When we get stuck in our creative process, one of the best things we can do is change the channel.
The main medium for my creative energy is writing — whether I communicate with bloggers and editors, draft a post, or jot down something just for myself or a handful of close friends.
When I get stuck, though, one thing I almost always find useful is to stop thinking with and through words.
My default alternative is music. It might still contain verbs and nouns if it’s a voice-centric genre, but something about the abrupt transition from the written word to the clash of sounds often shakes me out of the writerly malaise I’m experiencing. Music, just like writing, often aims to convey emotion and tell a story, so hearing how a composer deals with these challenges can be incredibly illuminating.
It doesn’t have to be music, of course; it can be cooking, or playing a game, or solving a puzzle. Here is celebrated novelist Nicole Krauss, explaining how looking at visual art has helped her think about storytelling:
Studying art has helped me to stretch my mind to imagine different ways of translating the luminescence of an abstraction — a feeling or the raw substance of what we might call a recognition (before it’s converted into an idea) — into the compact substance of words. Certain abstractions work better in certain mediums, but I think we can learn a lot by trying to understand how a painter, say, does his or her work, and how the message is conveyed to us through a totally different set of circumstances, visual rather than rhetorical.
(“A Conversation with Nicole Krauss,” boldtype)
This isn’t so much switching gears as changing modes of transportation — however short the trip, it can be very refreshing.