What do you do when you seem to hit a wall and the words won’t come?
I wrote previously about ways to overcome perfectionism-based writer’s block, but that isn’t the only thing that can bring productivity to a halt.
When I find myself feeling uninspired, there are a few things I’ve learned to do that help get me writing freely again. Sometimes even just one of these things will do the trick; other times I have to try several or even all of them to get back on track.
Note that I’ll be referring mostly to writing in this post, since I am a writer, but I believe that these tactics can be applied to overcoming blocks in other creative and/or professional projects as well.
(Want a printable version of these steps? Sign up for my newsletter using the form below, and you’ll get access to a library of free resources for organizing and simplifying your life, including the printable cheat sheet: What to Do When You’re Feeling Uninspired.)
Without further ado, here are my tips on how to keep going when you’re feeling uninspired:
1. Listen to Yourself
Sometimes overcoming a lack of motivation is simply a matter of mindset and powering through. Other times, though, it’s a sign of something else that your mind and body are trying to tell you.
So ask yourself: Why am I feeling uninspired? Are you tired? Stressed? Hungry? Not feeling well physically or emotionally? It’s possible you may be ignoring some basic needs that need your attention first.
Another question to ask yourself is about the reasons you started this project in the first place. What are the reasons, and do they still matter? Reminding yourself of this can help restore motivation to keep going.
2. Set an Imminent Deadline
If you’re prone to procrastinating, use that to your advantage. Kick your mind into gear by setting a deadline that must be met. This may eliminate the feelings of “I just don’t want to do it right now.”
Of course, if the deadline is “manufactured,” you will have to convince yourself that it’s serious. Set a reward for finishing on time, or ask someone you trust to hold you accountable, and follow through.
3. Set a Timer and Brainstorm
Maybe you’re stuck on a particular point, and are having difficulty letting yourself move on before figuring it out. Lean into that, and tackle the difficult point head-on.
Take 5-15 minutes and write down everything that you can think of in relation to that sticking point.. Don’t reject any ideas that pop into your head: everything gets written down here. And try to write as fast as you can, without looking back over what you’ve already written.
Then, when the timer goes off, read over everything again. You might be surprised at the answers that pop up.
4. Do Something Creative to Get You in the Zone
Sometimes you might need a bit of a jump start to get into the creative mindset. Doing a short activity that is creative but not directly related to the project at hand can get your imagination flowing while tricking your brain into thinking you’re still playing around.
I like activities such as working in my journal, playing the piano, or spending some time on a personal writing project.
5. Watch/Listen to Something that Inspires You
If you’re anything like me, the frustration of feeling uninspired can turn into overthinking and circular thoughts. If that’s the case, what you might need is to get out of your own head for a little while.
Listen to music with interesting lyrics. Or an inspiring podcast. Watch a short video that gets you excited. Just be careful here — it’s easy to get sucked into a loop of “Well, maybe just one more…”
6. Put It Away and Come Back Later
Sometimes the issue might be that you’re too close to the project. You can’t look at it objectively anymore; your emotions and insecurities are clouding your view of it.
Let it sit in the back of your mind for an hour or even overnight. Then come back to it with fresh eyes.
I’ve tried this with a number of pieces that I was starting to hate. I was surprised when I read over them the next day and they weren’t actually as awful as I thought I remembered.
7. Ditch the Idea and Start Over with Something Different
Finally, if all else fails, you may have to accept that it just isn’t time for that particular project, and that’s why it’s not working. Let it go, and turn your attention to something else.
But you don’t have to throw it away forever. Save the files, store the notes, and then pull them back out the next time you find yourself feeling uninspired to write.
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