Emergency Tool Kit for Blocked Creatives

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” ~ Steve Jobs

Whenever something’s not working, what we need is a new approach.  After all, according to Albert Einstein the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It doesn’t matter what you are wanting to achieve creatively – you could be writing a book, finishing an assignment, collaging a family history, inventing a killer new recipe for Master Chef, adding the lyrics to a love song, refining your dance moves or renovating a bathroom. When you’re stuck, you’re stuck.  That’s where having an Emergency Creative Tool Kit comes in handy!

Put down that thing giving you the trouble.  Stop worrying about the work you’re NOT creating. Pull out your Emergency Creative Tool Kit.  What we need right now is fun, creative engagement and play.


Image from Shutterstock

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”~ Carl Jung

The following items are essentials for your Tool Kit:

  • Mood Music.  Many of my writer friends swear by using music to evoke mood, ideas and word flow.  Why not compile some play lists that help you to tap into characters, locations or events? This isn’t just for writers. Music works wonders with all stuck brains!
  • An Ideas Book – If you haven’t started one yet, this can be your first creative project. Find a book big enough to glue pictures and inspiring articles. Write down your small and your grand creative ideas.  It doesn’t matter what sort of ideas they are.  If you want to create a medieval banquet for your next birthday, design a new kitchen, embark on writing opera, knit a bunny rug, write a history of your great grandfather, or you just have a fantastic character name in your head and no idea how to use it, then put it in the book! When you get stuck for inspiration simply open the book and have a look through it…
  • Paper, coloured pens and crayons, stickers, glue, old magazines, glitter and other fun stuff.  Or go on and use that i-pad App you’ve always wanted to try…  The point of this exercise is that it needs to be VISUAL even if you don’t consider yourself in any way artistic. Now choose one idea, one character, one issue – nothing central to your stuckness, but something that’s just in view from the corner of your eye. Or something new and completely unrelated to your current project. Explore that thing.  Doodle, collage, cut and paste, mind map and brain storm.  Let it be as much about having fun with the process as it is about coming at things sideways.
Mind Map by Donna Kim - fairy tale story

Mind Map by Donna Kim – fairy tale story

  • Moving Meditation – A meditation is actually any activity that you devote your full awareness to, so that you are in the moment with that thing. For me, a spot of washing up by hand at my kitchen sink often does the trick. You might try knitting, tapestry, beading, bread making – anything that gets you doing something with your hands.  Write a list, get any equipment or supplies you need and go create something.
  • Walk in Their Shoes – What is it you’re trying to do? Be a painter? A singer? An advertising guru? Performers call it Method Acting. Research and act like your favourite artist for an hour or a day. Immerse yourself in the world of your project. Pretend to be your character and look at the world through their eyes as you go about your daily task.
  • Just Go! – I get some of my best results from this technique.  If you are bogged down, embittered and disconnected, or even just bored with it all, then this will help to get you out of that head space. See it as a game of wits. Evoke your Inner Stubbornness to not quit. Pick one thing, one scene, one area and begin. It doesn’t matter how awful your creating is. Make yourself keep going for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes seems to be a magical time interval for getting back into creative flow, although from day to day it might be ten minutes or an hour.  You might have to scrap the first part of your effort, but somewhere in there will be something you can salvage and that can help you keep going. You could even get an incredible breakthrough!
  • A ‘Source Of Inspiration’ Outing – Sometimes you really do need to move away from the desk, get out of the house/studio/office and stretch your legs. Go somewhere that puts you in a better mood. Go somewhere that makes you happy, a place where you can spend an hour or two and come back refreshed.  For me that can be plant nurseries, Farmers Markets, the Library or a Bookstore, or a wander through town, looking in shop windows. The key here is that you move into a different environment. New environments fire up new brain connections and pathways, and help you to move out of old thinking patterns and into new ones.  Note – staying at the computer surfing the web does not count!
  • A Glory Box or Glory Book – Sometimes the biggest block to creativity is low self-esteem.  We convince ourselves that we truly suck at this thing that’s so dear to us. We run ourselves down and beat ourselves up.  How can anyone sustain creativity feeling like that?  Your Glory Box or Glory Book is for snippets and reminders of positive feedback and good results you’ve had in the past, even completely unrelated to your current project or desire. Maybe it’s the story you wrote when you were five. Or a trophy from winning Junior Division Soccer. It could be an old love letter, or a birthday card from someone special. If you have a knock-out Report Card from grade school, re-read those kind words. You’re still that person.  All of that goodness lives inside you.  We all need to be reminded occasionally.
Positive Report Cards from your Childhood can be a powerful reminder of who you are!

Positive Report Cards from your Childhood can be a powerful reminder of your gifts and talents!

