I used to do all sorts of creative-stretch projects, dipping my toe into forms and genres I wasn't trying to master just for the experience, for the fun of it, to try something new. At writers' conferences, I would take workshops that directly related to my immediate career goals, but I would also typically squeeze in a session on something farther afield : op-eds, poetry, screenplays. My second published novel grew out of an attempt at writing a verse novel. It was a form I knew I would be unlikely to excel at (and indeed, the book quickly morphed into prose), but just trying it may have freed up some extra wellsprings of creativity.
For the past year and a half, I've been keeping a journal as such an exercise. It's been working, mostly because I only ask 100 words of myself per day, and because I don't strive to write for anyone else's approval. This enabled me to play a bit with writing, in a way that I haven't in a long while.
Freedom, play, experimentation are key components of creative stretches. And I think it may be time for another stretch. For me at least, it's important to keep the creative fires stoked, to feed my long-term growth as a writer in addition to making progress on short-term practical goals. I'm kicking around some ideas.
Do you ever need a creative detour?