Our family (like a lot of you this winter) has been hit hard by some illness. One (or many) of us has been sick since the beginning of the year. And I am absolutely elated to say that at this moment… we are all healthy! I seriously feel like doing a happy dance (but am more than a little nervous about what little germ might see that dance as an invitation to sneak in and start the cycle all over again!) Needless to say, it’s been more than a little draining – physically, mentally and emotionally. And just as my nose was finally starting to dry up…The creative juices started to dry up too.
I’ve certainly been here before. You never know what might make creative mojo stop flowing. It happens to us all, right? Suddenly our old friend Resistance (as Steven Pressfield calls it) takes up residence at our side. This used to totally paralyze me for days, weeks – even months. But I’ve developed some tricks that help me get past the creative slump. So I thought I would share them with you today and try to help us both out. Give these tricks a try the next time you find yourself in the artistic doldrums…
1. Just start somewhere. When I’m in the rut, getting started is usually the absolute worst part. I’ll come up with a million excuses, other things I must do first and avoid my studio at all costs. If I can just make myself go in there and start doing something – cut some paper, doodle, flip through my paper stash, smear some paint around – it helps. Even if all I make is a mess – at least I did something.
2. Look for something that excites you. Let’s face it -if you’re a working artist, sometimes you can’t avoid doing the gig. But you know as well as I do that if your heart isn’t in it, it shows. So I try to find something – anything – in the project that excites me. Maybe I really like the way one part of the piece is coming together. Or maybe I have a new technique I want to try. Or maybe I can come up with an interesting twist or subtle message that I can incorporate. Anything that can make it fun will help find your spark again.
3. Shift between projects. I recently heard an interview with the amazing Flora Bowley and she mentioned that she likes to have multiple canvases going at once so she can switch between them when she starts loosing steam on one painting. I love this idea and have often done the same thing. Just because you don’t have creative mojo working with one piece doesn’t mean you can’t find it in another way. You can also try changing mediums – painting a little if you’ve been working on a collage, or knitting, or doodling with your kids, or cooking, or dancing, or singing. Just keep creating, but in a different way for a while.
I like to see my creative slump like this…
Just because a river comes up against a rock doesn’t mean it stops all together – it simply finds another course around the obstacle to the same destination.
4. Read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. This book is a super-quick read, which makes it perfect for a swift kick in the pants to get back in the studio. You seriously can’t read that book and not be inspired.
5. Check in with your self-care. This is a big one for me. I often drive myself so hard that I will burnout. Then I crash, recover, and get back in the game, only to drive myself to burnout again. It’s a viscous cycle that I’ve repeated so many times that it’s embarrassing. And 99% of the time, the burnout could have been prevented had I made more time for self care. Seriously friends. Self care is not frivolous or optional. It is mandatory – for yourself and those you love. No. Joke.
6. Move your body. Get the energy flowing! You don’t have to do a marathon here. I’m just talking about getting physically active in any way you like. You can stand in place and do jumping jacks, chase your kids around the yard, do a spontaneous dance party (see #8), do some yoga – whatever it is. Just move and breathe a little harder than you do sitting still making art. 😉
7. Unplug. This one is closely tied to #1 and is another tip that I need to be reminded to do often. Ever find yourself sitting down to make some art and suddenly you realize that you have not checked your email for a whole 20 minutes!? And what about Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? I’ll say to myself, “Maybe I just need to go online and get some inspiration on Pinterest…” and then I find myself coming up for air and hour later feeling drained and exhausted. Here’s a crazy idea – turn your phone off and step away from your computer. Set specific times to check your messages and texts. It can all wait…. trust me on this one. It’s amazing what inspiration comes in when you allow for a little quiet.
8. Listen to music that gets you going. You know the tunes that do it for you – the ones that you gotta crank up and sing along. Make yourself a playlist and put it on in your studio when you sit down to work. It’s like a subliminal message to your brain saying, “See? This feels good!”
9. Go outside. This one needs very little explanation. Whether you like the outdoors or not, we all have a deep visceral connection to the natural world. Spending time outdoors helps you realign with your core self, inner spark and the infinite creative consciousness. Trust me on this one. Go take a walk and breathe fresh air.
10. Trust the process. When you’re in a creative funk, it’s easy to go deeper by worrying about when it will end. In my experience, the sooner you can acknowledge and accept the creative slump for what it is (a temporary loss of mojo), the sooner you can get out of it. Going back to the river analogy – try going with the flow. Just allow yourself to be in the rut and trust that it will end – and it will.
So there you have it. I hope these tips are helpful for you the next time you find yourself in a low spot. Here’s to your creative mojo workin!
PS: I find that combining a few or more of these tips at once (try doodling outside) with can be especially potent for de-rutting yourself. 🙂