Updated: Sep 12, 2022
A creative crisis, also known as a writer’s block, is a writer’s number one enemy. It can creep up in the worst moments, making it impossible to meet a deadline, hit your writing goals, or finish a piece of work. No matter what the reason is, it is always uncomfortable and hard to get out of.
A creative crisis is so damaging for writers because it increases the loudness of their inner critic. That’s a little voice inside their head that’s telling them they are not good enough and that their efforts are in vain. It’s very important to silence this voice so it doesn't become more deeply rooted in your writing process.
In this guide, we have prepared some of the most effective ways to beat the creative crisis and to get some of the best writing of your life done. But first, let’s take a look at common causes of a creative crisis among writers.
Inability to focus
If you have too many distractions, it might seem impossible to focus on a piece of paper or to let your mind float away to the world you're writing about. You might also have a specific issue that’s bothering you. Worrying about that one problem can be so overwhelming that you cannot focus on anything else. To tackle this, try focused meditation exercises. The goal is to take your mind off of current problems and learn to focus on one thing at a time.
Stress and burnout
This is the most common cause of a creative crisis. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it’s unavoidable. You will always have pressures and obligations from different sides and there will never be a “less stressful” time you should be waiting for. Rather, you should learn how to manage stress that happens on a daily basis.
Perfectionism and unrealistic expectations
This factor will make you cringe from even the thought of writing your first sentence. Once you actually write something, you will wildly edit and re-edit into infinity. This is a personality trait and it’s hard to say to someone to let go of it, but you definitely need to work on this issue if you want to solve a creative crisis.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the actions you can take to beat your creative crisis right now.
Reflection and meditation
If you’re avoiding facing the problem and you don’t want to think about what’s stopping you from writing, doing the exact opposite will actually be the most beneficial thing you can do. Avoidance is a very powerful coping mechanism. Once you start avoiding things, like writing, you will get a short-term sense of relief and relaxation, but your anxiety and stress will build up even more in the long run.
Online, you can find specialized guided meditations for writers who are stuck on a blank page:
Delilah Helton’s affirmations: use these daily affirmations videos to remind you why you write
Guided Hypnosis for Writer’s Block: we know, the word hypnosis sounds a little scary, but it’s actually just another term for extremely deep relaxation
Setting meditation: a visualization meditation for writers to help them imagine their story in a more vivid way
Start a reading journal
If you don’t already have a reading journal, it’s high time to start! This practice has a myriad of benefits for writers. While you’re reading the works of others, you are not only doing it for entertainment or to pass the time. You are doing it for your craft too. By writing down your thoughts and conclusions, you are learning about your reading materials much more deeply.
Melanie Sovann, writer and editor at BestWritingAdvisor, says “every writer should have a reading journal. Reading is just another component of writing. It teaches us what we like, what we can do better and differently.”
Do daily journaling
Personal journaling is another great way to get back into the habit of writing at times when you don’t really feel like it. Most of the time, in a creative crisis, we’re dreading approaching the text we are working on and thinking about. At the same time, we don’t have any issues writing messages to loved ones, creating short blog posts, or similar writing pieces. Journaling is the same.
If you are experiencing a creative crisis as a writer, pick up a personal journal and you will be amazed at how much you have to say. A self-esteem journal is another special piece of writing that will help you tackle your creative issues more easily in the long term. It helps to build confidence and reminds you why you love writing in the first place.
Try writing prompts
This is a well-known method for writers who are having a hard time starting their story. On the Internet, you can find lots of different creative writing prompts that can help you get those creative juices flowing.
If you don’t want a random prompt to meddle into your writing too much, just use it as an imagination and visualization technique. For example, you can use a random character name generator online to get you started. Then, you can begin imagining and writing down what they look like, how they behave, what they do, etc.
Use tools to help
In today’s times, it’s no shame to ask for help with a difficult situation. Creative blocks are no exceptions. In online discussions, you can find hundreds, if not thousands, of writers who are struggling with the same issue you are and find reassurance. At the same time, you can find tons of tools and services that aim to help struggling writers. Here are some you can try out:
This acronym stands for “National Novel Writing Month” and gathers thousands of writers who have a wish to finish their own novel. The trick is that they promise to do that in just one month. Luckily, there is a close-knit community there who is going through the very same struggles. If novel writing is your plan, NaNoWriMo will give you that much-needed boost.
There are other grammar and spelling checkers available online, such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid, but Hemingway is much more writer-friendly. It focuses more on things that you might be interested in (readability, style, voice) and less in basic grammatical concepts. Hemingway feels like if you’ve given an English teacher your writing and you are listening to their feedback.
Writing Challenge is an awesome app designed specifically to help writers who are struggling with a creative crisis. Instead of a blank piece of paper, which can look horrifically scary when you’re amid a writer’s block, you will be able to gently tackle that issue in a game. Writing Challen give you prompts back-to-back with a time limit. Honestly, this is one of the best ways to start writing when you just want to go ahead and write anything.
This is another fantastic app that helps writers with story-building and world-building. This is perfect if you are feeling like writing, but don’t have satisfying material yet. This app will help you explore your ideas and associations, and really help you to reach the maximum highs of your creativity.
Change your environment
Routine can sometimes be a great help in writing regularly, but sometimes, it can hinder your creativity. When you are feeling stuck, bored, or in a rut, it’s a good idea to change your environment for a bit. You don’t have to go across the world to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, just take a short trip to get further away from the places and things you see every day.
Talking a simple walk around the block can also help tremendously.
There are other tiny aspects that can help. For example, if you're always writing from your work desk, try switching it up and writing from your kitchen table or the sofa in your living room. Even the slightest changes in environment can help you snap out of a creative crisis. Also, you should do this as often as possible, even before you start feeling an onset of a creative crisis.
Focus on organization and planning
In his famous bestseller When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink states the hypothesis that we all work on different internal clocks and that we should learn how to control these waves of energy and alertness to reach the optimal success in life.
In other words, he says that we should use our down-time (periods when we are not feeling especially motivated or inspired, like a creative crisis) to plan and organize our work. When you’re in the up-time, you should do the actual writing. Funnily enough, most of us use our highest energy times to make grandiose plans of what we are going to do later.
As you can see, there are lots of things you can do to boost your creativity and get out of your writing crisis. Initially, the first thing you should do is explore what is actually causing the problem. It is always much better to get to the root of the issue than to fix it as it comes – which will be increasingly frequent if you don’t explore what’s bothering you.
When you are going through a creative crisis with your writing, it’s best to step away from your primary work-in-progress (WIP) for a while. You don’t want to go deeper into resentment about that particular piece of writing and you want to be able to come back to it fresh and inspired. You can do this by taking a step back and doing some of the activities we talked about in this guide.
About the author: Dorian Martin is a writer, editor, and proofreader working with multiple companies. He provides dissertation help for PhD students who are struggling with their writing work. Dorian is interested in all components of the writing process, which is also something he frequently writes about.