Bathtubs, Lightning Bolts, and The Myth of Writer’s Block

Bathtubs, Lightning Bolts, and The Myth of Writer’s Block

Reader Comments (34)

  1. I like the term “creative lightening”!

    I agree there’s seldom one right answer. Sometimes the best insight is about what “not” to do (the anti-patterns).

    There’s a lot we can learn from Disney’s imagineers. Michael Michalko (former imagineer) put together a collection of patterns and practices for creativity in his THINKERTOYS. One cool lesson was that Edison used an idea quota to keep his creativity flowing.

  2. This is a good set of practical steps for “creativity.” Many top novelists say they wrote their best works by simply sitting down to write every day — not by waiting for that one moment of inspiration. The same holds true for copywriters like us!

  3. I confess – I was deleting emails and yours was next but the title got me. I HAD to come see where you were going with it. Great article, for the record, but the title ROCKED!

  4. I’m with Glenda – the shower is definitely the place for being struck with ideas. I even wrote a blog post about the shower phenomenon. But . . . “stop people in the grocery store”? Not so much.

  5. Dean,

    I really like the way you broke down the creative process here, for when you need to step-by-step drag yourself out of a creative block, or when you’ve got a big project that looks insurmountable in front of you.

    Most of the time, though, I think this could be overcomplicating things. Following the example of J.E. Teeple can get you out of most ruts with only one step: Just do what needs doing.

    That’s the lesson I like best here.



  6. Creativity is such a “precious” word – it’s just problem solving with attitude!

    I think writer’s block is either simply a lack of preparation for the project you are working on or just being too demanding on oneself.

  7. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was “Good is good enough.”

    This comes from the make it happen captain Dan Kennedy.

    He’s a huge fan of speed to market over perfection.

    When writing for the web we can make improvements to our copy we stumble upon after we’ve published our sales letter and it cost us nothing.

    Perfectionist is a term used by chickens. “Too Busy” is another wuss term.

    When we claim to be too busy or a perfectionist we’re prettying up our cowardly behavior. No one likes to admit they’re scared of failing but this is what I’ve found at the core of my clinging to either of these blankies.

    We fear looking bad in the eyes of others and as long as we use these softeners we never put our ass on the line. We never accept the greatness waiting for us.

    I believe fear lies at the bottom of all writers block.

    Re-evaluate the labels you’re giving for not writing and like me you might realize you’ve been wimping out too.

    Once we change the language we use to hypnotize ourselves into unproductive trances we can then correct it and lead ourselves to consciousness.

    One program I’ve found that does this magnificently is by a man named Robert Dilts. It’s called “Conversational Magic.”

    Dilt’s is one of the pioneers of Neuro Linguistic Programing and this is a recorded 3 day seminar he did on the power of our conversations with ourselves and others.

    Anyone who hopes to influence any person including yourself would be blessed by having this program at their finger tips.

    Check it out. It’s amazing chicken soup for the writers soul.

    Note Taking Nerd #2

  8. Writers block is never easy. The funny thing from what I hear is that you always right more, just you never think its good. Change the scenario, pace, something to just get out, relax and the ideas will naturally come from life itself.

  9. Free writing has always been an effective way for me to get over any kind of writers block. Just sitting down and writing anything and everything that pops into my head, as fast and furious as I can, and when I get stuck I just keep writing the same word over and over again until an new idea hits me. This sort of “brain purge” usually leads to 90% garbage, but it gets me writing and gives me 10% good stuff as well.


  10. I find that when I am tired I get block on everything.

    Then when well rested I start to focus but asking questions of everything from everybody is something to ponder.

    Might have to do a mini question period to get the same hard work answers you eluded to in your post.

    Thanks definitely a post worth reading again!

  11. Free writing is one solution to writer’s block. Just let the words flow without editing or thinking of structure. That usually solves it for me. If necessary, write about a different topic. Something you love then return to the held up topic.

  12. I love step 5 about brainstorming. I have always loved this step. However, many people (in my opinion) are scared of putting everything down on paper for fear that their free-flowing thoughts become permanent. This behavior is detrimental in allowing the most creative ideas to come alive.


  13. Good tips. I like your analogy and story approach, although the scientific process is a little different from the creative writing process. Keeping an open mind for the flow of ideas, I call it “yeasting” and getting out of my head by reading a lot and writing something, anything, usually works for me.

  14. I find that either people neglect #8 or they neglect #1-7. 🙂 Cycles of working and resting are tremendously helpful in creative work. As you put it, sometimes the answer is just to get dressed and go back to work.

    One addition I might make is that while you absolutely have to prune out ideas in step #9, don’t outright throw them away. Keep them in what I call a “compost pile.” Sometimes there’s an idea that you aren’t ready for today, but that will bear wonderful fruit later.

  15. My pattern for overcoming writers’ block is this: search and research ideas – brainstorm – choose the best idea – start working. Usually, this pattern produces enough writing ideas that I can look over a list of previous, but unused, great ideas and use them for new topics.

  16. “Talk to People” is good for human interaction. I would take that section a step further though: for those of us who are a little less sociable, or have an extensive network of friends on the net, you can get a lot of inspiration from blog commenting.

    That’s all I ‘m going to say on that. Just try it out.

  17. I recently encouraged writers on my blog to ‘abandon their muses’ for some of the reasons you outline here. I believe we should try and approach our writing as a process that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.

    There’s no, as I put it in my post, ‘…celestial literary overlord hovering above your brain-box, all dressed up like Big Willy Shakespeare, throwing ideas into your head via your ear holes.”

    Basically, don’t wait for lightning bolts. Just write.

  18. I do really like # 10 as a way to organize and choose which idea is best (#11). I’m also a fan of #3, talking to others. This one is quite interesting though, because if more people at agencies stayed true to this, you’d think that more account management people be included in creative brainstorming sessions. Maybe it depends on the agency?

  19. I keep a list on my Blackberry of every little idea that comes to mind for blogging. Once a week I’ll transfer them to my blog as post titles and then pick 1 or 2 that get my juices flowing and begin to write.

  20. Yes, you have to continually recheck your ideas and find flaws. Test all angles and see to it that you have tested all possible tests.

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