A Snow Butterfly
Every Ceiling is a Snow-Covered Rooftop

12 Ways to Escape a Creative Rut (Part 1)

I love my creative friends.

Writers, painters, fashion designers, bloggers, hair stylists, chefs, illustrators, jewelry makers…their life and work inspires me.

Yet, even among the most talented and productive, a bubble of unease and discontent
often rises to the surface. Troubling bubbles containing questions like:

  • Girl Q

    How do I come up with ideas?
  • How do I keep things fresh?
  • How can I write about a topic in new, interesting ways?
  • How can I stay inspired?
  • How can I break out of a creative rut?

Just this week, I had yet another brilliant, creative friend ask me to blog on such topics.

So, without further ado, here are several of twelve ways to break out of a creative rut (especially if you’re a writer):

1. Describe What You See.

It seems almost too simple…but have you tried it? Wherever you are, STOP. Get out your notebook and pen (you do carry them with you, right?), and begin writing down what you see. (If you’re not old-school like I am, yes, by all means, use your glowing box to jot down your impressions). Describe what you smell, what you hear, what you feel. Take it all in, capturing your experience with words. Don’t censor, don’t judge and DON’T stop until you’ve written for at least 15 minutes.

2. Make a Magazine Collage.

Scissors CupI could write an entire blog post on what you can do with old magazines. For now, we’ll focus on an image collage. Flip through the magazine, scissors in hand (wait, put those down while flipping…safety first!), and choose images that intrigue, inspire or delight you. Heck, maybe even pick a picture or two that ticks you off. Cut them out. On a piece of sturdy paper like poster board, tape or glue those images. Notice if themes seem to jump out to you—ideas that you can develop into a story or poem.

Alternatively, you can start your collage with a theme already in mind, and then treasure hunt through the magazine for related images. Examples can include My Protagonist’s Life, What I Find Beautiful, Color Riot, How Alone Looks and so on. No magazines around? Try Pinterest, which is a virtual corkboard that you can use in the same way. (Click here to read my post How Writers Can Use Pinterest. To see all my Pinterest boards, some that I use for inspiration, click here.)

You can even make a Life Map by cutting out empowering, inspiring images and phrases encapsulating the creative life you desire.

3. Get a MagPo set.

What is MagPo? Why, it’s Magnetic Poetry! I’ve been using MagPo for over a decade and it’s SUPER fun…especially if you use the fridge for making poetry and stories. My husband eventually grew tired of having hundreds of tiles covering the refrigerator (and, no doubt, standing in front of it for many minutes creating word wizardry!), so I agreed to take them all off (le sigh).

Mag po zombie SmallHowever, I discovered a BETTER way to use MagPo, especially since it’s portable: cookie sheets. Yes, you read right. You can buy a cheapo cookie sheet from the dollar store and have a shiny new canvas for serious word painting. Best of all, you can carry it from room to room! (Or, if you have a sizable backpack or tote, from place to place!).

No worries if you don’t have a cookie sheet handy: you can arrange the words on a table top or other flat surface, and then write your creation down for posterity. And, really, no worries if you don't get a MagPo set ASAP because the creators allow you to make Magnetic Poems at their site!

The MagPo empire has expanded exponentially beyond the original kit and magnetic wall calendar. Below are but a few of the themed word kits you can get in MagPo.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of 12 Ways to Escape a Creative Rut. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll cover Mind Mapping, Throwing (Tarot) Cards, Eavesdropping and more!

Question: Are you in a creative rut now? What are you doing to help get you back on the road to artistic expression? What's worked for you in the past? I'd love to hear about your experience!

-- Janet




Janet, I love everything you've written here. Describe what you see is probably the best reminder for me because sometimes I get so caught up in what am I going to write... and really if I just stop and do that simple act, I could move forward much more easily. Magazines are my favorite thing, we have to make mood board for everything at school so I have so many magazines, but I never really thought about creating boards for characters, etc, until I read you Pintrest post the other night! Thanks for sharing that.

I think we have a MagPo set on our kitchen... maybe I will play with that more. You know what I actually love to do and I havent done in so long... unwrite books!! My friend and I use to go and buy crappy old books from the thrift store or there is a great bookstore by our apt where they give away old books. And you go through the pages, circling the words that you want to use and you make the rest out... its amazing! Maybe I will do a post on that.

Thanks again for this great insight... I can't wait for part two... and I hope 3, and 4 and 5. ;-)


Janet Boyer

Hi Shaheen! Glad you enjoyed the first installment. I haven't heard of "unwriting" books. OMG, I am SO gonna try that. What a brilliant idea! Care if I share that as, maybe, #13? ;o)

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