Getting out of a creative slump, writers’ block, or whatever you want to call it has to be one of the hardest most annoying things about being a filmmaker. Trying to come up with ideas and you’re just blank, or maybe not being able to finish a project because you lost the “fire”. You might even get dark thoughts about quitting altogether because you don’t have the motivation to create. I always struggle with this but a few things help me:
Just Getting it Done
I’m sure you heard this before, but it’s for good reason. If you want to get out of a creative slump you should maybe try not to force it and just be still. I’ve been learning a lot about meditation and it’s very hard for me to discipline myself to sit down and just do it. But when I do I always feel better afterward.
I’ve always had a hard time meditating by myself. If I tried to focus on my breath by myself I would get anxious and think that I’m maybe meditating for more time than I’m actually supposed too. When I first started out I used to use a lot of Binaural Beats.
Binaural Beats are sounds that you can listen to that will alter the state of your brain. Sounds play at different frequencies to give you different effects. I don’t know if its a placebo or not but the “science” behind it is that your brain is sensitive to different frequencies. If you can alter the frequency you can alter your state of mind.
There are sounds to make you feel like you’re on LSD, Shrooms, and a whole bunch of other drugs. I don’t really recommend doing that but the one I would use is brain-boosting or meditation to put the brain at ease. The only way that Binaural Beats will work is if you already know how to meditate. You will still need a basic understanding of how to meditate.
I stopped using Binaural Beats in high school, now I either do it alone or with one of my favorite apps that I don’t use enough…
Headspace is a guided meditation app with so many different things to choose from. If you are stressed, can’t sleep, anxious, etc. there is a guided meditation that is specially made just for that. You can try the app for free but it doesn’t give you a lot of courses.
I ended up paying for mine at full price. But a tip, if you are a student you get a significant discount!
If you are not a student but are still interested in meditation with headspace here is a tip to get it for a lower price:
Visiting the site. Click around and don’t buy anything just yet.
When you leave the site you will get targeted ads all over the internet inviting you back to headspace to download the app. They will alert you there are crazy sales like 75% the whole year, etc. Its a steal but it requires you to be patient.
I started meditating back in High School when I finally realized I didn’t want to go to college. I was watching tons of TED talks and self-educating myself and one of the common traits that I found in successful people was that they took the time to look after their brain. Even though I don’t meditate as much as I should I still feel and understand the benefits when I do.
Whenever I feel like I can’t think properly I meditate to clear up my mind. After a while, I’ll get some sort of idea even if it’s stupid. When I’m done I write it down and play with the idea. I remember watching a periscope a long time ago where James Gunn (Dir. Of Guardians of the Galaxy) was talking about how meditation helps him come up with ideas and stay calm. This helps me too, things tend to come to you when you’re not trying.
Whenever I’m writing I listen to film scores from movies that are similar to what I’m trying to write for. I turn my phone off and sit in front of my computer with my eyes closed while listening to the music letting my brain create it’s own movie scenes.
I write down whatever comes to mind even if its a bad idea. I try not to judge the ideas, it will only make the writers’ block worse. It’s almost like meditation except for this time your writing down all the things that come into your mind.
This is exactly how I wrote the script for my film ‘Cassie’. I turned on the film score for the film Ex-Machina and just went to town on that blank page.
If you’re not writing and you are still in a slump, music still helps. Depending on what you’re listening to your mind might begin grabbing inspiration. For me, Dubstep helps me. I know it’s not 2013 anymore but all of the sounds remind me of being a bit younger and thinking I can do anything, from there I end up coming up with ideas for cool effects that I can try out. If you can act on it, you have successfully exited the slump.
Trying Something New
If its stress that has you feeling this way maybe you can try going for a walk or hanging out with friends. In one book that I read named, Peak Performance it was mentioned that the best way to get new ideas is to try doing nothing and just hang out with friends. It actually makes an argument for going out and getting drinks. This was shocking to me but it got me thinking about how by taking my mind off of trying to work I get better ideas. It’s like getting a dope idea in the shower.
One thing that helps me sometimes is just trying something new. Anything, like a new video game, the music you don’t tend to listen to, new foods.
Back in February, I learned of the game APEX LEGENDS! It was so refreshing, the gameplay was exciting and the music made me feel pumped. Even though I wasn’t doing much with my time just by immersing myself into the game gave me cool ideas.
Something similar happened when I first discovered FORTNITE. After a friend came over and downloaded it for me on my PS4 I was hooked! But from the hours of gameplay, I was inspired to create a short VFX test that I broke down in a blog post that ended up becoming one of my most popular articles.
If trying something new doesn’t help…
Just Get it Done
The last thing that helps me out of a creative slump is just getting the job done.
Sometimes there’s just no other way around it. You have to finish what you started. The reason why you might not be able to get out of the slump is that you have another project somewhere in the back of your mind tormenting you.
It took about 6 months to get my short film completed. Those months in between the release was hell because I couldn’t bring myself to dedicate myself to another project. This was hurting me when it came to dealing with clients.
Ultimately the solution was just to finish the film. I set a hard deadline, this time one I would actually obey and let go.
Being a perfectionist might be holding you back. I still always struggle with this but I have to remember that it’s better to put something out than to do nothing and be a perfectionist.
The irony of this entire post is that right now at this moment I feel like I’m in a slump. One of the ways I’m combating that is just by getting this post that I’ve been thinking about completed.
I hope this helped you guys in some sort of way. If you guys liked the post please subscribe to the site and my YouTube channel. I hope I’ve brought some value to you!!
Owner, Founder, Director, Editor Producer of Kaylex Productions.
Full-Time freelance filmmaker from New Jersey.