7 Hacks to Unleash Creative Thinking (When Writers Need It Most)


7 hacks to unleash creative thinking (when writers need it most). Makealivingwriting.com

You’re on deadline. You must finish your article on time. That’s when your creative thinking decides to take a leave of absence. And it does so with no notice.

You’re stuck. You have to write, but you just stare at the computer screen and your fingers do not move.

Every writer has been in this situation. But knowing you aren’t alone won’t help you finish your piece and turn it in on schedule.

These seven creativity hacks will, though.

1. Get out of the box

A recent study showed that people who sit outside a box—literally—have out-of-the-box ideas. The odd location stimulated their creativity.

Even if you don’t usually write in a box (cardboard or cubicle), work somewhere different. Go to a coffee shop, your porch, or another room. Or try sitting on the floor with your back against your office door.

2. Engage in a creative endeavor

Do something (other than writing) that encourages your creativity to show up. Researchers have found that a side project makes you more creative in other areas of your life—like writing.

I know you are on deadline, but make the time—even 15 minutes—to garden, draw, make jewelry, create videos, or write a poem, for example. You’ll return to your article with new creative energy and focus.

3. Listen to music

Listening to music helps stir your creative juices because it stimulates the right side of the brain while you use the left side of your brain to write. A whole-brain approach improves creativity.

Some people like upbeat music, others like something softer. Mozart has been proven to tap into your creative abilities as well as your ability to focus.

4. Change your position

Most writers spend their time sitting at a desk in front of a computer. To enhance your creativity, change your position. For instance, work lying down or reclining. Researchers discovered that people solve problems more quickly when lying down rather than sitting up.

If that doesn’t work, stand up and write. Writing on your feet is good for your health, and being upright while writing generates new ideas, focus, and creative energy.

5. Move your body

Sitting at a desk for hours trying to meet a deadline is not a super way to stimulate creativity—or circulation, for that matter. Instead, stand up every 30 to 60 minutes.

Then move your body. Dance, do yoga or tai chi, take a short walk, or march in place. Do some deep breathing exercises on your break if you aren’t exercise inclined.

The point is to get some oxygen to your brain. It can’t deliver brilliant creative thinking if you don’t oxygenate it periodically.

6. Get visual

Writers can spend too much time using the left side of their brain, especially if they are working on projects that require analysis. To stimulate creativity, engage the right side of the brain in solving your project problems visually.

For instance, use a mind map to plan out your article or a troublesome section of your project. Get some crayons or colored pencils and draw a picture related to the place in your current project where you feel stuck. See what ideas pop into your head in the process.

7. Do something mindless

When you aren’t focused on your writing project—or on anything in particular, new ideas bubble forth. That’s why you get ideas in the shower, while vacuuming or walking.

Take a fifteen-minute break and do something mindless. Allow your mind to wander, and pay attention to the thoughts that float through your mind when it is unfocused.

One or more of these strategies are sure to entice creative thinking back into your workspace. And you’ll know what to do the next time your creativity walks away when you need it most.

What do you do to stimulate your creativity? Leave a comment and let us know.

Nina Amir is an Amazon bestselling author of such books as How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual and Creative Visualization for Writers. She’s the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month and the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Learn more at www.ninaamir.com or find her books at www.booksbyninaamir.com.

7 hacks to unleash creative thinking (when writers need it most)


  1. Rohi

    Hi Nina,
    Great tips! One strategy I use is something I call “Rapidfire.” When I’m feeling distracted or disinclined to do anything (which is more often that I care to admit :-)]), I rapidly switch from one activity to another – exercise five minutes, meditate five minutes, free write five minutes, sketch five minutes, and so on. It helps to get me back on track and since each activity is only five minutes, resistance doesn’t kick in.

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Rohi,

      Love it that you named your creative-reboot process “Rapidfire.”

      How many five-minute activities do you typically deploy to get back in writing mode?

      • Rohi

        Hi Evan,
        It depends on how deep the resistance is – usually it’s not more than 15-20 minutes – 5 minutes exercise, 5 minutes meditation, 5 minutes freewriting, 5 minutes mind mapping. And the best thing is that the improvement in my mood starts almost immediately and is progressive – I feel better as soon as I start to exercise, so the next minutes is easier.
        Rapidfire is really a highly effective way to reboot and get back on track. I’m borderline A.D.D. (aren’t we all) and it has proved to be a lifesaver.

        • Nina Amir

          Here’s my version of rapidfire: 2 minute breathing, 1 minute jumping up and down (or anything that gets your blood pumping, like dancing), 2 minute meditation, and a 30 minute writing sprint.

          I always worry that people spend too much time preparing to write and not writing. So, 5 minutes of warm up to get the energy and ideas flowing works well for me.

