Generating Storms: Things to do in a creative dry spell

Sometimes there are no words to say.

Nothing comes.

Sometimes the mind feels barren as a mountain that’s shed the last of its winter snow.

The snowpack gone, the streams dry up. The muses carry their songs down the slopes. The sight of them and the sounds of their voices become lost to the line of lofty pines. The muses wind their way faithfully down the slopes in search of hidden mountain springs.

Often these springs course their way for miles and miles below ground before gushing into the open. By then, they may be out of reach. Or their distance to the sea might be too short to hold an ounce of interest.

This is how I feel when I write.

There are days when the words just come. Where my mind is a mountain in spring shedding its winter coat, and everywhere I turn there is another word, another drop falling from my fingers to the keys — small drops, falling one after another, until they come together in a torrent. Trickles of ideas become streams of consciousness become cascades of inspiration become rivers that grow and grow before the one truly great idea comes, and I know I have found the ocean.

Then there are days when this frenzy of inspiration drips its last drop. The snowpack gone, the river stops flowing like it did. Time goes by before some winter storm comes along to rejuvenate my muses.

A storm can come from anywhere, but more often than not it takes some work to coax one into being.

The good thing is that storms can be generated. It’s easy to lose a muse in the shadows of the trees. But its easier than I thought to generate the storms that will provide a fresh snowpack.

(Don’t ask why my muses love snow so much. I’m delighting too much in this metaphor to have my spirits crushed by how silly it may sound.)

There are a hundred things and more that an artist can do to drum up a storm and generate a snowpack.

Here are a few.

Things to do in a creative dry spell

  1. Get up from the desk.
  2. Go outside.
  3. Walk
  4. or run.
  5. Exercise
  6. or veg out.
  7. Lay on the beach or the grass and close your eyes and listen to the world. The wind sifting through the trees. The rumbling waves. The birds and their varied methods of singing.
  8. Lay on the floor and listen to beautiful music.
  9. Sing.
  10. Dance.
  11. Read.
  12. Watch a movie.
  13. Actually go to the movies. Alone. Enjoy it. (Some people think it’s sad to go alone, but it’s really quite relaxing.)
  14. Take a day trip
  15. or a vacation.
  16. Get into nature.
  17. If you live in a place surrounded by nature, go to the city. Surround yourself with sounds and sights your senses haven’t heard or seen for a while.
  18. Sit at a coffee shop and observe passersby. Just not like a creeper.
  19. Cook.
  20. Draw.
  21. Paint.
  22. Take a photo.
  23. Create something. Anything. A sculpture. A sheet fort in the living room. A paper mâché unicorn.
  24. Draw what you’ve been writing about. Sketch a scene, a setting, a character.
  25. If you’re a poet, write a short story.
  26. If you’re a prose writer, write a poem.
  27. If you’re a nonfiction writer, write a poem or a short story.
  28. If you’re a painter, a photographer, or any sort of visual artist, write something.
  29. Create a character sketch or design something based on two unrelated things, like meteors and bleu cheese.
  30. Meditate. Pray. Take a few moments to recalibrate your mind.

I’ll admit, I’m a little selfish. I made this list for myself, so I can come back to it whenever I need to generate a storm.

And this list is by no means complete. These are just a few ideas. Notice how none of them involve getting lost in one’s smartphone, or consuming alcohol or drugs to influence some semblance of inspiration. The mind can get a natural high when it’s working muscles it normally doesn’t — or muscles that are different from the ones it’s been using for hours on end.

Sometimes the best cure for any creative block, for those stubborn my-mountain’s-run-out-of-snow moments, is to simply step away and do something different for a while. It’s like hitting the refresh button on the mind’s frozen browser window.

I started this post because I was at a loss for what to write. So I wrote “Sometimes there are no words to say.”

Less than an hour later, I had written all this.

Honestly, I took the advice from #29 on the list, and thought of how a creative dry spell compares to a mountain. Because I really miss the mountains and I have a trip coming up in which I’ll be in the mountains, and they were on my mind.

There are days when I feel I’ve got the wind beneath my wings and feel like I can do anything I set my mind to, and there are days when I feel utterly defeated.

That’s just part of being human.

And that’s okay.

Just gotta take a step away and generate a storm.

How do you get your creative mojo back when it leaves the mountaintop and slips into the shadows of the trees? What are your rituals of rejuvenation?

Designer, writer, and photographer dwelling in Los Angeles.

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