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How to sail through a creative dry spell

We all have dry spells when your mind is swirling and can’t land on something concrete and it happens to the best of us

By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Thu 28 Apr 2022, 8:43 PM

From the movies I’ve watched recently, Tick, Tick. Boom has become my absolute favourite. Based on the life of composer-lyricist Jonathon Larson played superbly by Andrew Garfield, the stand-out moment for me, was the song ‘Swimming’, picturised when Jonathon is facing a writer’s block. Desperate to complete a song, which he can’t, totally frustrated, he goes for a swim. The entire picturisation is a structureless stream of consciousness storytelling about what Jonathan sees, thinks and feels throughout his midnight swim. Even the song’s lyrics were so chaotic — reflecting his deep frustration, making it relatable. And this is clever because water symbolises the deep subconscious and its mysterious ways.

And during his furiously fast (and impressive) swimming, when he is in the depth of the waters of his subconscious mind, his ‘song’, his ‘Eureka’ moment comes to him, note by note, lyric by lyric. Metaphorically showing that he was fully immersed in his deepest consciousness, releasing all his anger and reaching his creativity. It’s truly one of the film’s most satisfying moments.

We all have dry spells — when your mind is swirling and can’t land on something concrete. It happens to the best of us, the most creative artists and successful professionals. We all get past it too. But at the time, it feels like a deadlock.

Have you faced it? Perhaps at your workplace? Or in school, or sometimes for the simplest thing like writing a sensitive message?

So how do we get past this creative block?

1 Step back:

The perfect solution rarely shows up when you are feverishly seeking it. Think of a fly persistently banging into a glass window to get out when the opening is just a few inches away. Step back for a bit, and do something different. Like the above movie song, step out, take a breather, swim, walk, dance, burn off some steam. Experts have constantly spoken about the ‘incubation period’, saying that the best ideas come to people when they aren’t actively trying to develop a solution. One of the oldest examples is of Archimedes’ legendary ‘Eureka!’ moment he had while taking a bath; that’s when he made a remarkable discovery. If he can, so can you.

2 Stream-of-consciousness writing:

I often speak about author Julia Cameron and her ‘morning pages’ concept, which is simply free-flow writing first thing in the morning — that’s when the veil of your ego is the thinnest. Free-flow writing three pages lets your mind wander and explore places you otherwise have no time for. It sets the creativity wheel in motion.

3 You are just the vessel:

Michelangelo said that he did not create the masterpiece David — he simply got the idea to chisel away at the block of stone in that particular manner. The minute you stop thinking of yourself as an idea generator and instead see yourself as a vessel through which great ideas can flow, you take all the creative pressure off yourself. A powerful question to ask the Universe is, ‘How would you like to use me/my talent for the greater good’?

Stop aiming for perfection, instead aim for progress. Remember it is enough to just take one step at a time. You don’t have to see the entire path, just that one step will lead you forward.


Connect with Delna Mistry Anand across social media @DelnaAnand

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