A 7-Step Content Creator’s Creativity Cleanse

image of rain and sun on grass

Oh no. It’s happening …

You sit down to write, and instead of falling into a productive creative flow, you sit there staring at a blank screen.

You watch the cursor blink on-off-on; your fingers are aching to type, poised over the keyboard — but no words are coming out.

No, Hell hasn’t frozen over. You’re just in a writing slump.

You’re in a place where you can’t write — or where you can write, but what’s coming out is, well, less than great.

What do you do?

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of ‘em.

Are you suffering from writer’s block?

There are endless things that can block your creativity: stress, a crazy day job, family stuff, the news, problems at work, fear, a poor self-image, junk food. You name it, it can block your creativity.

So there you sit, night after night, forcing yourself to be creative and finding the well has run dry. You have so much writing to do, but it’s just not coming out the way you want it to.

When this happens, your writing suffers.

Instead of forcing yourself to keep having unproductive writing sessions, it’s time for a break. And not just any old break.

What you need is a Creativity Cleanse.

Creativity cleansing = Creativity flowing

A Creativity Cleanse is a way to restart your inspiration engine, which will help you return to your writing with a bang.

Believe it or not, your body, mind, heart and soul are the core source of your creativity, and if you nourish those parts of yourself, you’ll become an unstoppable creative person.

If you want to do a Creativity Cleanse, first you’ll need to choose a proper amount of time. I recommend is at least a week. This will give you time to rest and recharge, without having to do anything creative whatsoever.

Then, when you’re ready, here’s my 7-step creativity cleanse process …

Go technology-free

Yes, this is very, very hard to do. But you can do it. Just pretend it’s back in the day when all this tech didn’t exist. Instead, plan tech-free activities, like people-watching, fishing, or taking a walk with a friend. Try to take at least one full technology-free day during your Cleanse period. More if you can stand it.

Read something good

Visit your local library or grab a book from your personal collection. Read magazines, catch up on ones you used to read or read one you never heard of before. Read stuff you wrote years ago (if you dare). Dig in and spend some time reading during your Cleanse.

Eat real food

During your Cleanse, eat as much real food as possible. I define real food as food that is grown in nature and is whole and unprocessed. That means no fast food. Shop your local farmer’s market, pick up what looks good and cook yourself a feast. Your creativity will thank you for it.

Drink lots of water

Dehydration can cause symptoms like sweet/salty food cravings, headaches, and false hunger pangs. Your body is mostly water, so it needs water to recharge. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces every day during your Cleanse. (So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of water.) You will be amazed how different you feel when you’re properly hydrated.

Move your body

Exercise is an awesome stress-reliever and can help take away tension that blocks your creativity. And you don’t just have to do traditional forms like going to the gym. Take a walk, hike with your family, do some kayaking. Anything that requires you to move your body counts.

Meditate

Being able to quiet your mind is a huge help in writing. No, it doesn’t tend to come easily at first, but it’s worth it. When you quiet your negative thoughts and inner editor, you will have a much easier time writing when you need to. 

Start out by closing your eyes, breathing in and out deeply and picturing a beach ball. Stick with it for 5-10 minutes, and keep coming back to that beach ball whenever you get distracted. If you want a guided mediation, try these Morning Meditations.

Rest up

Yes, I’m giving you permission to nap. And to sleep in. And to just lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling. When your body is deprived of sleep and relaxation, nothing else (especially your creativity) works properly. Spend some time during your Cleanse napping and catching up on sleep. Your mood will be lifted and you’ll discover the energy you need to be creative again.

One final thought …

Be sure to keep a notebook and pen handy.

Even though you’re trying to avoid doing anything creative during the Cleanse, you’ll definitely get ideas for your writing (probably more than you usually do). You want to capture them to remember them.

So tell me, how do restart your creative engine?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder and Resident Creative at InkyBites, where she's currently running a blog series to help you Recharge Your Creative Batteries in 31 Days.

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Comments

  1. When I don’t have much time, a brisk half hour walk outside can recharge me a lot. Sitting at a desk for hours on end can really drain you of creativity!