  • Blow Out The Cobwebs List of Activities – Movement connects us to positive energy and disconnects us from negative energy.  Make a list of physical activities that leave you on a high. Ideas include windsurfing, bike riding, snow skiing, bush walking, salsa dancing, roller coaster rides, walking the dogs at the beach.  If you are very ill or incapacitated sit in the sunshine or at a window so you can breath some fresh air. Do some simple stretches and work on your breathing. Yoga breaths are great for this. If you can’t get out of bed, then go there in your mind.  Imaginations are wonderful freedom machines!
  • The Skeleton Effect – When you’re overwhelmed by a project, break it into pieces. Think of a human skeleton – there are the great long thigh bones and the tiny little finger bones. Sometimes we’re up to working on a big piece of a creative project, and sometimes all we can manage is a simple chunk where you can easily see the beginning and end. It all counts. Make a plan of the big, medium, little and ridiculously easy parts of your project.  On the days where you just can’t do the big parts, work on a smaller one. Start by making that plan.
  • Dress Up Box – Yes, really!!! Sometimes dressing the part can get you in the right headspace to connect with your project. And anyway, it’s fun. 🙂

Over time you may come up with other ideas and inspiration for your Creative Tool Kit.  Add them all in there. And share what you know with your creative friends.  Everyone needs a little help and encouragement sometimes.

PS: This post is part of my 2013 Creative Challenge Project.  If you’d like to read more, visit these posts:

The Challenge to Live Creatively this year – come join us!

Join my 2013 Creative Project Challenge

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Advice and Ideas for reconnecting with your Creativity:

Lost your Creative Mojo?

When the Muse vanishes – thoughts on the loss of Creativity

How a Garden Can Teach You To Be More Creative

Enhance Your Creativity

Lost your Creative Mojo?

Image by Shareen M

Image by Shareen M

“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.” 
~ Julia Cameron 

Have you taken the pledge and signed up for my Creative Challenge Project yet? It’s not too late, and hopefully, if you stick with me, by the end of this year you’ll have something finished, a new skill or interest, or a bigger project in progress.

As I encourage you to embrace your creativity in 2013, I’ve had a steady trickle of private messages and emails from people who feel that somehow their creativity has left the building. For some there is a sense of loss, for others a quiet desperation.  How do they get their mojo back?

Having been in exactly that dark place at times too, I’m not going to try to jolly you out of your funk (as with depression, it doesn’t work and makes you feel worse!), or make trite statements that are supposed to inspire but that always leave you – the struggling, lost one – feeling lacking and even more useless or stuck. Instead I’m going to have a conversation about the nature of creativity as I have found it. Understanding the creative process has been a source of comfort and personal power for me. And it has allowed me to become far kinder towards myself.

Over the next four weeks, each Monday, I shall look at ways to understand and enhance your creativity, and to nurture this important energy within you.

Even if you are brimful of creative ideas and projects right now, long experience has shown me that there will be times ahead when you struggle with self-doubt, lack of creative direction, low enthusiasm and zero inspiration.

Don’t panic. There are always things that can be done to bring you from that place of stuckness back into flow.

The areas I’ll be covering are:

  1. Situations where creativity vanishes
  2. The seasonal nature of creativity
  3. Ideas for creative replenishment
  4. Emergency tool kit for blocked creatives

I look forward to our creative collaborative energies this year.  I know it can be a magical year for you, and one you will look back on with a sense of fondness and accomplishment. Humans were born to create, and creating is one of the best kinds of soul medicine.

Much love to you, Nicole ♥ xx

Image from www.vol25.typepad.com

Image from www.vol25.typepad.com

Creative Project Challenge – February Check In

Creative Mind - Image by jixar

Creative Mind – Image by jixar

“The concept of creativeness and the concept of the healthy, self-actualizing fully human person, seem  to be coming closer and closer together, and may turn out to be the same thing.” ~ Abraham Maslow

At the beginning of this year I threw out an idea to you – to become part of my Creative Challenge Project for 2013. (If you haven’t had a chance to read that post you can catch up on it here.)

I promised that as well as asking you to publicly name your project, I would be posting check ins to keep you on track. So here we are at the beginning of February and it’s time for our first Challenge Activity and for you to update us on where you are at.

The interesting thing about creativity is that once you really commit to it, unexpected creative project magic and other strange but pleasing synchronicities will begin showing up in your life.

Creative people are multi-faceted, and it is healthy for them to express that creativity in many different ways. This month’s challenge activity will help you explore that!

Creative Challenge Activity for February

Creativity is a place for exploration, dreams and adventures.  Some of what you do will work, and some of it won’t. What works is art, what doesn’t is experience.  And to be a creative ‘artist’, no matter what your field, you need both.

So here are some simple challenges to keep that creative fire burning through February.  You may want to record them in your journal, and explore them in more detail.  Give yourself permission to feed your hungry inner artist!

