How’s everyone’s year going so far? You still in that excited, motivated, inspired place? Have you thought about what happens when that all wears off? (Way to rain on that parade, Megan!) Are you prepared? Have you planned ahead for how you’re going to deal with setbacks and creative block?
I know this isn’t a new post idea; there are plenty of people out there who have written about this exact issue. But everyone deals with it differently… some things work for one person that don’t work well for another, so I thought I would go ahead and share some of the things that help me to keep creating even when I don’t feel motivated or inspired. It has taken me a while to identify and accumulate these strategies. Some were intentionally initiated because of things I read on blogs, some were friendly suggestions when I seemed down, and some happened accidentally out of mere necessity!
So let’s get to it…
Ways I Deal with Creative Block
Keep a list of ideas. I have a notepad app on my phone with a whole list simply dedicated to those random, spur-of-the-moment, came-to-me-in-the-shower ideas. Some of them are specific things. Some are more general. The point is, I have them to look over when I am feeling uninspired OR when I simply can’t remember some of the things I was so excited to create just days or months before.
Have some projects started already. Gain momentum through working on these. This probably happens unintentionally anyway, right? You start on something, but then get distracted, take a break to cook dinner, or lose interest. Then the half-started project sits forgotten until you come across it cleaning six months later. In my opinion, those are great projects to pick back up when you can’t think of anything else to work on or none of your current projects sound appealing. Put them in a specific box/folder/place so you know where to find them later. I have a specific folder of sketches I have started but (sometimes intentionally) not yet made into watercolors, because I know they will come in handy on a day when I need to just start. And usually, once I get started, once my hand starts moving and I am focused less on my anxiety about being uninspired or “not in the mood” to make, I find that I gain momentum and the “true creativity” begins.
Take a break! Go for a walk, sit in the sunshine, look at the patterns of the leaves. Read a book, phone a friend, turn on some music, do some yoga. Do something! Because sometimes trying to push through the creative block works, but sometimes what you really need is a break. (It’s like trying to force yourself to fall asleep or make a toddler to put on their shoes. Sometimes you need to take a step back and relax first.) Plus, often times these things end up leading me to new ideas or giving me a new perspective.
Keep a curated list of work that inspires you. It can be a folder on your desktop, a Pinterest board, an Instagram collection, a box of clipping or photos, a cork board, whatever! And if you can include any of the things you’ve made in the past, even better! I have to be careful with this one in my life, though, because sometimes it backfires and leads me to unhealthy comparison. The point is not to make yourself feel inferior or inadequate, but to be reminded of all the awesome things people have created and how lucky you are to get to be a part of that lineage of creators! Remind yourself that they didn’t get to their skill level overnight and you should expect yourself to either. Everyone has had to work to improve and hone their skills.
Sometimes, I find that looking at work that feels less directly comparable to mine is more helpful for me. For instance, if I am feeling uninspired about my pottery, instead of looking at other people’s pottery I will look up graphic artists or industrial designers. This helps me to be reminded of beautiful forms and the inspired use of color, rather than try and copy something that has already been done.
Here’s a list I made on my other blog of some work that inspires me!
Books, Guides, Journals
There are some cool, fun, interesting, and inspiring books out there that can help with creative block. The ones I own and enjoy are:
- How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith (here)
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (here)
Overall, I think one of the biggest things that has helped me is remembering that creative block is part of the creative process and is an expected part of the journey. Remembering that it is normal and temporary helps me not to panic and not to slip into a depressed or anxious state. Plus, now that I have some of these coping techniques in place I feel better equipped to handle these moments when they arise and to minimize their impact on my productivity and/or mental state.
So… what do you think? Have you tried any of these before? Do you have any of your own strategies? Feel free to add yours in the comments section! I’d love to read about how you deal with creative block!
All my best,