Staying Inspired When You’re Creatively Spent

Break through the logjam by throwing kinetic pebbles.

I’m sitting here with a song title and a melody but it’s not going anywhere. In other words, I got nothing.

It was so good when it came to me last week. I should have written it down immediately, when the idea was fresh and hot. When a pebble had rippled the water.

A feeling is never as clear as in the moment you first have it. But, no. I waited. And so much has happened since then!

You might think if it’s important it will come back, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Perhaps I can come up with something else — maybe even a song that’s just as good.

But what if I can’t?

This is not just writers’ block. It’s more like a creative stasis, the dictionary definition of which is: “a slowing or stoppage of the normal flow.”

That’s exactly what it feels like. And trust me, it’s my least favorite state.

When creative stasis happens, I consider kinetic energy to be the best solution. After all, if we want to accelerate an object, then we must apply a force, and applying a force requires us to do work. After that work has been done, energy will have been transferred to the object, and the object will start moving again.

I’ve been through this before, so I no longer panic when it happens. I know from experience there are things that can be done to awaken a sedentary muse. Here are a few of them:

1. Upgrade your personal aesthetics

Silly, I know, but consider your attire. It may sound superficial; after all, no matter what we wear, we’re still the same person underneath our clothes. Yet I feel differently when I go to the supermarket in sweats and a scrungy ponytail, as opposed to shopping in a pressed pair of jeans and clean hair. Your “shell” influences the way you feel, how open you are to the world around you and how people regard you … all of which affect your energy.

2. Relax your personal aesthetics

Sometimes you need to go in the opposite direction. There are times when I’ll “put myself together” before a session but when I show up, I realize I’m overdressed. Stiff. I feel it as soon as I walk in the door. When that happens, off come the shoes, up goes the hair. Hey, you’ve got to read the room.

3. Alter your space

I’ve worked in my writing room for decades. Recently I replaced a drab futon with a turquoise ultra-suede cover and a taupe carpet with a black and white rug which spoke a new language (physically and musically) with the keys on my piano. Call me crazy, but words and melody-movement have started popping more freely. (My theory: The room was bored. Now it’s happy!)

4. Put your eyes on something else

My nephew recently texted me a photo of his newborn baby. The look on the infant’s face is priceless: He is exhausted, thrilled, in love and absolutely terrified, all at the same time. I studied that photo for ages, took it in, absorbed it. And now I am verklempt … and anything but stuck creatively.

5. Listen to music that makes you emotional

Speaking of newborns, I imagine a new birth is how Carly Simon’s song “Julie Through the Glass” came to be. It’s the song I took to the hospital 24 years ago to share with my daughter the moment she was born. I suggest you give it a listen … and dare you to be unstirred. A rush of emotion is often all you need to get the creative juices flowing again.

 

Of course, I can add lots of other suggestions: Light a candle. Go for a run. Call a friend (preferably one with whom you can engage in a deep, provocative conversation). Make soup. You get the idea.

Creative stasis won’t last if you throw it kinetic pebbles. So change something. Anything. Your clothes. Your hair. The air. The lighting. The scenery. Your company. Your hunger level. And keep tossing those pebbles into your still waters until the ripples won’t stop!

 

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