by Elmarie Bouwer

The seemingly fearful little whimper came from deep within the foliage. No effort, however calculating, could coax him out of his hiding.  No eats, no soothing voice, no blithe promises could charm him into revealing his elfin self to my keen eye.

This time round I was determined to find him. No longer would I allow him to make my life miserable.  I know he’s in here somewhere because I glimpsed him when he scurried in here for cover…

Slashing away at whatever came first, my often not-so nimble fingers trembled, bled as I progressed ever deeper into the massive undergrowth.  Sometimes stubborn branches impeded my uncaring hacking.  Determined, I hewed them into splinters, slivers testimony to my zeal.

What will I find once I uncover him? What does he look like after all this time? Will I be disappointed? Elated? Hate him? Love him…? My heart is a freight train.

The shock of recognition startled us both. I knew him at once. The shy face that stared back at me was my own…


In the allegory above, “him”, obviously refers to our creative impulse or gift, the foliage or undergrowth becomes a metaphor for what is blocking that muse and of course, hacking away at it refers to the process of unblocking the obstructed innovation machinery.

A most bothersome villain…

We can all relate to searching like this for our muse, which, like in the allegory above, at times simply is not there. I mean the little urchin often just ups and leaves me stranded for no reason (see previous post) whatsoever! When I need it the most! This happens so often, it becomes almost proverbial and is annoying, frustrating…you can definitely identify.

At times like these, the creative wheels refuse to budge. They’re solidly jammed for whatever reason (see previous post) and need to be unstuck to get your magic paint brush whooshing away once more and your world of happiness zinging again!

Some call this process “creative unblock”. Let’s discover some of this together

The biggie…

By now you’ve probably figured out what might be blocking your creativity and why it was very important that you nail this fact. So getting yourself unblocked is your next step. The big question is: how?

Free nachos

Something that might work very well is free writing. Like free lunch. Doesn’t cost you anything but don’t expect a gourmet meal. Likewise don’t expect sterling writing to emerge, only heaps of …well… “un-creative” blocks unblocking. So, exactly what is it?

Also called stream-of-consciousness writing, free writing is done for about 5 – 10 minutes where no attention is paid to things like spelling, grammar or topic. It is literally just writing down whatever comes to mind. Unlike brainstorming where ideas are only listed, whole paragraphs are written about whatever thoughts pop into your head.

Says Amy Mattison: “… keep writing without lifting your…hand… keep writing whatever thoughts come to you. Don’t edit…; don’t worry about grammar or misspellings. Simply keep writing until the time is up. The key to free writing is to not judge what you write.”$

I’ll add here that you don’t have to stick to the clock like a faithful dog. Write for as long as you like. But at least for the 10 minutes on the timer. And it is terribly important that you write every day. Religiously. Without fail.

This technique is employed to help the creative person (all of us!) overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism etc. Some writers also use it as a prelim exercise to gather ideas for formal writing. However, it can be useful for any kind of craft.

Take note, it’s not the same as automatic writing, which… [is] “produced from a subconscious and/or spiritual source without conscious awareness of the content.”*

The beauty of this exercise is that it eventually unblocks clogged areas of the psyche with the result that freedom from obstruction ensues and creative liberty returns. Obstructions are literally written away! And this freedom will manifest in whatever craft you’re involved in. Definitely for the business gurus who can’t seem to create the magic that will lead to expected sales. Or the jammed copywriter. Or the frustrated painter, or metal worker, or…you get the point.

Although results might not come immediately, just keep the pen clicking or keyboard clacking…they will eventually come.

Amy also lists several other ideas as bull bars for creative obstacles like connecting with others and your world, replacing all negative thoughts with positive ones, making a gratitude list, renewing your faith and play – fun stimulating activities that will rekindle the creative desire. But don’t expect to feel very creative when you’re hungry (I’m not talking peckish here, but balanced nutrition), tired from little sleep and living the life of a couch potato.

Fun toys

Finally, some great web-based tools like Spicynodes, “which is… intuitive, innovative [and lets you] create visualizations with bits of information and multimedia …[to] let your thoughts, plots, or ideas take flight and follow their own course.”+

Also check out Andrew Goss who sort of lets you do the same thing by letting you “…visualize something non-existent, by throwing together unexpected combinations of materials, techniques, surfaces and forms” and gives you an input box to do so. Just go to the links mentioned below.^

Have fun!

Given time, patience and perseverance (the bleeding fingers above!), you will uncover the little imp and get your creative juices flowing again! Promise.

By the way, all the preceding suggestions will also work magically with idea generation in every field. So if for example, you’re a business guru looking for new ideas in marketing or sales, by all try ‘em. Who knows…

Words stubborn, refusing to emerge from some dark corner and morph into great sales copy? Has the clay remained formless dried mud on your wheel and fingers? The brush been poised in midair forever but no strokes forthcoming…?  Stuck in any way?

Think you know what to do…


Next week will be the last post in our series on the need for creativity in a successful life…eh, I mean… business. It’s all about exercises (yup! Practise) to stimulate your muse and keep it going on…and on…and…Check it out.

© Elmarie Bouwer



* Wikipedia.. Free Writing. Accessed 22 February 2012.



$ Amy Mattison. poetryNprogress.When Creativity Goes Away: How to Unblock Your Inner Artist, Part 2. Accessed 22 February 2012.




+  Spicynodes. SpicyNodes inspire creative thinking. Accessed 22 Febrauray 2012. http://www.spicynodes.org/welcome-creative.html?gclid=CMHXoK6D5q0CFQlpfAodl0sz9Q


^ goss design studio. Creative Unblock! Accessed 22 February 2012.  http://www.makersgallery.com/goss/creative.html

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