A Creative Slump

I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump lately. Now, that’s not the end of the world… unless you write a weekly message, a daily blog post, a host of articles and you’re trying to put together a book proposal. In that case, it’s kind of miserable.

But I’ve recently had a bit of a breakthrough of sorts. When in a creative slump I’ve often thought of it as a “block.”  If you camped outside of my office long enough you would probably hear me yell in desperation, “I’ve got writer’s block!!!”

But that’s not really true.

Anne Lamott said, “The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.”

“Stuck” suggests that you need to try harder.

“Empty” prompts you to fill up.

Understanding my creative slump as the result of being empty gives me the permission to engage in the activities that fill me up.

Watch a movie.

Take a walk.

Play with the kids.

Call a friend.





And this is working a lot better than “trying harder.”

What do you do when you hit a creative slump?

What fills you up?

61 Responses to “A Creative Slump”

  1. Love this … I’ve discovered this to be true in my own life.

    Along with your list … one thing that helps my creatively is being intentional about seeing beauty and soaking it up … whether that be in nature, art, music, etc.

  2. Marni says:

    Ahhhh! You nailed the moment I am in right now. These are excellent pointers suggested to exercise to get the emptiness filled, and get the creative juices flowing again.

    It goes in conjunction with Michael Hyatt’s blog post (http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-overcome-the-winter-blues.html) today about mild depression. The combination of this posting and that one really has helped me realize I am truly not the only one lately who feels all schlumpy and “stuck” lately.

    Thanks for the transparency this morning! It has already helped one this morning! :)

  3. true story. love the way Anne Lamott finds her way into discussions and life circumstances so often. enjoy your writing and teaching, Pete. pray the Holy Spirit “fills” you up as a result of your humble post here. keep it going and please keep an eye on Chris Surratt. he’s shifty…


  4. I like to go for walks and read stuff that I normally don’t read when I’m in a creative slump.

    What fills me up? Prayer and time with my family.

    • Melissa Irwin says:

      Pete – I can’t comment for some reason, other than to reply to someone elses comment. :-( But for me, I HAVE to get outdoors, or BLARE music, or take pictures. All of these things make me feel closer to God and fill me up.

  5. Melissa Irwin says:

    I forgot to mention how much I love Anne Lamott.

  6. Tony Alicea says:

    I agree 100%. You’re not blocked, you’re empty. I do two things. Read & go for one-on-one coffee with a friend. Those two things always inspire and fill me up.

  7. Cheryl Derrick says:

    I agree. I can’t write my blog unless I am “inspired” or filled. Thats seems to be why it is so sporatic lately. What seems to fill me up is to actually slow down. When I am busy and wide open, my creativity seems to suffer. When I slow down, absorb and enjoy the things right in front on me, I can write 5 blogs in my head in an hour. Its the darnedest thing!

  8. Sherie says:

    I learned that sometimes we are working so hard to fill up so we can overflow, that we overlook the hole in the bottom of our cup.

    Keys for me are music, laughter with people, time with God outdoors, worship where I can get real and lost (not hold back), organizing (it is an act of putting things where they belong…could be as simple as working a puzzle or cleaning the house)

  9. Wow! This one was for ME today!! Thank you…. I’m going to take a nap now. 😉

  10. eileen says:

    Excellent advice. I do everything you mention except nap. For 38 years I have not figured out how to nap. Perhaps when I do, it will once and for all cure my creative slumpiness :)

  11. Anonymous says:

    That was good…really good! Read, listen, clean (I know, twisted), and serve – doing something for someone else no matter how little is one of the best and most fun ways to fill up.

  12. Paula says:

    I’ve found that my creative stalls are directly related to lack of inspiration… and for me, inspiration comes from people around me – sharing their stories, goals and needs.

    I’m blessed to have a few great women in my life who know how to re-ignite my inspiration! The same goes for a few of my clients… Often, just having a brainstorm session with any of them helps for me to get creative. It can even be as simple as grabbing coffee and getting “caught up”.

  13. Billy Coffey says:

    Dang if I didn’t need to read that today.

    • Ronne says:

      Me too, Mr Coffey. Me too. I needed to read it yesterday too. And last week. And likely tomorrow. I’m so thankful that the Lord continues to whisper – and He he gives words to sustain me when my ink has run dry. Actually, I’m learning one of the disciplines you have shared – that is to keep writing even if there is nothing to say. I’ve got a personal blogsite where I am posting daily thoughts and pictures just to remind me of His voice in the midst of my voicelessness.

