Ah, Inspiration. She is a fickle creature. She loves you and leaves you. She won’t return your calls or texts. You hear through the grapevine that she is seeing someone new. Your heart is shattered and you start to panic. You wonder where you went wrong in this relationship.
As an artist, I’ve been there. To me there is nothing worse than turning out amazing work one moment and the next seeing every mark you make lead to nothing but crap. It’s one of the most frustrating things about any creative pursuit.
When Inspiration dumps you.
Just packs her bags in the middle of the night and leaves, with nary a “Dear John/Jane” letter in sight. (Insert Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” here. You will now be humming this song all day. You’re welcome.)
But I am here to tell you there is hope in restoring that relationship. It just takes a little work.
Here are some of the methods I use to win back the heart of Inspiration and find my creative mojo again:
- Take a break. I’m certainly not saying that you need to give up on your passion, but what I AM saying is that sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. Step back from your work for a day or two. Take a breather and regroup. I personally don’t believe the advice of “experts” that say you should draw, write, compose, etc. every day to keep inspiration flowing. I think that’s crap. Why? The most frustrating thing is to force yourself to do something that is stressing you out at the moment. To me, adding stress to stress is a no-win situation. Stop trying to figure it out and step away. But keep in mind that stepping back for too long could make it more difficult for you to get back into the creative grove again. Absence can make the heart grow fonder, but prolonged absence can make the heart just plain forget. So after a short amount of time, get back in there and try again.
- Try something new. Do you work solely with paint? Try mixed media. Do you work digitally? Grab some paper and some watercolors. Or try a completely new hobby or interest area all together. Sign up for dancing lessons or learn a foreign language. Stepping outside your comfort zone can be a good thing when you’re facing a creative block. It gets different wheels turning in your brain and could inspire a new project.
- Go outside. Put on some actual clothes and interact with people. I know that when I’m in a funk, the last thing I want to do is engage with the outside world. But I to do just that. And so should you. Spend time with family and friends. Join a local creative group. Ideas could start flowing between you and the people you are around. If anything, you will smile and laugh and forget about your troubles for a while.
- Journal. Just write all those crazy thoughts swirling in your head down in a notebook. Don’t correct grammar or self-censor. Write it all down. Every last crazy or depressing thought. This is not something to show anyone else. This is your personal brain dump to clear out your thoughts. Back when I was in creative Hades, I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way and took up the three page journaling practice. It was slow going initially and I did resist the journaling until it became a routine. And sure, there days when I said the same old thing over and over again. But then the funny thing was, I noticed patterns. I started to see where I was getting hung up on self-defeating thoughts. And those kinds of thoughts are enemy Numero Uno to a long lasting relationship with Inspiration. Which leads me to my next point…
- Avoid the “Woe is Me” Attitude. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have a pity party that lasts a day. Maybe two days at most. But then you need to put on your grownup undies and move on. So it’s not working out. Welcome to the human race. Not every project you do will be a winner. We’ve been programmed by society (especially here in the US of A) to believe that something is not worth pursuing if it can’t be done perfectly the first time around. Which is stupid. And it is an impossible standard to live up to. When you are ready to create again, remove any ideas about what that project is supposed to look like completed. In fact, I dare you to NOT complete it. Start and stop. Go on to something else. Then on to another thing from there as well. Fill up a sketchbook with doodles and random paint splotches. Just play. Remember why you wanted to create in the first place.
There are many ways to get back into the swing of things, but these are my five tried and true methods. I’ve noticed that if I put a little more effort into my creative relationship with Inspiration, I get dumped less often. But I still get dumped every once in a while. (Like I said, Inspiration is a fickle thing.) But I don’t beat myself up over it. Instead, I start working down the checklist above until I feel like picking up my pencil and paper again.
What do you do to work through a creative funk? Any tips to share? Leave your ideas in the comments below!