I got a direct message this week that was such a good question–one I want to ask all my creative friends–that I thought it would make a great post, if not just for the simple fact that I’d love a list of answers to this question all in one place so I can come back and be reminded.
What do you do when you are in a creative funk?
Sincerely, Burnt Out in Brooklyn (I admit I added the signature and assigned a city because I wanted to Dear Abby this up good)
Dear Burnt Out in Brooklyn,
This, my friend, is one of the great questions for mankind, nestled right next to “Is there a God?” and “What is the soul?” and “What goes on in the mind of Kanye West?” If you search Amazon for books that have to do with creative blocks, 88 pages of resources pull up including–I’m happy to report–a book with a rather forthright title on page 6, Book of Rhymes: A Laxative for Creative Constipation. The truth is, no matter what our creative work is–writing, making music, decorating our homes, building birdhouses or creatively mixing ingredients to make beautiful spreads of food–we all suffer from lack of inspiration and feeling stuck from time to time.
What do I do to get out of my creative funks?
Be the Plumber – Just like when your sink is blocked, when my creative output is blocked, it’s often because something is blocking it, and the blockage needs to be addressed. Blockages include bad habits, irresponsibility, procrastination, etc. Questions I frequently ask myself when I’m in a creative funk: Are you spending too much time on your phone? Are you avoiding something? Is there a not-so-fun task you haven’t finished that you need to get done to free up space for creative thinking? Are you masking pain/productivity/attention to emotions with fillers? (shopping, going out, social media, drinking, etc.) When I remove a blockage, it’s amazing how quickly the flow of creativity is restored.
Change the Flow – Sometimes, when I’m waiting for creative inspiration to come, I’m only looking at one faucet for it to flow out of. Maybe it’s not so much that I’m creatively blocked but that I need to go turn some other faucets on and give the one I always rely on a rest. In other words, if I’m not feeling inspired to write, there are so many other ways to be creative, and I want to be using all my creative outlets–drawing, painting, taking photos, dancing, decorating my home, crafting, etc. One of my favorite silly ways to reset my creativity is sitting in the driveway with my kids and drawing with sidewalk chalk. It’s like creative therapy–there’s so much freedom in the act, I get to be with my kids, the sun is shining, and there are so many colors to choose from.
Clean the House – I’ve never been one of those people who need to have everything clean before I attempt a creative project, so “learning to let things be messy” is never a problem for me. It’s the contrary that sometimes works for me–taking time to get rid of things, clean, organize, etc. to trigger my brain to follow suit. It’s like getting the guest room ready for your favorite guest. Creativity! I know you’re coming! I got the house clean and put some flowers out! I’m ready for you!
Make Bad Art – Sometimes my creative funks are more about output than input. If I’m not satisfied by what I’m creating, I can easily blame it on the fact that I’m not feeling inspired or that I’m in a creative funk when really, creating subpar work is a natural part of the creative process. The key is to KEEP CREATING. Accept that making things you’re not completely satisfied with is the dry valley you have to cross to get to the lush meadow on the other side. As Journey sang, “Don’t stop believin’. Hold on to that feeling.”
Tread the Waters of “Online Inspiration” with Great Caution – We all know that Pinterest and blogs and creative websites are all overflowing with ideas and inspiration to get our creative juices flowing, but I have to be very careful when I turn to the Internet to inspire me. I get distracted easily, and often one online thing leads to another online thing, and it all becomes part of the Resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it–the universal force that acts against creativity. I get sucked in to looking at everybody else’s work instead of creating my own, or worse–I hit click bait that leads me to shopping for another romper or researching the details of Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding. A better source of creative inspiration for me are books and magazines–resources that have proven to inspire me in the past. I love Click magazine for photography inspiration, books from my favorite authors for writing inspiration, home decor magazines, drawing books, Darling magazine, Uppercase magazine, and a few of my creative Bibles I always return to–The War of Art (easy read), Writing Down the Bones and If You Want to Write.
Step Outside of the Box – A big component of creativity is newness–a fresh idea, a different approach, a way of doing something in a way that’s never been done before. If those fresh ideas aren’t coming naturally to me, I shake things up in other areas of my life to mimic the creative inspiration I’m not feeling. Rearrange a room, put together a crazy outfit, try a new hairstyle, wear a bold lipstick color, visit a new restaurant and order the craziest thing on the menu. It’s amazing how one simple action with a free, fearless attitude gradually inspires other actions until soon, fearlessness and freedom has seeped back into my work.
Do Things You Love – This is probably the most powerful motivation in getting me unstuck. Stop trying to summon creativity and instead just return to the things you love. Creativity is naturally embedded in us; it moves within our cells. The best way to awaken dormant creativity is to do things that naturally make us come alive. What does that look like for me? Blasting my favorite music in my kitchen and dancing with my kids, lighting candles and burning sandalwood incense in my bedroom, planning trips in journals with lists and ideas and places I want to visit, baking pies and spending far too long braiding dough so the crust looks pretty, going on impromptu adventures and taking photos of my kids, printing favorite photos and displaying them in frames, taping motivating quotes to my refrigerator, digging through cookbooks to find a new meal to make over the weekend, saying “yes” when my kids ask me to go swimming, going for moon walks, pairing overalls with heels.
So tell me, what do YOU do to get out of a creative funk?