  14. Carrie says:

    Reading other blogs helps me tremendously. I love to see what other people are doing with their time and creative energy. It not only gives me ideas but it inspires me to get out and enjoy life.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I love this. I needed this. I’m definitely feeling a little empty. It’s not that I’m not trying to fill myself up. I just feel like there is a gaping hole in cup.

  16. Jason Wert says:

    Drives down the Natchez Trace seem to help me a lot. I struggle with this because I want to push through the block and the more I push the more frustrated I get.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I just wrote about this the other day on my blog too, except I liked it to being somewhat constipated ha! What can I say, that’s the way it felt. My best remedy…laying in my office floor tossing a football.

  18. Anonymous says:

    A book I read at least once a year to be creatively inspired is ‘Rebel Without A Crew’ by director Robert Rodriguez. It’s a journal of his adventure in making the film ‘El Mariachi.’ This was before the advent of the DSLR so making movies still had to be done with film which meant it actually cost more and in order to make an action film on his budget ($7000) there was a lot of creativity needed.

    The second half of the book is just as it gives a fascinating look into the world of Hollywood and how buzz alone can make something a sensation in that town.

  19. I’ll take a double shot of talking to friends, especially OLD friends. I am only 25 (years removed from college) and talked to two good friends for about 2-3hours each the last two nights. It’s helped me more than I can explain in this short blog comment.

  20. […] In his post, Wilson quotes Ann Lamott who says, “The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.” […]

  21. Justin Davis says:

    Umm… well French Fries of course! :)


  22. dan says:

    listening to music & driving

  23. Thank you for that! Very encouraging and shows me what I need to do next!

  24. Take a Psalm 46:10 “pill” and hook up with my Creator. After all, “In the beginning, God created……” I find that for a “creative block, slump, etc.,” I just need a little more intimate time with Him. So I usually go sit or lay face down in my prayer closet and just wait to hear Him speak in the way that he does….speaks it into my mind. That is the best way I have found to fill up. It is easy, yet it takes discipline to break away which is often hard.

  25. Anna Holland says:

    I’ve only read ‘Traveling Mercies’ by Anne Lamott. Looks like I should maybe pick up ‘Bird by Bird’.

  26. Douglasbell says:

    Grandpa Wilson bless you brother.i understand hip surgery can be quite painful, keep moving! I’m not a daily comment person, but I’m a pastor of crosspointe church just outside of Memphis TN. I’m praying for you my friend get well soon and enjoy these comments for you. http://Www.facebook.com/crosspointe1

  27. Great advice…thanks for giving permission to “fill up”!

  28. Great word of encouragement Pete! For me, this usually reveals that I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to write/create and neglecting my time in the Word. God’s Word – particularly the OT – revives my heart.
    Also, I go running!

  29. Thank you for this – you’re right on. I’ve always loved to read and I used to think that reading a lot might make me lose my own thoughts or my own “voice” in writing. I no longer think that’s true. When we’re full, we have more to propel our own voice and the ideas and thoughts God has planted in our own hearts.

    Much needed words and perspective.

  30. I hit a creative slump all the time! Usually to bring the mojo back I turn to a different route of creating something. For example if I have bloggers block – I’ll go bake something or tackle a recipe. I think it’s a start to finish process. You just have to get your mind set back on the process of figuring out and then executing anything. So like your fishing picture below, if you are having writers block – go seek out the perfect fishing hole and make it work. See what I mean? Maybe, No. Works for me!

  31. Jason Vana says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I really needed to hear it today.
    Normally when I hit a slump, I will pick up a purely fiction book or go for a walk.
    As for things that fill me up – time in God’s word, family, friends, reading, taking a nap, going on a hike, things like that.

  32. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    Your “counteract the slump” list is a pretty good one. I use all of these myself especially the walk-nap-movie group. I also make it a practice to read and view other peoples’ work. Not in an effort to plagiarize but rather to allow my brain to see things in new ways.

    But there is one thing you might want to add to your list. Exercise your “no muscles.” This is the need to “say no” to additional projects and responsibilities that will use from the same storehouse of creative energy currently reserved for your list of “must do” responsibilities.

