Last week you may have seen me asking on Twitter what sort of content you’d like to see on this blog, as I always love to get feedback and take on your suggestions! Many people asked for creative subjects, blog posts relating to building a business, selling online, keeping inspired and much more. All of these were such amazing ideas, which I’ll definitely be talking about more in the future. But what really caught my eye, is when someone specifically asked how I stay creative when my job relies upon it? So I wanted to talk about this in some depth today with you guys.
We all have creative slumps and times when our inspiration runs dry; whatever it is we do. But when your income totally relies on you having inspiration, creating and bringing ideas to life, what the hell do you do?
Firstly let me tell you there is no magic solution, sorry. Sometimes, you will just be uninspired, and there’s nothing you can do about that. I know disappointing right? But don’t give up just yet. There are things I do to help push myself in those challenging times, and ways in which I deal with it. I hope sharing them with you will be somewhat useful!
10 Ways To Stay Creative, Overcome Slumps
& Find The Joy Again
1. Keep going
I know this will seem impossible at times, and your efforts will feel futile; but it’s so important to keep going! There’s the obvious downsides to treating my creative projects like a job, but the upside is that it forces me to keep going. I HAVE TO. Sometimes just the act of starting a project can seem daunting and overbearing, but once I DO start; I feel so much better. Take away all distractions, face the challenge and keep going!
2. Have personal goals
I have to make sure creating for a living doesn’t suck all the fun out of it for me, which is why I set personal goals for myself. This has nothing to do with work, deadlines or projects for anyone other than myself. It could be something like, ‘Create a series of small paintings inspired by ___’ or ‘Try to explore different media’. The point is to avoid monetary goals or anything that can make me feel pressured. These little goals are for my own personal fun and development as an Artist.
3. Get feedback
Having an Etsy shop means I have a page full of reviews from customers who have bought things, and have been kind enough to leave me lovely feedback. I can go on there and read through them whenever I need to lift my spirits, and this really helps. If you are a creator of any sort but don’t have a shop/reviews like this, try to find another way you can get feedback from people. It doesn’t all have to be raving reviews either. I’m often inspired when talking about my work on Twitter and people interact with me directly, telling me what they would like to see from my future work. This is so valuable and can really spur me on!
4. Take a break
I know this one might seem to clash with number 1; but bear with me. You DO have to keep going if you work in a creative field (or you simply want to lead a creative life) in general; but it’s important to take regular, scheduled breaks too. I’ve recently set aside Mondays as the day when I have a break for myself, because Gary is off work on Mondays and it’s so good to have valuable time together. Even if it’s just a regular lunch hour, or finishing by 6pm; it’s good to let yourself step away, rest, and come back with fresh eyes.
5. Use tried & tested sources
Make a list of things that always inspire you! Even in the darkest of times when I’m really unmotivated, there are a few things that can guarantee my inspiration steadily comes back. Creating a clean and pretty workspace, putting on light music, making a strong coffee and browsing for new Artists on Instagram/Pinterest can really help me! Here are 15 ways you may be able to inspire yourself.
6. Focus on the good achievements
Whether you scribble all the good things you’ve achieved in a notebook, or print them off on a colourful chart and pin above your desk; keep a record of all the awesome things you’ve done! I recommend adding all the tiny little things, as well as any big achievements; because the smaller things can often be overlooked and forgotten otherwise. Things on my own personal list of achievements that make me feel good are; winning awards for my blog, getting a compliment from an Artist I greatly respect, selling a painting, making a friend smile with a surprise portrait, and getting some amazing messages of support from followers.
7. Don’t compare yourself
We all do it, it just seeps into our brains whether we like it or not; so let’s acknowledge that. I’m not saying you can eliminate this entirely, but there are ways you can fight this inner critic. Whenever you notice yourself thinking, ‘I wish I was as good as ___’ – stop yourself, take a moment to realise your own brain is making you feel bad, and instead tell yourself, ‘This person is awesome, good for them! I’m on my own journey though, and it’s just as important and brilliant.’ If you keep at this, pretty soon you’ll teach your brain to keep out those nasty comparative thoughts. It also helps to avoid triggers you KNOW will make you feel bad, whatever they may be for you (social media for example).
