How to Cope with a Creative Block

It is the curse which plagues the nightmares of all creative people out there and no frankly I don’t think I’m being one bit over-dramatic in saying that. It’s a horrible sensation to be halfway through writing that brilliant piece of fanfiction only to wake up one morning (or evening for those nocturnal creatures out there) to find that all your inspiration has gone.

Suddenly, you are incapable of writing a coherent sentence which you don’t immediately want to smash up into a horrible inky mess, all your characters simply refuse to cooperate, and don’t even get me started on how the grandly ambitious plot has turned into a wibbly wobbly mess of Time Lord proportions. Of course, it’s not just writers who have to endure this problem – a creative block can affect any form of self-expression whether it’s as an artist, a composer or a less traditional form of fandom.

However, do not fear my dear Wanderers, as throughout my dark days of suffering, I have come up with various coping strategies. Yes, some of these are clearly contradictory but depending on your situation you may find that some strategies are more effective than others.

  • Seek out inspiration: This may seem rather obvious but it can be one of the most effective ways of overcoming a creative block. Simply re-watching the television series that you love so much may reawaken the creative urge to paint a portrait of its main character. Or, reading your favourite book might remind you of why you started writing that story with an alternative ending. It’s about rediscovering the reasons why you became a fan in the first place and hopefully that renewed enthusiasm will once again spark your imagination.

  • Check out the work of fellow fans: It can be incredibly useful to see what other fans are producing and not just in your particular form of fandom. As a writer of fanfiction, with limited technological knowledge or expertise, I still enjoy viewing the work of other fans when it comes to fan-vids and gifs. Just having a nosy around your fandom might generate some ideas, perhaps reading that drabble about Percy Weasley will make you rethink your interpretation of his character. Finding out that no-one else has attempted a cross-over video for True Blood/Young Dracula might motivate you to try making your own. Or, after listening to that vlog about the relationship dynamics in Twilight, you might disagree and incorporate those thoughts into your latest piece of fanfiction. It’s not about copying another person’s work or stealing ideas, it’s about interacting with others in your fandom and developing your own thoughts and opinions.

  • Try new challenges: Occasionally (and this really does happen to everyone), you will get stuck on a particular piece of work and you’ll find your motivation somewhat lacking. Just like studying, sometimes you need to take a break and move onto something else. You may find that accepting a drabble challenge in another fandom will kick-start the urge to write again. I personally love drabble challenges as I think that they can be a particularly fun way of trying out new ideas and writing styles. Participating in a roleplaying game might help you get a better insight into your character and the various ways in which they will react to a certain situation. In any case, it’s always fun to try something new even if you find out, much to your disappointment, that you are not the next Steven Spielberg.

  • Get into the zone: Okay, so this tip is a difficult one to describe in a short, snappy sentence but please bear with me. Everyone has something, a particular activity, which helps them to switch off from daily life and to start thinking creatively. This can be ANYTHING. Apparently, Agatha Christie said that some of her best ideas came to her when she was doing the washing up. (Or this could simply be a ruse from my housemates to get me to wash their pots). For some people, it’s taking their dog for a long walk in the country, for others it’s listening to that gorgeous piece of music. Taking the time to do this particular activity, whatever it may be, will hopefully result in a creative surge.
  • Take some time out: There are times, again as when studying or revising, when you simply have to put down your pen (or more accurately these days your laptop) and admit that you need some time out. It can be a difficult thing to do, far more difficult than you think, it can feel like you are admitting defeat. This is not the most helpful way of viewing it. I would suggest that it’s better to think of it as a tactical retreat, just a mere pause in the creative process where you take a breather, collect your thoughts and then return when you feel energised. Trying to force yourself to write or do anything else creative when you are just not feeling it, can actually make matters worse. Doing something you love shouldn’t feel like a chore. When it does, that’s a significant pointer that you need a break.

I hope you find these tips useful and if you have any that you would like to share with us please do get in touch. Equally, if you have created a True Blood/Young Dracula cross-over, please let me – ahem, I mean us – know.

Red Hamilton (is increasingly suspicious of all attempts to make her do housework) 

This entry was posted in FW Tips, Issue Twenty-Three and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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