Recently, the subject of "not feeling creative" came up in multiple conversation with different people. To my surprise, several people who I consider to be exceptionally creative verbalized that they were not feeling very creative at this season in life. I would not have guessed it by looking at them.
Which got me thinking.
What's the best thing to do when you're going through a creative slump?
Wait it out?
Work anyways regardless of the inspiration? (if creating art is your side hustle or full time job, this is not even an option, right? Bills gotta be paid.)
Eat lots of chocolate?
Watch BBC movies over and over?
Regardless of whether we work full time as artists or are working the side hustle trying to get our art off the ground, we all go through periods of time when we feel the creativity stop.
Like the seasons, there's a time when everything is not flush, green and teeming with life, it's brown and dry and barren. We change, our lives change, and all of that change affects our ability to express creatively.
Plus, I'm convinced creatives experience burnout in a different way than other people. I have never read of someone who was exhausted and overwhelmed with life, but also said, "I'm feeling really creative." They might be producing work and it could even be good, but it was a deep inner battle.
Because we self-identify as creatives, not being able to create feels like part of ourselves is lost and gone. It can be especially hard and lead to some pretty intense negative and frustration feelings. It's like there's a huge plug in the drain.
Words don't make sense.
Colors don't mix right.
And you just stare at the blank canvas or screen, wondering where the creativity went.
I don't think there is a quick fix, but here are some practices I have incorporated into my life when I feel my creativity dry up.
I'd love to hear what you do when you are feeling not-very-creative.
Evaluate my schedule.
Am I doing too much? I get stuck on comparisonitis too much. Because so-and-so is doing X,Y, and Z, I should be doing it too. Or, at least I should do everything I think I'm supposed to be doing and function happy and healthy.
The fault in this thinking is not giving credence to the uniqueness of each one of us individually. We are not made to go at the same pace, do the same things, and react the same way to life.
Each one of us has different rhythms. We have different capacities and abilities.
When I don't feel creative, I've started looking at my schedule: what am I doing: am I carving out times of quiet, am I on-the-go in excess, am I getting viruses more often than usual, am I sleeping less?
What needs to change?
Take a class- online or offline.
We can get into a bit of a rut creatively and that can initiate the blah's. I love taking a class where a teacher encourages me to sketch differently, use a different color scheme, write from a different perspective, etc.
I've discovered the joy of online art classes and have taken more this year than ever. I'm having so much fun AND I'm growing as an artist. There are so many wonderful online courses at very affordable.
Take a break.
Again, this goes back to the busyness and expectations of life. I have to stop and remind myself that a weekend of leisure, an entire 48 hours- would do a lot for my creativity. I bet I'm not alone.
Take a walk.
I started taking the time in the evenings for long walks. The sights, the trees, the birds, the horses, the bunnies, the grass, the sunsets, the people sitting on their porches, the whispers on the leaves. It's been a breath of fresh air.
And you don't have to live in a rural place to do this. When I lived in Boston, I would take long walks on the weekends- from Park Street Church to the downtown mall and there was not a lot of nature. I'd curve up and down streets and wind in and out of crowds of people. Walking is invigorating and regardless of where I am; it clears the mind.
Remember, you have an inexhaustible well of ideas.
Sheryl, one of the women in a bi-monthly group I meet with, shared this idea with the group last week. I love this. Sheryl's right; we have so many ideas, sometimes our block is a mental one. I'm going to remind myself of this the next time I'm stuck. It may take some additional time to get out of a rut, but it is an excellent reminder that this season is temporary.
I wouldn't be authentic if I didn't include this part of the process for me. I'm usually pretty conversational in my prayers and I often pray as I'm walking. I share what I'm feeling- I know He knows, but He likes to hear me talk. Then I ask for help. My grandma often reminds me to continue to thank God, even in the hard times (perhaps especially in the discouraging times) and stay focused on the blessings in life.
This practice lifts my spirit and brings some perspective to my situation.
Go somewhere new.
Go to a new coffee shop. Go to a different Starbucks. Go for a weekend trip. Go see a "touristy" area in your town. Bring your sketchbook or your note pad or camera and record what you see. It doesn't matter if you don't like it.
A change of place can change our perspective and infuse some new life back into our creative souls.
Talk with a trusted someone.
You're not alone. Talk to another creative, or someone you trust, about your struggles; find someone who is a good listener and won't set you up with a fix-it plan. You need a space to talk and share and let it out. It might be a risk if you've never shared your struggles like this, but it's a risk worth taking.
Set and timer and write. Write out your feelings. Write your struggles. Write your dreams and hopes and prayers. Write what you're thankful for. Someone said "writing is the cheapest psychiatrist."
I'm all for wise council when the season of life warrants it- therapist, counselor, psychologist, etc.- but I'm also an avid believer in writing out our thoughts and feelings as a way of release and problem solving. It's like untangling a big ball of yarn. Sometimes the problems unravel themselves with words written on a page.
Hope for the Winds of Creativity to Blow a Gentle Wind over You
When you are feeling not very creative, it's like the world can have a muted color poured over it. If you find yourself stuck in un-creativity, I hope you find some relief and move back into your creative groove very soon.