Unsticking Creativity

blank paper with pen and coffee cup on wood table

In recent years, I’ve had spells where I’ve been completely uninspired when it comes to writing.  Like lately.  I’ve been stuck at word #1 for months, disinterested in all forward movement.

It isn’t that I’m absent of creativity altogether—I’ve used it in landscaping, home design, and painting furniture. Firing up that ‘spark’ is easier for me in those areas because it’s somewhat mindless.  My hands just move without needing my brain to engage too much.  Deep down though, those projects don’t fulfill my artist’s angst: I long for the soul connection that is released when I pick up my pen or start tapping on my keyboard.

I’ve learned my interest—and even ability—to write disappears when I’m under stress or am just too busy-minded to allow words to morph into meaning.  I’ve tried a number of times to ‘just do it,’ but it’s a little like sticking my finger down my throat.  Nothing good comes out.

This week, something broke loose in me.  I’ve been teaching a creative writing class to high school students this year.  This past week, I assigned a simple fill-in-the-blank poem intended to help them understand what ‘heart message’ or theme they wanted to use to develop the short story they will each write this semester. I explained they shouldn’t sit for hours and think—but simply close their eyes and let their heart dictate what comes out. The day after the assignment was given, one of my students texted hers to me. (Note that I provided the words in italics—and asked them to fill in the rest. They were also instructed to repeat the first line three times.)

I am honest and determined.

I wonder where humanity is going from here.

I hear brewing storms of chaos

I see rippling rivers of reality

I want to go back.

I am honest and determined.

I pretend the storm has passed.

I feel consumed by the flames of society.

I touch the sun without regret.

I worry they won’t resurface.

I cry for those who still drown.

I am honest and determined.

I understand the past is unchangeable

I say the future is unforeseeable

I dream for a better tomorrow.

I try not to lose faith.

I hope others will see that too.

I am honest and determined.

The assignment was also a means of teaching my students about brainstorming—and I mentioned how creativity is often freed up through using writing prompts such as the “I Am” poem.  So—teacher instruct thyself—I tried my hand at it.  What came out in 3 minutes flat was quite revealing.  But the best thing about it is that I’m writing again!

I am always moving and intense.

I wonder if there’s value in slowing down.

I hear the wind whisper: Hurry! Hurry!

I want to be able to write, to sing, to create.

I am always moving and intense.

I pretend to be calm—

But I feel rushed and purpose-driven. Always.

I touch the past—

And I worry that it still drives me.

I cry when I remember.

I am always moving and intense.

I understand some things never change.

But I say I can.

I dream I will.

I try—with an open mind and a ready heart.

I hope that I can somehow, some way, change the fact

That I am always moving and intense.

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