There is no sickness a writer dreads more than a bout of writer’s block. One moment, you’re on a roll, typing away into the late hours. And the next—you’re struggling to craft a simple sentence, your mind wandering off dark paths.
What has helped me preserve my sanity through these slumps is engaging in other creative activities that would later help me in my writing. I’d imagine different scenarios—like what would happen if I was teleported a thousand years back in time—in my head and, instead of writing the whole thing down, I scribble a few keywords that’ll help me remember. And when I truly sit down to write, these ideas surface from some faded place, helping me focus.
The activities mentioned below could help harness your slumbering creative spirit, giving you a ton of ideas that can be stored away for later use.
If you had planned to write about something specific before your writing slump hit you, you needn’t be completely idle. Your piece most probably requires you to do a bit of research before you can start on it.
For instance, if you’re writing about the impact of Young Adult literature on the youth, you’d need to interview fervent readers. You’d need to read papers by psychologists delving more into the mentality of modern-day young adults. You’d need polls to find out what kind of characters they are usually drawn to—the moody, sullen ones, or the cheerful, sarcastic ones?
You can scribble the answers down to find clarity later, or you can get screenshots and save them in a folder, so when your mind is back on track, you can start right away.
02. Go through Writing Prompts
Another thing that I do to spend my time creatively is going through writing prompts. While I never actually use those prompts to create my own story, I do use them to improve my storytelling skills.
It’s entertaining to read different takes on stories that have the same plot. It gives you an insight into what kind of tales readers would expect. And it’s a challenge—has anybody already thought of a story like the one in your head?
I rely on Pinterest to show me prompts that are absurd but fascinating. There’s nothing like reading about a world where every one of your lies is carved upon your skin, where a General’s greatest scar is caused by lying to his dying comrades that they will be alright.
I still think about that story after three years.
03. Work with your Hands
When your mind refuses to cooperate, let your hands do the work. Take up painting for an afternoon or two. It can be anything completely random. Did the thin ray of light falling on your table mesmerize you? Paint it. Did you suddenly remember your favorite cartoon character from when you were seven? Sketch him. Did you see a cute wall-hanger made of discarded CDs and used paper? Recreate it. Do the walls of your room look blank and boring? Redecorate them.
Do you want to know what I enjoy doing during my slumps? I make bookmarks. Yes, and I don’t know why.
04. Watch a Movie
This is something that anyone will suggest you do.
But have you tried watching a movie and imagining all the things that you wished had gone differently? Have you watched a blockbuster and jotted down the plot points that felt weak to you? Have you looked at a side character who sadly disappears halfway through the movie (for no reason at all) and wondered if that could be you in someone else’s life story?
Next time you watch a movie, let your imagination take over.
05. Create Impossible Scenarios
If you’re not in the mood to watch a movie and recreate the entire thing, fake your own death.
Well, maybe not literally, but create a scenario in your head in which you fake your own death. Plan the whole thing out thoroughly. How would you convince the police that you had really died without being there to tell them yourself? Hardest of all, how do you convince your mother? Beware of the nosy neighbor—they could’ve seen you sneaking out in the dead of night. What could your motive be?
And most importantly, when should the act stop? You could write your own murder mystery one day.
If you’d rather not be so gruesome, you could always imagine how you would have stopped the assassination of Julius Caesar (if you wanted to save him, that is). Or you could devise ways to prevent the burning of the Library of Alexandria if you were magically transported to that fateful day. What information would you need to prevent the fire? Will alerting the authorities before it be of any use? Or maybe you could just smuggle priceless scrolls out of the library and bury them underground—and create a treasure hunt for modern archaeologists to unravel.
By letting your imagination run free, you’re letting your brain exercise; you’re letting it come out of its slumber slowly, without exertion.
Going through a writing slump doesn’t have to bring about a complete pause in all creative activities. So when you finally do feel like writing, you would have a box of ideas stored away in your head—you could mix them up and write something entirely new.
Don’t let the dreaded writer’s block burn down your creativity, even for a few days. Imagine this—a whole Library of Alexandria thriving in your head, just waiting to be accessed!
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.