    • Couldn’t agree more! I work at home, so I sit at my desk for hours on end sometimes. Thankfully, my dog is a good reminder for me to take breaks and get outside for a bit.

  2. Hey Jennifer,

    I love this! My favorite one is to “Read something good.” I have a few writers that I know inspire me and tend to get my creative juices flowing. So I use those writers as a fallback when I seem to be having a rough time at it.

    I’m actually taking an extra long vacation this weekend to clear my head and “restart my inspiration engine.” Thanks for the great reminder and for the extra tips!

    Brock

  3. Excellent blog! It takes these types of changes in your environment to lead to positive changes in your results.

  4. I generally go and read something.

    Else, I spend time on some other work like programming. One thing that has rescued many times is writing about one of my heroes or idols. I know a lot about them and usually, one quote can send me on a writing spree! :)

    Thanks for the nice post. Retweeted.

    • Thanks for the retweet :-)

      I also find that changing to a different project will give me inspiration for the project I was blocked on. It’s really great that you have creativity exercises you do to keep your flow going. I think that’s a really important part of being a successful writer.

  5. If I don’t exercise and eat well for a couple days, I can’t write worth shit. But when I am focused on me health, my mental health is fantastic as well, and my writing is awesome. It’s completely wild.

    • It’s amazing how different your creativity is when you’re nourishing yourself properly. Things just click and keep on rolling. You don’t have to force the writing, it comes almost effortlessly.

  6. These are great tips, but I’m not sure if I believe in writer’s block anymore. I’ve written about it, but I think sometimes we creative folks just get plain ol’ bored and need to take a break.

    Your crazy job, family, the news and problems at work can help you with fiction and non-fiction writing. You could write a blog post about how to parent teenagers who think they know everything or develop characters based on your co-workers. Sometimes, all you need is a weekend getaway to recharge your creative batteries.

    • I’m with you–writer’s block isn’t real. I mean, sure you can feel blocked but the real problem isn’t the block, it’s refusing to overcome the block. As you said, there are ways to take things going on in your crazy life and turn them into content. And I think weekend getaways are perfect recharges! I have one scheduled for Labor Day. We’re going camping and I plan on unplugging the entire time and just immersing myself in life.

  7. Camping sounds like fun! We’re celebrating my nephew’s 16th birthday at a medieval faire. I know it will help me to unwind and think of ‘fantasy’ story ideas, maybe a historical romance too. :)

  8. A useful post, and there is much more to be added to this topic.
    First thought: Physical exertion is key: when we’ve been sitting and typing for too long – which varies person to person – we get stuck in patterns of thinking.
    Essentially, our brains end up hypnotizing themselves into circular thinking, definitely a challenging self-referential state. We can even begin to feel trapped and claustrophobic. In our own minds! Erf, what a mess.

    Getting up and physically moving around does several fabulous things: increases oxygen to our brains and muscles (anyone NOT end up hunched over their keyboard after hours of writing?) deepens our breathing, which reconnects our bodies with our minds; and reintegrates the left and right hemispheres of our brains.

    Gretchen Roberts, writing in “The First 20 Minutes”, says after 20 minutes of sitting, negative physiological changes begin to occur in the body. As an artist and creative consultant, I have seen this over and over with my clients: those who have any practice involving physical activity, especially if they really enjoy it!, are more balanced and productive people than those who don’t.

    Additionally, recent studies ranking different types of physical activity have found that dancing is dramatically more effective at maintaining intellectual and mental health throughout life than other kinds of exercise. Don’t give up hiking, just add a salsa class or take your sweetie for a swing! Because dancing, it turns out, is great for staving off Alzheimer’s than all those ‘brain games’ and even a run up the mountain.

    We are designed to act in easy creativity. I don’t believe in blocks either: I guide people through them.
    Thanks also to Copyblogger for posting this, to get the conversation out there more widely.

