I know creativity can be elusive but if you love to create, no matter the medium, then we must create. But how do we keep going when we are blocked? I recently stumbled across a concept that I love and I think will help you learn how to work around a creative block.
What’s the concept that intrigues me so much? Keep working and do it 100 times! Seriously. I found this strategy reading a post on Handmadeology. The author, Jenny Hoople, talked about being assigned to create 100 sculptures in a week while in school. What?! Yes. 100. She said that she learned it wasn’t so much about “achieving something, it’s about letting go of something.” Like letting go of what you think you’re supposed to be creating in order to find out what your soul needs to create.
This wasn’t the time for Jenny to painstakingly create a masterpiece. It was about creating 100 pieces in a week! Creating without trying to get it perfect. There was no time for that! It was just about creating.
In that week timeframe, Jenny wasn’t able to create 100 sculptures, but she was able to get close to it, somewhere between 80-90. When they were all laid out, side by side, a pattern was discovered–ocean creatures. But that wasn’t what she was expecting to find. And therein lies the fun of this creative exercise.
You can break through those blocks of “I should create…” or even, “I want to create…” and discover something new. Something you weren’t expecting to create. And in finding that, you can renew your passion. Jenny did this experiment another time when she was working with wood beads. She wasn’t sure what to create so decided to recreate the “100” experiment. In doing so, she was able to discover patterns and designs she hadn’t thought of before.
How it Works for Writers/Bloggers
Jenny was a sculptor. She created 80 to 90 sculptures that averaged twice the size of her fist. When she discovered ocean creatures were playing within her creative source she went onto make four-foot tall ceramic ocean creature sculptures. Much bigger than the short time-frame of her assignment would have allowed her to create. And that’s what you need to do as well. Create quantity over size and even over quality. We’re not looking for a perfect creation. We’re looking for a pattern.
Like Jenny, give yourself one week. And remember, she was in college. Sculptures weren’t the only thing she was doing for 8 or 16 hours a day. She had other classes to take and other homework to do. This project shouldn’t take over your entire life.
Also, remember to keep it short. We’re not looking for the next great novel or book of poems or pillar posts for your blog. We’re looking for quantity, we’re looking for the themes and patterns that arise. When you have to create 100 items in a week, you start letting go of the blocks that tell you WHAT you MUST write about and you just start trying to fill the paper with words in order to complete the assignment.
As a writer, you should try to keep your pieces within the 100 to 500-word range. Those first few might be very difficult for you to get out. Especially if you’re trying to fit everything into your idea of what you “think you should be writing.” It will probably take a few stories for you to get that out of your system. Just write, no matter how silly you think the assignment or the story that you’re working on at this very moment. Just write it.
Other options include writing one hundred first paragraphs. I like this idea because you don’t have to write a complete story or post, but in the first paragraph, you will know what it’s supposed to be about. One hundred final or closing paragraphs will do the same thing as it’s usually a recap of what the story or post was about.
Now that you have 100 something completed. It’s time to determine what the theme of each one is about. That’s the key to the exercise. Finding out the theme of each piece. Once you are done it’s time to study them to figure out what patterns or themes. Read each one and write down the theme of the piece. It’s time to determine how many match up.
Ever wonder why you’re creatively blocked? Could it be that you’re not listening to your soul to find out what it wants to create? This exercise will help you get closer to what you should be working on instead of what you’re forcing yourself to work on. As Jenny did with her sculptures, you might find a theme that you weren’t expecting. Jenny found sea creatures…what will you find?
Always write about travel but find the majority of your 100 pieces are about recipes? Or maybe you only write fiction but found that a majority of your pieces were non-fiction? Always write poems but found you started writing first paragraphs for essays?
How will you incorporate why you’ve found into what you’re doing right now? Because that’s the next step. Are you going to make a left turn and start creating something completely new or are you going to start weaving it into what you already do? A new category perhaps or a mix of poems and essays or fiction and non-fiction. Time to figure it out.
I’d love to know what new patterns emerged when you try this exercise. Share in the comments below.