I’ve always wanted to be a writer since as far back as I can remember. I made up theme songs for my stuffed animals at age 5, so there you go. I’ve wanted to be other things too, at various times in my life. A computer programmer. A rock star. A wandering vagabond (I realized that it was hard to make a living at that one…) But I’ve always come back to writing, and poured everything I had into it. I feel fortunate to have this skill.
However, even with things you love, you do hit rough patches where the inspiration lags, or you are just plain stuck. It’s times like those I reach for a distraction to boost me up and over the wall. Here’s the key, though. The distraction has to fit these 3 criteria.
It has to be a purposeful distraction
You have to consciously stop your writing and set it aside (possibly with a set time to return) before starting your creative distraction. Flitting from thing to thing will likely leave you with unfinished work and will leave you unsatisfied. I speak from years of experience as a flitter.
It has to be something you are terrible at (but really enjoy doing)
Your creative distraction should not under any circumstances compete with your primary art form. I’ll use myself as an example. I enjoy drawing. But as anyone who has seen my drawing can attest to, it is truly horrifying. Like it was done by a child (“Oh, Josh. Good for you! You made a drawing. That’s adorable.”) That’s why it’s the perfect thing to do when I get stuck on a piece of writing. If I ever become a competent artist, I may need to find something else. I’m still terrible at the guitar, so there’s that…
It has to be creative
This is possibly the most important criterion, because it gets to the root of why you’re stuck, creatively, in the first place. If you are bored with a piece of writing, or are unsure of where to take it, you have a problem that needs solving. Don’t ignore the roadblock by doing the dishes or sweeping the floor (although I’m sure your housemate or spouse would appreciate that!). Use other art forms you enjoy practicing as ancillaries to help trigger new ideas and novel solutions to your writing problems.
I hope this helps you in your creative work! –JM
–If you thought this was interesting or have an example to add, post in the comments!–