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The dreaded creative rut. Whatever your favorite artistic activity is, there is bound to come a time when you’ll feel stuck or worse, bored. So what’s a creative to do?
One of the things I’ve learned through the years is there is so much to be learned from the community of artists and creatives around us. Listening to their stories and reading articles from various perspectives has really helped me form different strategies for when I’m staring down the inevitable rut in the road in front of me.
I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned just in case they could be of help to you.
How to Get Out of a Creative Rut
1. Take a break from creating. Really? Yes. Sometimes a creative rut comes in the form of pure exhaustion. Makers who own shops that go wild during the holiday season feel this intensely. They’re up night after night working on creative projects, and though there is joy in a shop doing well, there is also the tired factor. I’ve noticed that many of these shops take a break after busy seasons to reassess and give themselves time to rest. Check out The Merriweather Council blog for awesome advice from a maker who knows what it feels like to work those long hours. And she knows how to take breaks too, which is super healthy.
2. Seek inspiration from people outside of your niche. Whether they’re weavers or quilters, film makers or sculptors, there are a LOT of artists out there that I go to when I need a different perspective. I look at how they work through creative boredom and notice how their work changed and developed over the years. I encourage you to seek artists who are outside of your niche because that helps the comparison factor to go down drastically (which is the last thing you need at this point.)
3. Exercise. I cannot say it enough how exercise has helped me when it comes to keeping creativity flowing. It helps me get outside of my own head, I get to enjoy the world around me, and I’m doing something good for my body. This is a daily Must Do for me. 🙂
4. Take a challenge. Whether it’s 2030make or the latest Creativebug challenge, I really love taking 30 day challenges. They’re doable because I can do almost anything for a month, and I also can see a small body of work take form during that time. I also appreciate giving myself parameters because that is where the real fun happens. If you think restricting your options for creative projects will slow you down and make the rut deeper, I encourage you to go ahead and give this idea a try. Set specific parameters that you have to work in. Make it measurable. (For example, draw 100 portraits or 25 cats.) Then get to work. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll come up with.
5. Set the timer. Sometimes I just have to set the timer, put the negative self-talk on hold, and MAKE something. I do the same thing with exercise to go back to that example. I can always think of one hundred reasons why I’m too busy or tired to exercise but when I just put on my shoes and do it, I get into a groove and get it done. And I’m always so glad I did.
6. Call your mom. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my mom is a very creative person so she’s my go-to when I need to talk about working on projects. She knows what it’s like to have a little kid and to juggle everything as a mom. Most of us have at least one creative person in our lives that we can go to when we’re stuck. This is your chance to learn from them. What do they do when they’re bored with their work? Many times these conversations are so encouraging I’m inspired to get back into a project right away.
7. Go on a media fast. There have been several times in my life when I’ve given up television, Facebook, or a combination of several media platforms for a period of time. And I have to tell you this, I haven’t been hurt by it one bit. There’s actually a sense of relief in not being on information overload. If you’re a blogger, you might think this is completely impossible, but you can still do this if you schedule your posts out ahead of time using Hootsuite or Buffer. Give it a try. Your mind will thank you!
8. Read. Wait, didn’t I just say to go on a media fast? Well, yes I did. These ideas don’t have to be used in conjunction with each other. 😉 For me, to read a book I’m familiar with is comforting and relaxing. I tend to migrate towards Austen and Tolkien as old favorites that I can pick up and put down without getting pulled into the plot line (am I the only one who struggles to put down a good book?) I read a little, sip some tea (isn’t that fitting?), and my creative rut conundrum waits for a little while. Often as I’m reading, I’ll come across a quote that would be nice to hand-letter, and well, there you go. I’m out of the creative rut and working again.
9. Treat yourself. If your brain has been working overtime on creative projects, sometimes you need to take a break and give yourself a treat. Whether that is taking a half-day at work, watching a silly movie, or eating a piece of chocolate cake, you know what will refill your energy stores. Don’t laugh but I like wandering around stores like Whole Foods—everything smells so delicious. Sometimes I’ll buy a little treat, and it feels like I’m vacation. Let yourself have those small moments of pleasure. It’s good for you.
As you’re working through your artistic doldrums, try new things, experiment with these ideas, and come up with your own go-to list of methods that will help you out. Remember that we all go through dry spells. Sometimes those times of frustration lead to greater clarity and end up being a very good thing. So, be kind to yourself, okay?
What about you? How do YOU get out of a creative rut?
Do you need a plan to help you get back into a creative groove? My online course, SHINE, is packed with information that will encourage you to make creativity a priority in your life. You’ll receive access to 7 podcasts, a printable workbook, and a lot of bonus exercises designed to get you back into your creative groove. You’re going to love it! Click here or on the image below to learn more.
Taking a break is a big one for me. It seems like once I take a break either for a few days or a few weeks, I am suddenly full of ideas and energy to actually get them done. (visiting from This is How We Roll Thursdays)
I’m so glad you stopped by, Julie! 🙂 Isn’t it amazing how just taking a break in a project helps refresh you? It does wonders for me at times when I’m feeling so stuck. Hope you have a great day! 🙂
I LOVE all these tips! Any thing I could think of to encourage someone in how to get out of a creative rut, I’m pretty sure you covered!
Thank you so much, Maggie! 🙂 You’re the best! Hope you’re having a great week. 🙂
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