As much as I’d love for creativity to be this continuously flowing source that never ever dries up, unfortunately that’s not the case.
As many of you might know, at times creativity can be illusive, and it seems that the more you go looking for it, the harder it is to grasp. Do you know the drill – those days when everything you create comes off feeling forced, or samey, and your brain just doesn’t light up like it used to. Worried that you’ve lost your passion? Never fear, luckily this isn’t a forever scenario, you’re just in a creative rut, and it happens to all of us. A few months ago I felt like I was in a complete rut – searching for ideas and solutions felt like scraping the bottom of the barrel. And the trouble with a creative rut is that the more you search, the harder it is to find it, trust me! Instead of freaking out like I have in the past, this time around I went a bit easy on myself and tested out a few different ideas, many of which actually worked. Read on for my thoughts.
How to get out of a Creative Rut
Cleanse your space
OK so you’ve got a few deadlines on the horizon, your creativity has taken the week off and you’re feeling like you just want to crawl under the covers. We’ve all been there. Even though you may feel like you’ve got to push yourself to do the work, one of the best things to do is to take some time off to clean up. You heard me. I think in retrospect this is the one that had the biggest effect on me – yes having a clean and organised space is an amazing feeling, but I think there’s also an element of therapy in the actual process of purging all the stuff you’re not using. Even just a desktop cleanup can free your mind completely.
DO IT: Take an afternoon off to have a serious purge of your office/studio/couch desk – get rid of anything you don’t need and organise the things you want to keep.
Create something just for you
If you’ve managed to turn your creativity (whether you’re a blogger/illustrator/interior design or whatever really) into a career then you deserve big props, but the downside to this is that you’re constantly needing to produce high quality, super inspired deliverables in order to make money. If you’re a good business person you’ll probably start to look at all creative ideas as business opportunities, and there will be times when this is exhausting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m very very pragmatic about the need to ensure what you’re doing actually makes you a decent living, but at the same time you need to be aware that monetising what you love/do can take its toll. To balance that, it’s a great idea to do something creative just for you – not something that’s for a client, or for sharing with your community. Something just for you. It’s about finding an outlet for your creativity that is separate from your business so that you can feed your brain and also relax it a little.
DO IT: This week, do one creative thing just for you – colour one of those adult colouring books, take a yoga class, learn to dance. Don’t worry if you suck at whatever it is, this one’s just for you.
Look in Different Places for Inspiration
We all look to sources for inspiration – maybe it’s Pinterest, magazines or Tumblr which are all a great way to get a window into the whole globe and be inspired by what others are seeing and doing around us. But when we focus on a constant single of inspiration, it’s easy to become narrow in our focus and then, perhaps, feel like we’re just seeing the same thing over and over again. Hello creative rut. One way I’ve been able to get out of this feeling has been to look to other sources for inspiration – whether that be going to a gallery or picking up some vintage books from my local thrift store.
DO IT: Take half a day out to seek new sources of inspiration – like a new museum or a foreign film. Even just taking a different route to work can help you be inspired in a different way.
What with social media and the constant stream of information we are exposed to at all times, if you’re always being inspired like I am chances are your creative brain is working at all times because of what you see. A picture girl in a pair of denim shorts reminds you of that video you want to make, a tweet about Morocco reminds you of that fabric you need to order. These are normal brain functions but it’s those constantly turning cogs that may have you feeling in a rut, or lacking focus. Taking a bit of time out will in effect help top up your creativity reserves – chances you’ll probably have your best idea when you’re disconnected. It seriously works!
When in doubt… sleep
Finally, if you work for yourself you’re probably no stranger to burning the candle at both ends. But news flash, you simply cannot operate without enough sleep. Yes, I admit there will be times when you can’t help it, but if you’re feeling like your creativity is suffering you might need to catch up on your Zzzzzz.
DO IT: sleep. That’s all.
I’d love to hear if you’ve ever experienced a creative rut, and what you did to try and get out of it.