Your latest creative project is bopping along right on schedule, you’re getting words on the page, paint on the canvas or notes on the scale. All is well.

Until it’s not. You hit a wall and suddenly you’re stuck. Completely.

If you’re like me, you growl, smack a few keys, back up, and approach the issue from another angle.

Still stuck.

Maybe you let it sit for a day or two. Still nothing. It’s like there’s a fog over the whole project and you just can’t see anything ahead.

In these situations, there are some weird things that could be causing the creative stall, things we don’t always think about. But we don’t get stalled in a vacuum. It comes from somewhere. And often, that somewhere is closer than we realize.

Sleep Deprivation

How often do we push to do “just one more thing,” before we call it a night? If we want our brain to hum along at optimum creativity, we need to give it time off every day. This means sleep–in whatever quantity our system needs. We all require different sleep levels, but one thing is the same: if we cheat on sleep, eventually our muse says, “See ya. I’ll be back when you’re rested.”

Unrelated Stress

So, number two son isn’t doing so well in school? Number three daughter has a boyfriend that, well, is also affecting your sleep cycle? Unrelated life stresses, both great and small, may be the culprit behind our derailed project.

Sometimes, our brain is so clogged with important, urgent stuff, we can’t focus. Journaling may help clear out the mental clutter. At other times, we need to cut ourselves some mental slack. Treat your overloaded brain like you would a frazzled child—with gentleness and compassion.

Wrong Direction

And sometimes, yep, we’re stalled because our brain knows we’re headed in the wrong direction. If that’s the case, we need to be brutally honest and change course, even when that means backing up to where things derailed.

Could one of these have derailed your creative momentum? How do you move forward after a creative stall? Please leave me a comment and let me know.