What to Do When You Feel Stumped

Monday mag_stumped.jpg

We all get stumped. The free-flowing faucet of ideas suddenly turns to a slow drip. We pull up the bucket from the well, only to find it dry. Water is a finite resource. Ideas, on the other hand, are entirely renewable.

Exercising your creativity comes with highs and lows. Some days you’re bloody brilliant. Other days you feel like a soggy pancake. And that’s okay. But on the soggy pancake days, try some of these tricks. 

Look up

Looking up is one of the greatest practices you can exercise to reignite your idea machine, and it’s completely free. Next time you feel stumped, walk straight out the front door and head in no particular direction—just make sure you’re looking up. You might spot a yellow house that could show up in a short story in five years. You could see a grandmother and her grandson looking at bugs in a garden you’ve never noticed before. You could hear a man playing a tune on the community piano that might inspire the next song you’ll write. There are moments happening all around you, just patiently waiting to inspire a new thought. When you feel like the tank is empty, go outside and fill it back up. Collect all the sights and sounds you can possibly fit in your brain.

Have a conversation

Instead of calling a friend to say: “Ugh, i’m having the worst day and all my ideas suck,” call that same friend and say: “Tell me about your day.” Or, “Tell me a story.” Or “Tell me about a magical moment you experienced this week.” Each of our lives are so incredibly rich in experience—we’re walking around with vaults full of secret inspiration stashes. And we all have the code to each other’s vaults: just ask a question, any question.

Take 15 minutes to read three articles about completely different topics

Wonderful ideas happen when you spot a connection between two seemingly unrelated topics. Explore subjects outside your comfort zone. Spark new connections in the synapses of your brain, and watch your ideas grow in return. Open National Geographic and read about a place you’ve never been, or better yet, never even heard of. Explore a new section of your go-to newspaper and read a story about something completely random, like say, pencils. Visit your local library and take out a book about something your parents have been rambling on about, like, for example, Quartet Music. You get bonus points with Mom, plus new ideas. Score!


Cooking is like taking your brain to the gym. There are infinite ways you can exercise your senses. Awaken your eyes, nose, mouth and hands by attempting a recipe you've never tried before, or making one up yourself. At the end, you get to have your cake and eat it too—revitalized creative energy and a home cooked meal to enjoy.

In the same way that we need to feed our bodies every day, we need to nourish our creativity. We need to give ourselves space to explore, quiet to ponder and stimulation to awaken. We all hold the capability to unearth brilliant ideas and wildly creative concepts. Sometimes we just need to shake up our routines and build new habits to come up with something different.


Lindsay Seguin