How to Handle the Creative Challenge of the 11th Hour

February 3, 2014

In the northern hemisphere, the month of February is the 11th hour of winter.

After the darkness of December, and when the initial sparks of the New Year have faded, February challenges our resilience for remaining positively on track and following through with our intentions.

The promise of spring may be just around the corner, but often it feels like a million miles away under leaden skies and desolate cold.

Creatively, the 11th hour is a moment to inject a fresh burst of energy to soar across the finishing line or complete the current stage of wherever we find ourselves in the creative process. Yet the reality is that this significant moment in time can be one of the most challenging of the whole creative process.

When we feel overwhelmed by a multitude of ideas but with no idea how they will ever come together, clarity feels frustratingly out of reach. Running out of steam with our writing or progress with social media and platform building activities are other instances when many people succumb to the temptation to walk away from it all.

Yet the 11th hour is the very worst time to give up as it’s often the threshold of a major breakthrough, an “aha” moment of insight and vision when everything finally falls effortlessly into place.

 A fresh interpretation of “walking away”

 Ironically, the best way to handle the challenging thoughts and emotions of the 11th creative hour is to walk away – but not in the sense of giving up.

Research into the neuroscience of creativity shows that breakthrough moments are prefixed by spikes in gamma activity in the brain. Measuring EEG brain waves during a creative moment demonstrate high gamma activity 300 milliseconds before an insight enters our conscious awareness.*

So how do we trigger this kind of brain activity?

The answer is to “walk away” from the situation, but in the sense of completely letting go of whatever you are working on.

This is, in fact, stage three of the classic four stage model of creativity which starts with defining the creative focus or problem, immersing yourself in it, letting it go, and finally implementing and taking action.

Latest Research

Even though this model is overly-simplified, the third phase of “letting go” prior to successful completion aligns perfectly with the latest research.

This shows that the high alpha rhythms of mental relaxation and daydreaming are when we are most receptive to new possibilities. A relaxed alpha state opens the way for the spike in gamma activity to occur, and be preceded by the insight and clarity we need for our 11th hour creative challenge.

This research corroborates the Conscious Writing approach which includes practices for consciously cultivating an alpha state, and beyond.

Once you have set your creative intentions and immersed yourself in your work, go for a walk, listen to some music, or do some yoga … and keep a notebook and pen nearby. The likelihood is that the creative boost you need to cross the threshold you find yourself up against will come effortlessly to you once you let go.

From here you return your focus to implementing your fresh creative impulse with renewed energy and progress from the 11th hour to completion of your current creative task – finishing your chapter, your book or your marketing and platform building activities.

So next time you feel like walking away from whatever 11th hour creative challenge you are facing, remember to interpret your impulse with this information in mind, and know that the 11th hour of winter is always followed by the 1st hour of springtime.

Q4U: What kinds of 11th hour creative challenges have you experienced? How have you handled them and what intentions will you set for the next occasion in the light of the above. Share your response below.

* New Insights on the Creative Brain – article on Psychology Today blog by Dan Goleman, Ph.D. in The Brain and Emotional Intelligence


© Julia McCutchen 2014. All Rights Reserved.

If you want to use this article in your ezine or on your website I’d be happy for you to do so as long as you use the complete article, including the copyright line, and include the following paragraph in its entirety:

Julia McCutchen is an author, conscious writing coach, intuitive mentor, and the founder & creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW). A former publisher of books on spiritual and personal development, Julia teaches conscious creativity, conscious writing and a holistic approach to writing for publication that combines the inner journey of creative self-discovery with the practical steps required for writing and publishing books. She is the author of The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication. For FREE Membership and resources for writers, visit


  1. I have to say, I have done just this very thing. I have a book in a box in a closet, awaiting my return to it. It is a finished piece, and have four other things in process, but I find that my brain takes me away from one and pulls me to another. Of course now I have more unfinished books!
    The one that tells me to change it up is my memoire. I was told to write it from where I am now to how I got there. What I have is interesting but does not have a “bang” effect within. I feel that I have to write to get emotion from the readers? Why do I feel this? So.. I have walked away from it; not too long though.
    I am a new writer, for two years now, and I although I wish to get published, truthfully I not sought it out. I know I should build up a following by blogging, but have not done that either. I am afraid of too many commitments!

    Comment by Tish — February 4, 2014

  2. Hello Tish – I know quite a few writers who have lots of unfinished projects lying in drawers and cupboards gathering dust! If you feel stuck or find that you’re just not making progress towards completion on your own, I recommend finding some support – from other writers (online or in your geographical area) or from a professional coach. It is likely to make all the difference to how you feel, about your writing and your blogging. You can discuss the best way to prioritise your time and energy so you don’t feel overwhelmed with too many commitments.
    Good luck!

    Comment by Julia — February 4, 2014

  3. A very interesting article, Julia. I did very little writing after Christmas for some time, it felt like a recuperative period. Yet, because I had deadlines, I made myself start up again, with very good results. I finished one long blog of my Life Story and almost immediately started another one, which I have now nearly completed. As I get further into my story, I feel I am gathering momentum. So I can ignore the wind and the rain and get on with it! With Bath Literary Festival coming up shortly, I am going to some interesting talks, one on self publishing, and one by Penelope Lively on her own memoir and ageing! Many, many thanks for all your input.

    Comment by Daphne Radenhurst — February 5, 2014

  4. Thank you Daphne, it’s always good to hear when an article has been well-received.

    And well done for getting back into your writing after the Xmas break. It can be tricky to get going again after some time out but often we find that the break has done us good and we have a fresh perspective to bring to the page.

    It sounds like the Bath Literary Festival will have given you another boost so keep up the good work, and you are most warmly welcome for the input.

    Comment by Julia — March 14, 2014

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