How To Get Out of Your “Creative Rut” In Only 5-Minutes

It’s no secret that creativity is absolutely necessary for success in any profession.

It’s the source of our ability to create opportunities where only obstacles stood before. It is how we add value to the lives of everyone around us both professionally and personally. And the success gurus of today always tell us that persistence is the key to success, but how do you be consistently creative?

And isn’t that an oxymoron, anyways?

Well, I can tell you from experience that when the pressure is on you can’t afford for your creative wellspring to run dry. In my profession everything I do requires creativity. Creating new products and courses each day, launching businesses each month and writing articles with a 24 hour turnaround doesn’t leave much room for the luxury of writer’s block.

Along the way, I had to figure out a way to get my creativity flowing at a moment’s notice.

“So, what is this habit for getting your creative juices flowing?”

Alright. Here it is.

It’s called flash-fiction.

There’s lots of different forms of flash-fiction, micro-fiction, micro-narrative, postcard fiction, pocket fiction… you get the idea.

The style I like is called Flash-55. Basically, they are short 55 word stories that take 5-minutes to write. And before you worry that you’re not a fiction writer, or anything even close… stay with me for a moment.

Flash-fiction has been a godsend for me. It’s a simple, yet powerful exercise that lets me tap into the source of my creativity, anytime. Which is especially useful when facing an intimidating blank page with a deadline on my back.

Now, I simply do them for fun.

When you make writing flash-fiction a habit you learn some really important skills.

Such as learning how to:

  • write in short, bite sized chunks that are easy for the reader to understand.
  • eliminate all unnecessary words from your writing and say less with more.
  • create space for creativity to come through without judgement.
  • separate the creative and editing process of writing in quick succession.
  • stir emotions with every sentence and give the reader an experience they will feel and remember in as little time as possible.

For any writer these are all important skills to develop. Not to mention, the whole point of getting the creative juices flowing before doing ‘the work.’

“Alright, how does Flash-55 work?”

Okay, the rules of writing flash fiction are pretty straight forward.

1) Each story has a setting. In the characters mind, the crawlspace under the garage, under they starry night sky — you name it.

2) At least one character. Dialogue is optional.

3) Conflict. Some sense of an event taking place. Action, subtle or otherwise that provides plot progression.

4) Resolution. The feeling of coming to end for the reader, making the whole story logical and moving.

5) Each story must be exactly 55 words. This is how you’re going to bust your editing chops.

That’s it. Setting, characters, conflict and resolution all wrapped up in a pretty 55-word package.

Everything else is free-reign.

For the purpose of getting creative when you need to, I like to do my flash-55 stories before working. I usually brew a cup of coffee, put on some music and begin to listen to what the voice in my head begins to tell me. Then, following the rules I let the story write itself.

The trick is not to judge what comes out of you.

By the end of the 5-minutes you’ve got a story or two to be proud of and the feeling like you’ve already done something, which makes the blank page seem less terrifying.

Some Example Flash-55 Stories

These five are some of my own stories that I’ve written before doing my actual work.

Space Cowboy

It happened at the worst possible moment.

Right when I pulled the trigger, Ringo opened the docking hatch into the black void of space.

My last shot curved past him, getting sucked out along with three weeks worth of empty pizza boxes, and my last hope of finally catching the sonuvabitch who stole my ship.

Black Parade

The Black Parade marched with bones clicking, and jaws clacking in a percussive ensemble. Their ivory instruments moaned with passion, until the very last note rang out.

Then… they collapsed.

That’s when Joan looked at me and said the very last thing I can remember, before I collapsed too.

“Time makes songs of us all.”

Ms. Mary Manslaughter

Ms. Mary Manslaughter grit her pearly white teeth, and licked her lips as she held the trigger down forcefully.

“Better hide, better run. Cause’ I’m mowing the lawn with my tommy gun.”

No one could hear her jest though, over the hellish cackling of 700 rounds per minute.

But it didn’t matter.

She could hear.

The Tree House

I expected elves. You know, with pointy ears and a jovial attitude towards baking cookies.

But no, of course not. It had to be bugs. And not just any tree house bugs. Giant fucking worms. With teeth like cracked slate, rotating with a speed that rivaled a wood chipper hellbent on revenge.

The Fourth Wall

He drank his coffee three sips at a time. One hand moved the cup back and forth, while the other fidgeted needlessly.

It was quiet, besides the buzzing from his headphones and the sporadic bursts of click-clacking as he tried to put his thoughts into words.

Just a writer writing — introverted, desperate, and deliberate.

Addictive, right?

If you want to read more of my flash-fiction I have dozens on my personal blog as well.

By now you’ve got the whole idea. And before I wrap this up I want to share a few of my own personal tips for the actual creative process of writing your Flash-55, which have served my well.

My Personal Flash-55 Tips

1) Focus on writing first, then edit. And don’t worry about the length when starting out. I like to type out 40–60 words at the speed of stream of consciousness just pure creativity, then edit out all the unnecessary words and refine my story. Eventually, narrowing down to exactly 55. There’s nothing quite like that satisfaction when your story finally hits exactly 55 words.

2) Break out the thesaurus. I love adjectives as much as the next person, but with 55 words it’s unnecessary to use the same adjective twice. So, use your Flash-55 time to expand your vocabulary and make your story more interesting.

3) Save your stories. If you do this each morning over coffee like I do, before getting on to the actual work, over the course of a week, or a month you have a whole collection of stories worth sharing.

4) Of course, do this before your ‘real’ work. The feeling of accomplishment you get from writing 1–2 short stories can be carried over as confidence into the work. Almost like that feeling you get when you make your bed after rising. This is my personal secret for really pumping out my work fast first thing in the morning (don’t tell anyone.)

5) Use a word counting tool. I use Scrivener for all my writing (not an affiliate link), but if you don’t have a writing tool with a word count function, is a great tool as well.

That’s all, friends.

If you have any other questions, or just want to share one of your stories I’ll be replying in the comments. I’d love to read what you write, so send it on over.

Happy writing!