    • Great additions Tory! Physical movement is super important if you want to be at your creative best. I, too, appreciate Copyblogger posting this. Not just because I wrote it (:-)) but also because as you said, it gets the conversation out there, which is needed. So many writers live unhealthy and therefore, underproductive lives. They have dreams, but they sit there watching them go down the drain a little more every time they skip their writing session because they are “blocked” or “don’t have ideas” etc. I say, fuel your core source of creativity and the well will never run dry again.

  9. Meditation and exercise are the foundations for me. While walking around the block is a nice break, and gets me thinking about other things, I’ve found that intense exercise, such as sprinting, clears my mind completely. There is no way to perform high intensity sprint intervals while focusing on anything else. It requires every bit of your energy. When returning from these workouts I find myself refreshed in body and in mind.

    Meditation, too, is a concept that can take on different forms. Any activity that clears the mind can be meditation — even the sprints I mentioned above. I’ve taken to blissing out on my guitar for 15-20 minutes, since that clears my mind of all else. Everyone can find meditation in some enjoyable activity, even if it doesn’t involve sitting down and concentrating on your breathing.

    @Tory Hughes: I have to wonder if the dancing concept is similar to sprinting. Dancing requires intense focus, and I wonder if that’s why it helps people maintain intellectual and mental health.

    • Yep, you’re right. A lot of activities can be meditative for people. I find that yoga is meditative for me because it involves breathing and focusing on movements/poses. It’s hard to think of much else when you’re trying to keep your balance or hold a pose for a minute. Concentration on that and that alone forces focus. A good Bikram (hot yoga) session is even better because it gets your heart racing, your pores sweating and keeps you concentrating on poses. Another activity I find meditative is playing with my dog. When I’m running around throwing his toys and laughing at the stuff he does I rarely ever have anything else on my mind.

  10. Laugh – it’s the best medicine.

  11. Great post! In fact, I recommend all my students, coaching clients and colleagues practice this kind of “creativity support” on a regular basis as a way of preventing writing slumps. I call it Self-care (and dedicate a chapter in my upcoming book Around the Writers’ Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance to exploring the science behind what each of these forms of self-care/creative-life-support does for your brain).

    • Self-care is soooo important! Especially for writers. I’ve found with my clients that writers tend to have very unhealthy/unbalanced lifestyles due to things like stress, raising a family, working a day job and trying to squeeze writing in, etc. It’s up to us to help writers see that if they want to be at their creative best, it takes nourishing their core source of creativity–themselves.

  12. Another thing to do: read some of your older posts, then some of the recent stuff. Are you hitting your keyword goals, targets.. or have you been swept up by trends and events? Maybe it’s time to step back to basics that hit your writing, blogging goals.

    Very good advice Jennifer, wrote much the same myself. http://bit.ly/GzV1IP Very big on reading stuff that’s different, out of your wheelhouse – gives a whole new perspective. Even if you still have trouble writing, at least you’ve read something good. Oh, and I clean: clearing the clutters clears cobwebs in my head. FWIW.

    • YES! Clearing away clutter is a seriously amazing way to feel more at peace and clear away “cobwebs” in your mind too. I recently relocated half way across the country. Before that , my house has so much stuff in it I barely ever had a fully productive writing session because I was so distracted by this pile and that pile and wanting to get things organized and cleaned up. As we were getting ready to move we tossed/donated a lot of stuff we no longer needed. Now our new place is much smaller, but there’s no clutter! Everything has it’s place and everything is neat and orderly. Has made a huge difference in my writing life!

  13. This is funny because I’m just catching up on the Internet Marketing for Smart People podcasts and just listened to the pair of shows featuring John Carlton (one of the top copywriters around).

    He says, (sic) “get over it – writer’s block is all B.S. – it doesn’t exist.” What the writer is experiencing is not being fully prepared when they sit down to write.

    You should have done the research, done the interviews, found the hook and have a working headline burning in your skull before you sit down to write. If all those are in place, writer’s block shouldn’t exist.

    • He’s (and you) absolutely right. Writer’s block is BS. You have to do the work before coming to the page, and I think that includes working on yourself. When you’re not properly nourishing your body, the core source of your creativity, you won’t have what you need to come up with ideas and hooks and working headlines.

