Get Out of a Creative Slump with Me!
I’m a sucker for a fresh start, and there really is nothing more invigorating than the clean slate provided by 365 brand new days rolling out in front of you. New Year’s magic and all that. This year was no different – January began brimming with potential. And then… something happened.
It began with a creeping feeling of dissatisfaction. The days started to feel the same. All of my writing goals felt impossibly, almost comically, far away. Other hobbies felt like a waste of time. My friends were going to grad school, moving across the country, or entering some new phase of their life. And here I was, no closer to my dreams, living the same day over and over again.
Everyone talks about your twenties as a time of momentous change, tumultuous and exciting. But what they don’t mention are the quieter times, where you not only have to navigate the small, everyday challenges of being alive but also steer your life in the direction you want to go, always keeping one eye on the horizon. When the usual milestones of academic achievement and graduation fall away, you have to make your own goal posts. At it’s best, this is an exciting prospect. At it’s worst, it’s crushing. And for the past couple weeks, it’s been crushing me.
Writing this, I don’t feel 100% better, but I can at least see a way out of the stagnancy.
Here’s what helped me get out of it, and hopefully, if you’re feeling something similar, it might help you find a way out, too.
1. Connection – This is sometimes the hardest but most crucial part of getting out a creative rut. One moment of genuine connection, even if it has nothing to do with what you’re going through, can make you feel like you have enough energy to move forward. I spent some time talking things out with my parents, boyfriend, and friends, and even when we weren’t talking about how stuck I felt, they helped me get out of my own head.
2. Lists – Often when I’m stuck I make lists of things I can do to make myself feel better.
– Take a walk
-Play with Wally
– Listen to a comfort podcast
When the energy to do ANYTHING is hard to come by, lists can remind you of your coping mechanisms and push you do at least one thing that’s good for you. And if you’re lucky, they unlock something that breaks you out of your slump!
3. One (1) Good Idea – On a particularly bad day this week, I made a quick list of things I wanted to create when I was feeling better. As I wrote the last one, something sparked.
I know that drawing and painting helps me get out of my own head, but the energy required was too much when I was already feeling uninspired. Doodling about how I was feeling, though? That I could do. This tiny spark of inspiration got the creative gears turning again. Remember, all you need is a single idea that give you that familiar push towards action.
4. Draw it out – This exercise was just for me – I didn’t care if it was pretty or if it made sense to anyone but myself. Journaling is great, but when you’re stuck in a loop, it doesn’t help to write about the same feelings over and over. Drawing it out was relaxing, therapeutic, AND it helped me ease back into making art again.
5. Find new inspiration – Around this time I started listening to The Creative Pep Talk podcast. I’d heard about it for years but had never actually listened to more than a couple episodes. Sometimes you need to switch up your usual sources of inspiration, and Andy J. Pizza’s helpful advice was just what I needed.
6. Re-evaluate your priorities – At this point I was starting to feel more optimistic, but the fragile ground I was building for myself still felt like it could crumble at any moment. So I grabbed a notebook and brain dumped. I made unstructured lists. I thought about how and why I wanted to create moving forward. This wasn’t a plan or a to-do list, but just a way to untangle my own thoughts. I needed to figure out how to enjoy creating again, so I tried to name times that creating felt the best. The key here is that I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to turn this into a schedule, or set goals, or anything like that. I was just feeling it out, trying to see what I already knew worked before I tried to change anything.
7. Make a plan, but hold it loosely – I LOVE planning. When I’m already inspired, a plan can make me feel like anything is possible. But I also knew I couldn’t be as intense about this process when I was still climbing out of my creative rut, so I picked a few things that I was really looking forward to making, like this blog post, and started in on them. And so I came out of this process with a true sense of accomplishment, instead of failing once again at sticking to my numerous and often over-ambitious schedules.
There you have it – my personal roadmap for getting out of a slump, written very freshly on the other side. I’d love to hear what you turn to when you’re feeling uninspired, and if you’re going through a rough period with your creative work or otherwise, please please know you’re not alone. It’s been a rough couple of years, and we’re all in this together. Until next time!