Are You Stuck in a Creative Rut? The Problem Might Be Over-Inspiration.
Have you ever been over-inspired?
I started thinking about this concept after I noticed myself falling into a terrible habit. Whenever I sat down to write something, I’d immediately open social media or start reading a thousand random articles instead. It was like a magnet pulling me over there.
I told myself I was just getting inspired. I was helping myself past the scary beginning part.
The unblinking blankness of the page has a way of sending ideas away to hide. I think this is because when you sit down, ready to create, you think that you have to put down the best thing you’ve got. If something is going to mar that stark blankness, it had better be darned good.
That’s what I do all the time. Rather than doing the work of starting that project, I look at the work of other people. I tell myself I just need to get inspired and then I’ll start.
But as I’m “getting inspired” I waste all kinds of time and when I’m finally done reading all of those articles or scrolling my way deep into the caverns of social media I feel terrible.
It’s like my mind is full of cotton balls.
There is a deeper issue going on.
I believe that this is destructive on a fundamental level.
If you are plugging up that beginning space with everyone else’s work, you’re not venturing into your own interior. You aren’t figuring out what you can do because you’re focusing on what everyone else is doing.
This harms you, creatively. It dulls original thought. When you sit down to make something and then absorb a long stream of content instead, you’re not only leaving that thing in there, but you’re bogging it down with all of this other stuff.
You can lose yourself in the pile.
What are some solutions?
As I tried to unstick myself from this habit, I did three things:
1. I greatly restricted my social media use.
I started feeling dulled after scrolling through social media. Looking at it less has made me more clearheaded and more grounded because I’m running through the forest of my own thoughts rather than drowning in the sea of screen content.
As a result, I show up in front of the page more clearheaded and with more substantial ideas.
Delete your apps if you must. Put a timer on them if you have to. Invest in figuring out how to unhook yourself from the endless scroll and look outside instead. You’ll get your ideas back.
2. I started writing in a notebook.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to have a notebook like me because not everyone thinks the way I do. However, it is a major asset.
A notebook helps because it invites you to make a total mess of the page.
I use the bits and pieces I write in there to explore further later. It looks like a weird, mashed-up collage of words and pictures and a lot of half-formed other thoughts.
It forces me to engage my brain, though. I have to interact with the page rather than passively scrolling through content. I feel sharper in my mind after I’ve mucked around in my notebook.
3. I re-oriented my ratio of input to output.
When there is too much input, you get stuck. You’ve got to balance information input with some kind of creative or physical output in order to avoid that cotton ball brain feeling.
One strategy: you could try to engage with two or three in-depth pieces of content a day and let the rest fall like sediment.
There’s a rhythm here. Absorb interesting things in moderation. Once your inspiration makes your mind feel stale, you’ve gone way too far.
If you are a writer, you need to make sure you are making time to interact with the world and to create things. It might seem like all the ideas are on your phone but that isn’t true. The ideas are in the grocery store and on your daily walk or at that place you volunteer.
Make sure you are outputting more than you are absorbing from a screen. Your ideas might be slow to arrive at first but they will consistently come in when you get that input-output ratio back in balance.
If you find yourself getting lost in the vortex of social media or reading scores of other people’s work instead of writing your own, consider creating some boundaries with yourself.
Writing doesn’t have to be romantic or perfect on the first try. I’m pretty sure we all know this. If you want to be a writer, squeeze some writing into the corners of your day where the action is.
Write while you are waiting in line at the grocery store. Write in your car in the parking lot. Write on your lunch break at your day job.
Pull inspiration from your own life rather than other people’s articles.
I made this article short on purpose. Stop reading this and go write.