a sign to me that I’ve been numbing in some way or other, because I don’t seem to be feeling much. Try journaling regularly each day to check in with what numbing activities you have been doing and how they are making you feel.
  • Get comfortable with discomfort, and go gently: accept that you will feel some feelings you may not enjoy, but that they cannot harm you and they will pass. Be gentle with yourself.

Inner Critic

I couldn’t write a post about creativity and fear without mentioning the inner critic. While not necessarily a separate category from those above, it does deserve special attention.

The inner critic tends to rear its head once you actually start the work. It’s the voice inside that tells you your work is no good. Often it will spiral into a rant along a the lines of: this sucks, you can’t do this, you’re worthless, just stop.

It’s a shame that once you have overcome the obstacles of perfectionism, procrastination and avoidance to actually start creating, the inner critic is waiting to pounce. You’ve managed to sit down and get to work, but the inner critic makes it so painful and unpleasant you want to stop.

The inner critic is once again based in fear. Often the inner critic and perfectionism can work hand-in-hand to make the whole process one big crapfest.

All I can say is this: the sooner you learn to deal with your inner critic’s wily ways, the sooner you will make progress creatively.

Try this:
  • Draw a picture of your inner critic or find an image that represents how you think it looks. Give it a funny hat, or a monocle, or a silly bow tie. You could even give it a name, so that when you’re creating and it speaks up you can think, oh that’s just Dave doing his job. Silly Dave. This takes a lot of the power away from it.
  • Talk to your inner critic as you create. Every time you have a thought along the lines of this is no good, respond out loud by saying something like ‘thank you, but I will keep going anyway’.
  • Write a dialogue between you and your inner critic in your journal. Ask it questions, tell it how you feel, stand up to it! You might be surprised by what it says!

* * *

Artists and creators have struggled with various forms of fear for centuries, and will continue to do so. It is natural as part of the creative process because being creative requires vulnerability and risk.

The topic of fear and creativity is widely discussed and this post barely scrapes the surface – there is so much more I could say! For further reading, check out this book or this book or even this book!

In the meantime, hopefully these ideas will help you to get around fear and give you a way into your creativity.

Creativity

Three simple journaling prompts for when you’re stuck

Many of us want to create a regular journaling routine but worry about what to say. Journaling prompts can help with this.

We know that journaling regularly can create amazing life changes, but where do we start? Do we just talk about our day? Even that can get a bit boring.

As someone who journals every day without fail, I’ve come up with a few starters that help me when facing the blank page.

I prefer to let me words flow naturally but when I find myself feeling stuck, I turn to these simple journaling prompts.

Sometimes the words come quickly and easily and I can write for hours. Other times I write the date and find my mind drifting off to think about what’s for dinner. In these moments, I find the following simple journaling prompts to be invaluable. They always lead me to something.

1. Right now…

Take a deep breath and take in your surroundings. Use all your physical senses – what do you see, smell, hear, taste, feel? It might be the sound of birds outside, the smell of incense, the bitter taste of coffee, the sound of your pen as it moves across the page, the feel of the chair beneath you.

Then add in emotions and other non-physical senses. How are you feeling internally?

Just write in stream-of-consciousness, in whatever order things come to you. There are no rules, there is no correct way to do this. It is simply a ‘way in’.

A lot of the time when I start with this prompt other things will come up and I will simply follow them. It can lead to hours of writing, simply by getting the pen moving and warming up. But other times I don’t get much further than ‘right now’, and that’s ok too. Let it happen however it wants to.

2. I wish…

This is one of my favourites. It gets me excited thinking about the future, about what could be. It gets me thinking about what I’m working towards. Sometimes, it simply acts as a little escape from my daily life – a chance to dream big and imagine a different reality.

Either way, it can have a positive effect because it gets us focusing on what we do want, rather than what we don’t want. The more we focus on what we do want in our lives, the more likely we are to draw it towards ourselves.

You can be serious with this one and write down what you really want to work towards, or you can be playful and imagine more outlandish possibilities. Do what feels right for you in the moment.

3. I don’t want to write about…

Oftentimes when we are facing the blank page and feeling stuck, it’s because we are avoiding writing about something. There might be an issue at work, a nagging health problem, a tense situation at home.

Whatever it is, I can guarantee that you will feel better writing about it. This may not happen immediately – it might take several sessions of coming back to the page – but ultimately, I always feel better for facing something rather than avoiding it.

Start simply. If there are several things you’re avoiding, write a bullet-pointed list. Then pick one and free write about this. Set a timer if that helps. Even 15 minutes of getting it all out can be therapeutic.

A lot of the time we find that actually the thing we have built up so big in our minds is not really that big at all. By seeing it down on the page, it takes some of the power away. Not only that, but solutions can come a lot more easily when it’s down on the page.

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I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of showing up to the page even if you feel like you’ve got nothing to say. The positives come from building a creative routine, and keeping that channel to your inner self open.

Next time you’re feeling stuck, try one of these simple journaling prompts to get you going.

Happy journaling!