1. Commit to some creative time. Don’t see it as needing to be productive, instead thing of it as play time. Take out your diary, calendar or day planner and find yourself one hour a week every week for the month. Call this time your Creative Engagement. If you can devote more time to creativity that’s great, but everyone can manage a one hour window. Go mark those times in your diary NOW.  Block them off.  Make them a personal invitation to yourself. Something you look forward to.  Something that makes you feel that delicious combination of anticipation, edginess, comfort and thrill. This is your time for actually working on that project you named back in January.  (if you haven’t named a project scoot back to that post here – it’s not too late!)

Image from www.probablyactually.blogspot.com

Image from www.probablyactually.blogspot.com

2. Now give some thought to how you will spend those little creative blocks of time.  Jot down a few ideas or a rough plan beside each Creative Engagement. Feel free to explore this even more in your journal.

Image from www.tulipandturnip.blogspot.com

Image from www.tulipandturnip.blogspot.com

3. Creative Date.  Your Creative Date is separate to your Creative Engagement.  We’ll be doing a Creative Date every month.  It’s a date you spend on your own, filling up your well of ideas. The reason you need to do it on your own is that when you plan an outing and invite other people, so many of you (me included) end up making it about the other person’s comfort, enjoyment and fun. Dear friend, in 2013, you need to give a little care back to yourself, so fly solo for this date time. It doesn’t mean you need to be alone – you may find yourself at a book store, a workshop, a craft fair, an art gallery or a knitting circle.  But you need to be there just for YOU.

So find one hour a month (it can be twenty minutes if that’s all you can spare, or more if you have that luxury of time) and go explore something that inspires your creative juices. It may not be directly related to your creative project.  It just needs to help put you into a space where you are free to think about new ideas, and be inspired by the world around you.  Take some time and journal a list of places you’d like to visit and things you’d like to do this year to inspire you and give you new ideas. During the year keep adding to your list.  It’s important to have a wide range of things to choose from.

Image from www.neesienatters.blogspot.com

Image from www.neesienatters.blogspot.com

4. Dress like an Artist. This is just for fun, but honestly, it works! Pick a day and do one thing with your appearance that makes you feel more like your inner vision of yourself.  It might be wearing a button on your lapel, some lace at your collar, or a striking necklace. It could be purple hair, a crazy vest, or an ultra-cool band t-shirt.  Choose something that is a secret language with yourself,something that reminds you of your project. My pirate book project is dear to my heart.  Ideas I’ve used include a lick n’ stick tattoo on my arm of a pirate boat and a skull and crossbones, a bracelet with little skulls on it, a funky pirate necklace and a satchel to hold my books that has a pirate motif on the front of it.

I found this cool pirate dog at etsy...

I found this cool pirate dog necklace at etsy…

And don’t forget to leave a comment below and tell us about what you’ve been up to creatively. I’ve done a few hours editing on Mapping the Heart, cut and pasted all of last year’s Gratitude Challenge posts to turn into an ebook, and ordered a delicious tapestry pillow kit from www.erhmantapestry.com – here’s a picture of it:


Join my 2013 ‘Creative Project’ Challenge!

Image from www.my-inner-voice.blogspot.com.au

Image from www.my-inner-voice.blogspot.com.au

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” ~ Ray Bradbury

It’s the start of a fresh year, and all these days are stretching out in front of us, begging to be filled. And just like last year, they will get filled. With shopping, sleeping, working, couch surfing, housework, coffee, yard work, cooking, worrying and maybe a bit of fun stuff. Whether we plan it or simply let it happen, this time next year, all 2013 will be is a bunch of lived days, and we’ll be looking at the possibilities of 2014.

But what about your art?  What about the creative project that’s always on the back burner? The thing you’d love to do, that you DREAM of doing, but never actually get around to?

Image from www.anonymousartofrevolution.com

Image from www.anonymousartofrevolution.com

My ‘Creative Project’ Challenge for 2013 is this:

Be bold and brave and take a moment to publicly name the project you’d like to give energy to this year in a comment at the bottom of this page.

Then throughout the year I’ll blog check-ins and little things to help keep you on track.  Your commitment to the project is about making time through out the year to work on your project. And you can all reach out and support each other, no matter what your project might be.

Maybe you want to take art lessons.  Maybe you want to work out how to use that expensive camera you bought. Maybe you want to write a novel, or edit a novel, or illustrate a children’s book.  Maybe you want to build a vegetable garden or knit a matching set of jumpers for the whole family by Christmas.

I have found that by being part of a creative-purposed group, my wonderful writing sisterhood – Sisters of the Pen – my productivity, accountability and sense of connectedness to my writing has improved.  I’ve gone from thinking about being a writer to actually writing!

So how about you? What creative project will it be for you this year?

Image from www.creativeeducation.co.uk

Image from www.creativeeducation.co.uk

Let yourself get excited.  Give yourself the gift of a whole year of little windows of creative time.  Imagine what might happen…

Are you in?  Will you join me?

Go ahead, and sign your name below.  Let’s make 2013 a year of Creative Action. That’s the kind of energy I want to see in the world!