      • With due respect, I have to disagree. Writer’s block does exist. It is one of several forms of resistance that have a neurological origin and therefore can be resolved when you understand what’s going on in your brain. Resistance can be caused by things we are aware of, but more often the limbic system responds to a trigger the cortex is not aware of. But just because you don’t know why you’re resistant doesn’t mean you don’t have a legitimate reason to be. Telling yourself “this is bullshit” only makes the resistance stronger. I have the brain science reseach sources if you want to see them.

        • I see what you’re saying. I just meant that it doesn’t exist unless you allow it to. You have to be willing to do the work to move past the block. If you’re not willing to, then the block will be there.

          • Of course you have to be willing to work past a block or you won’t take effective action, BUT be willing isn’t enough. Until you relax enough to end the limbic sytem takeover and get the cortex (where all creativity, self-motivation, analytical ability, and the rest of the executive functions are) back online, thinking about whether or not you’re willing will only make a writer feel guilty and anxious, which reinforces the limbic system takeover. Once you get your cortex back online, then willingness is essential. Until then, willingness is irrelevant (rather like telling someone in a panic attack that if they were willing to feel different, they would…)

  14. Moving is great for getting out of a funk. Getting up from your desk for even a few minutes can help clear your head. Staring at that screen all day can make everything hard!

  15. Before I start working, a good 30-minute jog will definitely perk me up. For me, nothing beats jogging outdoors before I go about my daily task. Cheers!

  16. I do two of the things on your list often enough to warrant a mention. They are Getting Up and Moving & Reading Something Good. Both seem to be great creativity starters.

    • I don’t read these days nearly as much as I’d like to. Well, I do read, but not the stuff I really want to read. I do a lot of blog reading and business book reading, but I don’t give myself much time to read fiction.

  17. Archan Mehta :

    Thank you for writing this fabulous post. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Meditation can be helpful. Through meditation, you can tap into the power of the subconscious. That can lead to stream of consciousness writing. Meditation can access to a hidden, latent power that we never knew we possessed. Through catharsis, that power can be manifested in real life. And wonderful things can be revealed to you.

    It is a good idea for meditation to become a daily habit like brushing your teeth. You can schedule a regular time for your meditation session, say, first thing in the early morning. Meditation is hypnotic and can put you into a state of restful alertness. That can lead to a flow experience. In my case, things become a lot easier after my daily meditation session. I feel so much at peace with my self and the environment around me. My heart beat seems to beat with the heart beat of nature. I feel that I am in alignment and a peace and serenity enters my life. Cheers.

    • Thanks for your insightful comment! I used to meditate every morning, but I’ve been slacking lately. Your comment reminded me of all the reasons why I used to do it. I’m going to start again tomorrow morning. Thanks for the nudge!

  18. Jennifer: Writer’s block is a major problemo for me, so thanks for the spot-on post about the disease : ) . What makes writer’s block even worse these days is that there are so many Websites to explore that finding a distraction has never been easier. Oh well… lemme get some sleep so I can write all day tomorrow!

    • One thing that might help with those website distractions is to install a program that allows you to block the Internet and email for a set period of time. If you can’t access them, you can’t distract yourself from your writing. Just saying.

      • Blocking your internet access is a great strategy, especially for the short run. But until you address the underlying resistance, it’s far too easy to find another distraction. “Is that a muffin calling me from the kitchen? I’m sure I’ll find the answer at the bottom of my sock drawer…”

  19. Sometimes, waiting for “creativity” is just another form of procrastination. 5 years from now, you won’t be able to tell your “inspired” writing from your “forced” writing. Sometimes, you know what topics you need to write about, you just can’t get it started. If the local radio station called you up and asked to interview you on one of those topics, you’d jump at the chance. Make a list of the topics you know well. If you were to sit down to write a book, could you at least knock out the table of contents? How about 4 sub-topics for each chapter? Now, ask someone to interview you on each of those sub-topics for about 5-10 minutes each. Batch it out in groups of 4 or 5 interviews. Transcribe them and then edit for written content instead of spoken. Bingo.