          • Carol Tice

            I like it! This is the idea I’m going to try out, out of this post. 😉

          • Rohi

            Hi Nina,
            “I always worry that people spend too much time preparing to write and not writing.”
            I LOVE this and you’re absolutely right.

    • Carol Tice

      Interesting! I haven’t tried that one — and now I want to. 😉

      • Rohi

        Thanks a ton, Carol!

    • Phaedra Rogers

      I love the idea of Rapidfire! I’m currently under the gun and am feeling stuck, so even taking the time to read these posts help. See you back again in about 15 minutes!

      • Rohi

        Thanks, Phaedra! I hope Rapidfire works for you.
        Another of my favorite principles is –
        “Don’t let a lapse turn into collapse.”
        So the sooner you start Rapidfire, the easier it is to get back on the ball. It also works when you feel overwhelmed.

        • Carol Tice

          Wow, you’re just full of the useful ideas and aphorisms this week, Rohi! Keep up the good work. 😉

    • Nina Amir

      That’s an awesome strategy, and I’m sure it fires your creativity and productivity. But I’d be worried about spending too much time on so many activities and becoming unfocused.

      • Rohi

        Hi Nina,
        I do Rapidfire for about 15-30 minutes at most – that’s more than enough to fire me up and get me out of my inertia or negativity. Then I get back to my daily goals.

        • Nina Amir

          Awesome. Sounds like a great strategy!

    • Nina Amir


      That’s an awesome strategy, and I’m sure it fires your creativity and productivity. But I’d be worried about spending too much time on so many activities and becoming unfocused.

  2. Marygwyn Horneck

    I frequently find my creative blocks are directly related to letting my mundane chores stack up while I’m busy with my business. To get back on track, I do something like fold load of clothes or start a load of laundry and empty the dishwasher. All are mindless tasks, but they also take the weight of unfinished chores off of my mind. Ultimately, balance seems to be the most important thing for keeping myself on track.

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Marygwyn,

      Your reason for doing this is great to “Take the weight of unfinished chores off my mind.” It’s amazing what taking care of a few simple tasks can do to free up your brain to think about other things.

    • Nina Amir

      I sometimes find clutter gets in the way of creative thinking. I can deal with a messy office, but, for instance, when I start a book project, I have to clean up. It gives me mental space.

  3. Evan Jensen

    Hi Nina,

    Great ideas here. I know what it’s like to get stuck on a writing project and feel like the creative mojo has run out (something being talked about in the Den right now). But when you’re up against a deadline, you’ve got to figure out how to get the job done.

    On days when I work from home, a messy house drives me totally crazy, and makes it hard for me to write. My solution: A 30-minute house-cleaning blitz (which usually involves picking up all the kid clutter, making beds, and doing the dishes).

    My other go-to diversion to get clear on a writing project, going for a long run, rain or shine.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s interesting to me to see people talk about the clutter cleanup issues. I really try to avoid house chores during my work day, and if someone has left a mess, I’ll often relocate to another room to work and just leave it for them.

      The one thing I WILL do is if I’m waiting for tea to boil or something, or while I’m waiting for kids to get to breakfast table, I’ll do a quick kitchen cleanup or start a load of laundry or fold, to feel like that’s out of the way.

      • Nina Amir

        I don’t do housework during the day…to be clear! But if the clutter is really getting to me, I’ll de-clutter my office. I used to spend a lot of time once per week cleaning and de-cluttering so I could focus, though, so I understand the desire to clean. I just think that clean space lends itself to being more creative and productive…especially if you can’t focus on work because of the mess.

        That’s when a brief (I’d say 15-min.) clean up session can work well–especially if you approach it with the intention of allowing ideas to flood your mind as you vacuum or fold clothes.

        If you saw my house these days, Carol, it would be apparent that nothing but work gets done most days–writing work.

        • Carol Tice

          LOL — I think at some point we have to decide if we want to be working moms, or we want houses that are ready for a magazine photo shoot. I choose the former. And I like teaching kids to pick up after themselves. 😉

      • Katherine Swarts

        I do my housework (not counting dishes, laundry, and other things that are pretty hard to ignore for long) on a 15-minutes-a-day-before-starting-work schedule, which also provides morning exercise. In a small one-person apartment, that means floors, dusting, etc., get fully completed every 2-4 weeks, which is a lot better than the 3-6 months I was averaging before!

    • Nina Amir

      Yes! See my comment above. Also, have a notebook nearby. Housework is mindless work- like being in the shower!-and the best ideas bubble up then.

  4. Amy Hardison

    Thanks for these awesome tips! I totally agree about switching up position. I was recently trying to work on a project first at my desk, then at my kitchen table. I just couldn’t get going, so I went and set myself up on the couch and BOOM – everything started coming together. And I’m also a proponent of taking care of a few household tasks for a short amount of time. I also set a timer so I don’t go overboard on the housework. 🙂

    • Nina Amir

      Glad to hear about your couch experience! The timer for housework is essential. It can become procrastination.

