“Dive deep, that’s where the big fish are.”
Christopher Denise, illustrator
“You can’t push the river.” Whenever I start trying too hard with my writing, this old river-rafting adage comes to my aid. You know the feeling: You are really “efforting” — straining so hard to get something right, or to figure out a thorny plot or character problem, that instead of getting a positive result, all you encounter is resistance.
Often this happens when we’re operating with our conscious, controlling mind rather than diving deeper into depths of our unconscious — that playful, imaginative part of ourselves that’s our true creative wellspring.
When things start feeling forced, superficial instead of natural and organic — when they seem to skim the surface of things rather than bubbling up from somewhere deep and authentic — what can we do to jump start a more creative response? A few ideas I came across recently may help:
Stop straining: If pushing the river isn’t working, then stop pushing the river! Recognize that you’ve hit an impasse or a plateau. Adjust your attitude: see it as not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity, an invitation to be more open and adventurous, to try something fresh and new.
Go treasure hunting: Instead of condemning yourself for your lack of imagination, invite yourself to have fun, get messy, play around — think of the new path you’re exploring as an adventure, a game. Have fun!
Just “freelax” gently: Give up trying to muscle your mind into giving you want you want and engage your imagination by allowing yourself to enter a relaxed, pleasant state where you’re free to wander and explore. Opt for creative flow rather than linear, logical thinking.
Slow down: Quit trying to drive forward: take your foot off the gas. Daydream, listen to your inner voice, and have the courage to simply wait to see what emerges. Don’t push for results, just wait and see what’s revealed. And write on!