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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unblocking Creativity

Some of you may have noticed one of the Lady Scribes is missing. After almost a year and a half of consistently posting some of our most popular blogs, the ladies are sad to say farewell to Clarissa Southwick. Clarissa is exploring other horizons and we wish her the best. Her humorous observations, encouragement, and unwavering belief in our abilities to succeed will be missed. Take care, Clarissa. We are cheering for you from the sidelines. Hugs!

This week I am attending the International Death, Grief and Bereavement Conference. I know it sounds like a party in a box—fun not included—but try to suppress your envy. Actually, the conference has been interesting but emotionally draining. (Is it possible for your psyche to become a limp noodle?)

I knew I would get something out of the conference I can use in my social work practice, but I was surprised to attend a session Tuesday that could be useful for my life as a writer. I’ve sometimes pondered how writers continue to produce work when they are getting kicked around by life. There are varying levels of tough times we fall upon as we live. These can be happy or sad events, by the way. The point is these experiences can take up a lot of our mental energy and then how do we have anything left over for writing?

Transition times such as the ending of a relationship, the birth of a child, caring for an aging parent, a child going off to college, or losing a job can affect our abilities to easily access our creative selves. Then there are the shorter term disappointments like a rejection letter, low contest scores, a bad review, or a minor illness that sap our energy.

The presenter of the workshop discussed how he used a journaling technique called Morning Pages to cope with his grief, but in the process, he also awakened an artist within. In the past few years, he has published books of poetry, sculpted pieces and sold them, and does woodworking. Although he worked in a very technical field, he was exposed to art and creative expression through his wife who was a painter. She held classes on creativity at their home and taught from Julie Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”. http://www.theartistsway.com/

The book is written for anyone of any profession to help them learn to remove blocks to creativity when it is stifled by life events, at least this is my understanding. I haven’t read the book, but I plan to check it out. The conference speaker described the process as “purging” the brain of thoughts and feelings that are blocking creativity.

Here are the basic guidelines for Morning Pages: 1. Pages are to be written first thing in the morning.

2. Write three full pages in longhand each time.

3. It is a stream of consciousness exercise. It’s okay if it’s silly, weird, self-pitying, angry, petty. It doesn’t matter. Just get it out.

4. Write for no one else’s eyes. No censoring. This isn’t meant to be art or even pretty.

5. Don’t go back and read the pages for at least two months.

6. Never skip a day, even if all you write is “This stinks. I hate it. I don’t know what to say.”

7. Morning Pages are not meant to be the only writing you do in this time. If it opens up a door, go with it.

Do you have any methods of unlocking your creativity? Or have you ever gone through a period of time when you found it hard to access your creativity?


  1. I have another half day at the conference, but I'll be back this afternoon to respond to comments. I hope everyone has a great day.


  2. Music. If I'm feeling sluggish its loud and fast tempo songs. If i've been rushing around for family more than usual I play my instrumental playlist and push the modern world away. Headphones help too!

  3. I've actually read about this exercise, but I've never tried it myself. Great idea though.

    Like Heather, music is a great escape for me. Depending on what emotion I'm trying to channel/deal with, etc., I'll use different genres of music. And I've actually taken some great inspiration for story ideas from songs!

  4. Oh, wonderful advice, Samatha! Love it, I'm writing these down. I don't write in the morning but I do write after I get home from work, normally on a daily basis unless everything is working against me. I need this as lately real life is attempting to suck all the creativity out of me. But we just have to keep trucking, right? Great blog!

  5. I use music when I hit a block. I also use exercise. Something about getting the blood pumping makes my mind work better!

  6. Like Julie, I find moving around gets the blood flowing. I often take a housework break - very quickly I'm desperate to get back to writing!

  7. Heather,

    We share a love of music. Often a certain score will resonate with me and open up access to my emotions. Sometimes it opens the flood gates, too. I always feel silly at the cinema when the opening credits make me misty-eyed. LOL.

  8. Catherine,

    I'm thinking about trying the morning pages exercise. One really cool thing is that the speaker felt his poems flowed out of him after a while, and he never edited them. They just came out in the form he would have wanted them to be.

    What songs have inspired stories for you? I'd love to see which ones spoke to you.

  9. Suzie,

    I think the idea of writing at least something every day is a good rule of thumb for me. So, with that in mind, I better get busy writing here in a bit. :)


    Exercise helps me to have the energy to tackle writing, but it seems the shower is the idea generator.


    You make me laugh. Yes, housework motivates me to get back to writing, too.

  10. I like the sound of this exercise. I've spent so much time with tunnel vision - only writing on my current WIP or revising a previously finished work that I sometimes thing sitting and writing whatever comes into my head might be quite cathartic.

    I'm with the majority here. I listen to music when I hit a brick wall. I usually have a play list for each book and I will go through it first and try to imagine a scene played to the music.

    Something else I do is take a walk outdoors. Or maybe even sit. I live in the middle of five acres in the middle of nowhere and I have found sitting and listening to the music of nature often unlocks my locked up brain.

  11. Louisa,

    I sat outside this evening and how refreshing it was. I think in the morning I'm going to try this exercise outside with a cup of coffee. Then I have to get down to the business of writing. I have a fun scene to write tomorrow with gentlemen, gambling and a sting operation. :)