  5. Nanouk

    Just like another commented says: I do some household chores to get my creativity flowing. While folding laundry I get the best ideas, always! Great way to increase my productivity and keep the house tidy 😉

  6. Evan Jensen

    That’s awesome. When you recognize a simple change like moving to a different spot to work, or taking care of household chores, it really can make a difference.

    Never thought about setting a timer on household chores. But what a good idea. Thanks.

  7. Charisse Beverly

    Hey! These are some great tips! Thanks for compiling them. One note: there is a minor typo in item 3. It reads “Some people like upbeat music, other like something softer.” It should read “others.”

    I plan on implementing the odd location tomorrow. Seems like a great way to stimulate new and different thoughts by breaking out of your otherwise mundane plans.

    • Nina Amir

      Thanks for the proofing! I’m sure it will now get fixed.

      I love working in different locations. I’m much more productive. How you find it works for you as well.

    • Evan Jensen

      Updated. Thanks.

  8. Felix Abur

    Engaging in a creative endeavor always works for me. Especially when I need to create a new post for my dog pet blog. All I have to do is take out my dog, have fun, and bang! I get fresh new ideas. And it’s good physical, emotional, and mental stimulation that benefits all my other writing

    • Nina Amir

      Well, envolvement in your passion is always sure to stimulate ideas! I often shoot videos while in the midst of doing something because I get an idea. I do it while walking my granddoggie, too.

  9. Burton Bliven

    I have a toolkit of activities I do for spawning creativity.

    First, I practice Tai Chi for 20 minutes. I find the combination of exercise and meditation (I call it “Meditation in Motion”) gives me peace, clarity and creativity.

    Next, I make a cup of my favorite herbal tea, and I put on Mozart and prioritize my day.

    The I write, usually for about an hour, then out in my backyard and walk the trail around a ridge. Being out in nature is my #1 creativity booster.

    I also do some of my finest writing in a lounge chair under an umbrella at my favorite beach, though unfortunately, that is seasonal.

    • Nina Amir

      Sounds like you are rockin’ it! You are using many of my fave high-performance writer activities.

      • Burton Bliven

        Thanks Nina, sounds like you are rockin’ too! I just might try incorporating your video technique. 🙂

        • Nina Amir

          Just be sure you aren’t spending too much time priming the pump and not enough writing. In many of the comments in this thread I hear what sounds like a lot of time spent getting ready and not as much time at the computer.

  10. Abby Page

    Whenever I find myself with writer’s block, the deep-down reason for it is a lack of confidence. It’s not that I’m literally not thinking of anything to write, it’s that my subconscious is shooting everything down before I can give it a chance. What I’ve been doing is telling myself, ok, write what you need to write in the dumbest/cheesiest way possible. It just takes a lot of pressure off of me, and then I can write around it and delete it later.

    • Nina Amir

      I don’t believe in Writer’s block. I think the inability to write comes from fear most often. And if you name something and call it a condition, you give it power.

      Just write. Anything. The words will start to flow.

      • Abby Page

        Apologies for using the nonpreferred terminology, but I’m glad you agree. It’s definitely the most effective method for me.

        • Nina Amir

          Don’t apologize! This is just a strategy a I use…I don’t want to tell my mind I have some block…then it believes I do. I prefer to focus on getting writing again. And sometimes just diving in does it. It does it every time for me.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah — you’ve got to unplug that inner critic, and allow yourself to brainstorm ideas. Remember, you don’t have to use them all! When I left my Forbes blog channel after 3 years, I had 40 pages of unused ideas. 😉 And had drawn 3 million visitors with the ‘best’ ideas I skimmed off the top of that pile.

  11. Hailey

    Great ideas! Several years ago I read a book that advised you to “write junk” whenever you get stuck. “My thumb itches, and I’m getting hungry. I wonder if it will rain today. The sky looks quite overcast.” It can be whatever comes into your mind–the idea is just to keep the words flowing somehow!

    • Nina Amir

      Yes,that strategy works for many people, Haily. I prefer to try not to write junk…but I don’t want to stress myself, which could cause my creativity to diminish. So I just start writing and don’t worry about if it is good or not. Usually it is good…but if I tell myself to “write junk” that’s what I produce.

  12. Amar kumar

    Hey Carol,

    Our brains need to be relaxed in proper interval of time, to create new connections and neural pathways. Most of us find it hard to think out of the box is because our brains are just too darn efficient. Logic is always our default go to tool when coming up with ideas, even though the best ones often emerge from intuition and association. Exercise also helps us to perform better cognitively, improving creative thought. Eventually, thanks for sharing your healthy experience with us.

    With best wishes,

    Amar kumar

  13. Rene

    Write quickly and write messy – these advice were given to me long time ago.

    Write a little bit faster than your thought formation, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. Messy handwriting is welcome. What do you think of it?

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