Deserted Creativity

Sometimes, you feel as if all your creativity is gone. Dried up. Deserted. There are two possible reasons for this feeling: a) your creativity is truly all gone and you should become an accountant, or b) you're in the discovery phase! (we can only hope it's option b...)

I recently went through what I like to call the discovery phase. I'd just come off of two years of crazy-busy schedules, with lots of projects, both creative and non creative. This fall, I finally hit a wall. I hadn't written anything substantial in a year and couldn't seem to get started. I went from finishing paintings and drawings all the time to not having any inspiration to draw at all. It was weird, and mildly (okay, not-so-mildly) terrifying.

As you've probably noticed, I've been more creative lately. I'm drawing and writing again, and I've started this blog! How did I do it, you ask? What's my secret recipe? Unfortunately, I don't cook so no recipes are currently available for creativity.

In all seriousness, I did learn several things this semester that ultimately made me a better artist and brought me out of my creative slump. Here they are...

1. Let it leave.

Let your creativity go. Sometimes you just need to let yourself recover - maybe you’ve been super busy lately and your brain literally needs a break. That’s what happened to me. Looking back my brain truly needed that break to recuperate and start running at full speed again.

Constantly beating yourself up over the fact that you can’t be “creative” is going to do nothing but stifle creativity. Let it be natural, and the results will eventually flow. Patience, young grasshopper.

2. Try new endeavors.

Scenario: you feel like you literally forgot how to write. You’re freaked out. All those cool story ideas you used to have? Not coming anymore and the ones you did have seem boring. Character ideas are nonexistent, daily writing is zilch. Your journal contains either daunting blank pages or frantic entries wondering if your creativity packed up and left forever.

I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.

Anyway, the point here is -- if you feel blocked on one creative front, try another. Take up sketching, painting, singing, music, typography. Something other than what is causing your block. I started hand lettering some of my favorite quotes. It worked for me because the quotes were easily finished in one or two sittings, so I could feel like I accomplished something. I also didn't have to come up with anything except a simple design - I already had a stash of favorite quotes.

3. Lower the stakes.

After you’ve had a peaceful parting with creativity and ventured into new creative projects, don’t set the bar super high for your creativity. Just sketch for fun, or play the piano when you feel like it. The whole point of this part of the process is allowing your creative muscles to relax, rejuvenate, and reengage. You’re going to burn yourself out again by trying to become the next Van Gogh while you’re trying to recover from creative writing burnout.

4. Read stuff.

Literally, anything! Magazines, books (fiction and nonfiction), articles, news… Whatever sparks your imagination and gets you thinking.

I got into a rut where I didn’t read any books for months. MONTHS. This, coming from a girl who is known as the-girl-with-her-nose-always-in-a-book. (yes that’s a long nickname I know.) This was detrimental to my creativity. Without a constant flow of new ideas and inspiration, I was a well that was dried up.

5. Explore

This isn’t called a season of discovery for nothing. Explore! Discover! Read new things! Write new things! Talk to people! Connect! Go to new places! Start ending every sentence with an exclamation mark!

Seriously though, go for it. Don’t hold back. Embrace this time of discovery, release the need for productivity and pumping out content.

What are your tricks for being in a 'season of discovery'?