4 Steps to Recapturing Creative Flow

Creative flow is an amazing, too often fleeting feeling. If you’ve been there before and aren’t there now, work and life can be immensely frustrating. The creative tasks you used to enjoy now feel impossible. You don’t produce as much. And, the little you manage to eke out doesn’t seem any good.

I was putting off writing the other day by visually scanning and scrolling through my hard drive. Sorting by file date, I saw that 2016 was apparently a gush of a year. There were dozens and dozens of files with completed articles, half-baked ideas, and random thoughts. There were collections of stock photography and little social media blurbs.

What was happening?

What was going on that I wrote so much?

Here at the beginning of a decade, my writing isn’t flowing as easily. It’s not impossible but just hard to get started. I asked myself what I could do to recapture that energy and discovered the obvious. When it comes to work habits and motivational hurdles, we often already have the answers we need.

The discipline of writing, like so many of our other creative endeavors, requires tapping into habits of productivity that we’ve learned and practiced and relearned over many years. I already knew what I should do. I just needed to remember and then do it.

Here are my four strategies for recapturing creative flow.

  1. Make the quiet time and space I need and guard it. I’ve made the little promise to myself to write 500 words every morning without editing or rework. Some days I do it. When I’m in a creative drought, I scan email. I look for Christmas cookie recipes in July. I fuss with the formatting on a deliverable or focus on other, less taxing tasks.
  2. Stop chasing perfect. Why does everything look so polished and rosy looking back? Most of that content in my old files is post-edit. The super sloppy stuff is already gone. I have to continue to remind myself that first drafts almost always meander at the beginning.
  3. Get better help. I’ve had some amazing editors who not only cleaned up my inconsistent grammar but also challenge my ideas and force more structure and clarity into my writing. I know I need to surround myself with people who push and shape my thinking.
  4. Capture ideas as they come. I used to be relentless and take audio notes during dog walks and driving. I’d use a voice to text tool to transcribe them when I got back to my desk. Talk about messy! The thoughts weren’t always easy to recall but were a starting point. Going forward, I’ll commit to always keeping a notebook handy so that I can jot down ideas as they come to me.

These are my go-to habits when I need to get back on track and they might work for you too. Whether it’s writing, designing, planning or coding, we can all reconnect with that energy flow with a reboot and going back to the simple things we know work for us.

Robin Camarote is a communications strategy consultant, meeting facilitator, and writer with Wheelhouse Group. She is intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. She writes about how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow. She lives with her husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia. You can read her posts here.

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Kaitlyn Baker

Thanks for sharing these tips Robin! I’ve been facing a lot of creative block lately too – this was a good reminder that creative flow still requires discipline and habit!

Jacob Hege

Thanks for sharing your strategies! I think it’s important to reflect and make a list of the things that help you personally stay creative since it will be different for everybody.