  33. Jonathan Wells says:

    I’ve never heard it described that way before Pete, and I have to say that is a lot more freeing when in a creative slump to think of it that way, because I tend to feel guilty when I engage in another activity during those times. Thanks Bro.

  34. Spherion-ad says:

    Reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “Walking on Water” helps me remember I am created by and in the image of the Creator — it’s only when I stand in the way that my creativity lessens. To get out of my own way, I try to (paraphrased from the same book) to “listen to the silence, stay open to the voice of the Spirit, and ask the Lord to slow me down.”

  35. Andie says:

    Getting out in Nature or laughing with great friends… combing the two makes the whole thing all the better!

  36. I write a daily devotional for our church and there are some weeks when I struggle to get it done. When that happens I have learned to put it down for a day or two and come back later. Even though I may have to rush at the end, fresh perspective, eyes, and brain help.

  37. Brooke Z. says:

    When I’m in a creative slump I try to get away from the project a bit, whether it’s taking a walk or actually putting it away for a day, week, or month, of course if time allows. I’m amazed how God’s timing is best!

    And I missed out on your Grandpa’s posting yesterday. Hope he had a speedy recovery!

  38. Mary says:

    Praying for your Grandpa! Hope he recovers quickly! I take a break when I am in a slump and enjoy walks, visits with friends, and movies. Then I m ready to take on things that need tending to….

  39. Whether I’m writing or producing spots at the radio station, I will hit these brick walls that can be the death of me. I’ve learned at first slump I need to walk away. I will go outside many times for fresh air and a few minutes later come back to it. Depending on if it has a deadline, sometimes I’ll save it and sleep on it. Grabbing coffee or a movie with friends always helps to. Anything to clear my mind and come back with a new perspective.

  40. Karen Byrne says:

    Needed that insight. Thanks.

  41. Amy Nabors says:

    While I always hesitate to call myself creative I have to do one of two things: do something totally unrelated to whatever creative thing it is I’m wanting to do, or just show up at the page so to speak and put something on the page or canvas, etc…

  42. David Knapp says:

    If I want to write about something deep then I need to read.

    Writer’s block sounds like it would make sense with sermon prep. Sermon prep involves reading the Bible.

    Of course sermon prep also involves applying scripture to the listener’s life. Any tips on sermon application?

  43. Dionna says:

    I hate it when I get a writer’s slump. Usually happens to me for two reasons – 1. I need filling up (as you stated.) 2. I’m too overwhelmed with what life has going on at the moment and I need to slow down so I can think and feel.

    Movies are great inspiration for me as are other people’s blogs and my children. :)

  44. colston says:

    reading and writing. music. laying on the couch with my wife. laughing. finding a moment to be still and breathe deeply. coffee shops. here’s to being filled :)

    may we find rhythms of creative renewal.

    grace and peace

  45. Playing Uno seems to help. :)

  46. Wow… you have described how I have felt over the last few weeks. With rain and overcast here in Southern California for days on end, all of us sun worshipers are in a funk. I think the best way to get out of it is to take a Caribbean cruise. So my wife and I signed up for a Creative Cruise in April. Maybe some people you know… Randy Elrod, Michael Hyatt, Ken Davis and some guy named Pete Wilson(Sounds like a former Governor of California).
    Oh wait a minute… Pete Wilson is you….

    Looking forward to meeting you and your family. Maybe we can all enjoy some sunshine together!

  47. Jake Kaufman says:

    Thanks Pete…I really needed this today. I’ve been in a bit of a slump as well. Looks like it’s time to work from the overflow instead of toward the deadlines.

  48. What a great perspective! I’ve actually been running dry on creativity more frequently, and I think this is just the post I needed to read! Thanking the Lord for this! (and thank you too Pete)

  49. James Boysuk says:

    We are new to Pooler. Where are you located from Pime Barren Road…we want to come to your church this Sunday!Thanks, Jim and Amie

  50. amk says:

    I don’t have the writing to do (my hubby does) but I find all those things fill me up when I am lonely, down, tired, grumpy or drained! I think I’ll work from that list tomorrow.

  51. […] The other day Pete refered to a quote by Anne Lammot regarding writers block (or creative block). (Pete also blogged about it here) […]

  52. 9 assists, 3?CUVEESightings: Miami Heat

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