You know the feeling. One day you’re seemingly bursting with creative energy and the next you’re totally stuck. You have no ideas, you stare at a blank page for hours at a time, and you can’t foresee a future in which you’ll ever come up with anything worthwhile again. It’s called a “creative block” and don’t you worry, it happens to the best of us.
But for those whose livelihoods are based in a creative career (I’m talking to you: bloggers, artists, writers, photographers, designers, makers, entrepreneurs, and basically anyone who does anything that involves coming up with new ideas), creative blocks can be downright terrifying. Losing your inspirational edge can mean an inability to make a deadline, loss of income, and a whole lot of anxiety.
But before you launch into a massive panic attack, I’ve got some good news: it’s totally possible to move past a creative block. So often we simply sit and wait for inspiration to strike, but there are actually steps you can take to revive your artistic energy. Here’s how to get started:
Figure out what’s got you stuck
It’s possible that there isn’t really a deep-seated reason for your creative dry spell. Perhaps you’re just a bit overworked and you could use a break. Cool, take a break then. But consider the possibility that there is something a bit further beneath the surface that is causing your creative block. Are you nervous about what you are working on? Are you starting to doubt yourself? Are you hurt from a bad experience involving a previous creative endeavor? Uncovering the source of your block helps you to discover the steps to move past it.
No matter what your creative passion happens to be, there is no better way to find out what’s going on in that big, beautiful brain of yours than by writing stuff down. Keep a daily diary, one that you have no intention of sharing with anyone else. Don’t edit yourself or use fancy words. Just fill pages with anything you can think of, even if it’s: “I have no idea what to write. This is dumb. Bluh, why did Christy suggest I do this?” That’s totally fine. Through this process, you accomplish a few things: 1) Writing helps you process, so you can use this platform to find out what’s got you stuck. 2) By filling pages, you are, in effect, creating, and sometimes that’s all the initiative you need to get unblocked. And 3) Through all of your written ramblings, you may just stumble upon that illusive next great idea.
Add play to your routine
Remember play? Remember being a kid, going into your backyard, and suspending your disbelief for long enough to imagine that your swing set was a pirate ship? Play was crucial for your development as a child, and believe it or not, it’s still essential for your growth as a creative individual. Of course, as an adult, play might look different for you now. Maybe it’s hosting a game night, going to the beach, crafting, playing with your kids – whatever it is, make sure it’s something that removes yourself from the pressure of work and responsibility.
Focus on a new artistic medium
When you regularly practice your same artistic endeavor, you certainly become more skilled, but you can also easily become bored. Think of your creativity as a hungry child who likes variety, one who doesn’t want to eat the same ham-and-cheese sandwich every single day. Perhaps the reason you are lacking in inspiration is because you aren’t providing your creativity with a particularly diverse diet. Find a new creative outlet, one that is totally separate from your usual craft. Allow your hands and mind to work in a way that is out of step from your usual routine, and you may notice inspiration starting to creep back in.
Related: 6 Daily Rules for a Creative Life
Workshop your ideas
I think every creative person in the world needs to get a tattoo somewhere obvious on their body that reads, “REMEMBER: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” It’s the thing we just can’t seem to remember. I think it’s because we have this romantic idea of what it means to be an artist. We picture ourselves holed up in a cabin all alone writing the next great American novel or painting the next Starry Night or doing whatever creative thing you happen to do. We try to make art in isolation, but in actuality, creativity thrives in community. (tweet that!) If you are stuck in a season of anti-inspiration, bring your ideas, however terrible they may be, to other creatives. Go to a meetup, build a mastermind group, Facetime with friends whose creative opinions you trust – whatever you can do to remind yourself that you aren’t alone, do it. Open your work up to others and allow yourself to be inspired in ways that just aren’t possible when you’re by yourself.
If you haven’t listened to this TED Talk from Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), I highly suggest you do. In it, she talks about “creative genius” and specifically where our creativity comes from. According to Gilbert, she believes it is a mistake to assume that we are the owners of our creativity. Instead, she suggests that inspiration is a thing that lives outside of the artist, and it comes to us at random. And if Elizabeth Gilbert is right, then the truth is it’s not your fault if your creative genius seems to be hiding. Take some pressure off of yourself. But also, don’t let the fickle nature of inspiration keep you from working. Show up to your writer’s desk, your laptop, or your canvas every single day. At the very least, you are doing your part of the creative process, and perhaps your creative genius will decide to do its part too.