8. Bounce between projects
Getting really bogged down and drained? Feel like giving up? Maybe if you simply switch your attention to something new and totally different, it’ll help bring that spark back. So for me, I have Etsy orders I always have to fulfil, custom illustrations and some images for websites, then paintings to complete, photographs to take and blog posts to write. All have to be done either way. But if I’m getting tired eyes staring at a screen doing a custom illustration for someone; I can save it for later, get up and walk away and start getting my paints out. I can then direct my focus onto a painting I need to do. It’s a totally different project, with a whole other vibe and technique, but I’m still being creative and productive.
9. Create for fun
Above all else, keeping the joy is so important. If everything you’re creating ends up feeling like another chore, it’ll go right to the end of your to-do list like the washing and ironing you never really get around to doing (just me??). Ask yourself WHY THE HELL YOU’RE DOING THIS (apart from money, if this is your job!). What else appeals to you about this? Why is this project important? How do you make this unique? How can you become proud of the outcome when you’re finished? What are you going to want to look back on when you browse over your portfolio of work (or creative endeavours) in years to come? WHO ARE YOU? Show us, get to work! Have fun with it. Play your favourite music while you work (if it’s not distracting), surround yourself with inspiration, keep a record of your progress to share with followers/customers/friends afterwards (it’ll feel so good, even if it’s a bit show offy! Go with it!). Try anything you’ve wanted to for months/years and totally embrace that inspiration whenever it hits you. Sometimes I get an idea at 2am when I’m getting into bed, and I’ll have to get to work on it right away. It’s worth staying up for, who knows when I’ll get this buzz again?
10. Record every single idea
Your memory is never as good as you think it is! We’re all human and an idea can come and go at the flick of a switch unfortunately (aren’t brains teasing bastards?!). So write it down immediately, wherever you are. On your phone, in a journal, hell, even tell your mum your idea while you’re on the phone if you have to (much more likely to remember it when you get off then, or you can ask her!). Then afterwards, scribble every single idea you ever have, into one place. Whether its a spreadsheet or a notebook full to the brim of ideas; record every detail. Use words that come to mind, doodle it, write details of what inspired you and why this would be great. Because if you simply write, ‘Explore colourful portraits’ (for example) – well when you look back over this in a week you might shrug and be like, so? And you won’t care about this as much. Whereas if you write, ‘Explore colourful portraits, start a new art style, practise on friends and family, explore pattern and shape, inspirations include Bryan Lewis Saunders, El Mac, & Picasso‘ with a sample of colours or a collage of ideas – you can almost guarantee that next week you’ll still feel the passion for this project or idea.
Other random things that seem to help me:
ASMR videos, polaroid photos, watching timelapse videos on Instagram, having a reward system, drinking plenty of water & coffee, actually getting dressed for work (even if I’m only going from bedroom to office), going for a hike, organising my desk area and work space, listening to Ted Talks, keeping to-do lists short and sweet, filming my artwork process on Instagram (makes me feel more accountable), displaying my own artwork around my home, browsing pinterest, taking a lunch break and using that hour or so to chat to people, get outside, read.
PHEW. Okay guys, as you can see; there is no one magic answer. But there is a hell of a lot of nitty, gritty, small things you can try. Explore all the options I’ve mentioned, and try your own of course! I can only ever tell things from my point of view and share what works for me, but I do hope it helps someone.
Whether it’s your job, a hobby, or something you want to start exploring; your own creativity is SO DAMN rewarding and important. Nourish it and it will grow.
Good luck! x
*Any items sent for review are written about 100% honestly and in my own words. Sometimes sponsored content and collaborations with brands will appear on this blog, and will always be marked as such with *. Please see my disclaimer for more info.