    • What an awesome process, Dave! I actually use a similar one for getting blog posts out of my corporate clients, but I never thought of reversing it and using it on myself. Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. Great tips and I love doing my cleanse period while going out with my friend and having a day out with him and certainly having the free time you get the more ideas than normal and its really hard to keep remember tham and you gave away great tip to write them down on a paper.

    Thanks for sharing great tips :-)

  21. Ahh.. the classic staring contest I have occasionally engage in with my computer screen. LOL

    A writing slump sucks, especially when you’re on a deadline. I usually find writing something else the most effective way for me.

    Nice to see you here Jen!

  22. Getting moving always helps. I also keep a notebook and pen by my bed because inevitably all my best ideas come when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe it’s from my college days when I used to write all my papers at 2 and 3 in the morning.

    Another thing that really helps (and I wish I could remember the person to give credit to who told me)–set artificial deadlines. Instead of starting the day thinking you have to be finished a project by the next day or the next week, give yourself one hour to work on it. Commit to move to something else after that hour. The little adrenaline surge from your artificial deadline gives you the creativity boost you need to get going. It works! I use it especially when I have several projects I’m working on.

    Great post, Jen!

  23. I am a writer and do different writing jobs. I was unable to write something from last few days when I come across this page. The content helped me a lot and now I can write again. Thanks to them, it is really a gift for those who love to write.

  24. Couldn’t agree more Jennifer!

    If long walks, mindfulness and getting back to nature don’t inspire you then you probably shouldn’t be writing in the first place.

    We also wrote an article on what the Japanese call ‘Shinrin Yoku‘ – definitely worth a look if you haven’t heard of it as this is great for you, along the same lines and will also get your creative juices flowing,

    great article!

    take care & best wishes,
    Alan

  25. Great post. I work with creatives to move through the “blocks” and even though they’re “not real”, it can sure feel like it when you’re staring at a blank screen and deadlines are looming.
    Moving the physical body definitely helps me and I find switching to something completely different for awhile can also get the juices flowing.
    I’m loving Dave’s suggestion, which I will definitely try and suggest to my clients.
    Simple, effective tips that work.
    Thanks for the insight.

  26. I’ve hibernated so long and I haven’t been able to find my pen back. Your post inspires me to try again and hopefully, my pen will find its way back to me. Thanks for sharing.

  27. I really loved this article – I think we all go through this, I know I have from time to time. But I still, like you suggest carry a little notepad around with me for blog ideas.

    The list sounded like a stress management list – and ive seen a few of those too. The only thing missing was listen to some calming music! In all seriousness though – it really does help to take a break, especially if this is not your only job.

  28. Hi Jennifer,

    It’s nice to be here. I’m coming over from Adrienne Smith’s 42 blogs worth mentioning pdf. I’m so trilled she gave us this information of valuable blogs. She’s great and I visit her blog often. It’s a pleasure reading and commenting on good content. You learn so much and make good friends too.

    After reading your post sounds very useful not only for writing but just to clear your head for anything that may need a clear head. Laying off for about a week is like taking a vacation. I believe though anytime during that week you may have an AH Ha moment so I like what you said about writing it down however I believe you might even be inclined to write a blog post before your cleansing period is up.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Terry Conti

  29. I agree wholeheartedly! I went through this last night. I needed to write a product review. (How difficult is THAT?) The product is there.. just write about it. I sat here staring at the screen for a couple of hours, typing, deleting, rearranging, wiping it all clean and starting over. Finally, I decided I was just too tired. Sure enough, this morning I sat down to the same task and wrote it up with no troubles at all. The mind can only do so much. It needs rest!

  30. For me my morning walk is the time when i get many creative thoughts about writing, though there are times when I don’t have anything to writing and I set out for research.

  31. This is fantastic advice. I also unplug my internet so I am not distracted, during writing times. And, of course, getting away from technology – reading, cooking, swimming or kayaking on our lake, or playing with our daughter – is a great rejuvenator.

  32. thanks for this wonderful post. actually i tried this and i get results in just 4-5 days. Thanks once again

  33. Hey ……really a great post ………..!! Thanks for sharing :)