Sometimes it can feel like you’ve reached a dead end with your ability to solve a problem. In the world of novel writing, it’s called writer’s block, but a lack of new ideas and fresh perspectives affects everyone eventually. Depending on how bad your case is, it can slot in anywhere from mildly demoralizing to truly soul crushing.
So how do I keep my creativity flowing, whether it’s for a chapter in my latest novel, a problem getting my 1952 Chevy door handle to work with a modern latch, or rearranging a musical composition so I can manage it on my guitar? Lots of ways, actually. But here are the places I start:
You can’t believe how many plot points I’ve come up with and complex problems I’ve solved in the shower. There’s something about having nothing else to do, combined with the white noise from the water, that’s tailor-made for escaping mental ruts.
Zoning out while driving isn’t something most people should do, but I live in Wyoming where the roads are straight, long, and empty of anything other than the occasional bison or antelope. If you don’t have the ability to get out on foot, a boring highway will do the trick. Of course, you have to be alone in the car and no radio, phone, or podcasts are allowed. This time the white noise is provided by the tires, engine, and wind, but they work almost as well as the water from a shower.
Trail Runs And Long Walks
A trail run is a time when I should be focusing on the possibility of a grizzly bear around the next corner, but I often find myself dreaming up book ideas instead. A few years back, I went for a crack-of-dawn run in Saguaro National Park and returned to the car hours later with Enemy of the State completely sketched out in my head.
A Change Of Environment
One of my favorite ways to spark new ideas is a change in daily routine. For me this often means foreign travel, but an exotic locale isn’t necessary. Sometimes relocating my office from my basement to a local coffee shop or a comfortable boulder by the river is enough. Even my garage woodshop has served as a desk—as is evidenced by all the book notes scrawled on the top of my workbench.
New faces, new sounds, and new smells always put me in another frame of mind and allow me to see things from a different point of view.
Finding Your Own Path
I’ve found that these things work for me and fit into my lifestyle, but your circumstances might be completely different. Give some thought to when great ideas have come to you in the past. Can you replicate those environments? Consider how your life sometimes takes you to places with few distractions and learn to use those moments.
I think you’ll find that you don’t need much to break yourself out of a rut. Just a little patience and some focus.