By Rhiannon Humphreys
It’s a timeless struggle for all creatives – how does one stay inspired and motivated on the days where your mind seems to be blank and your ideas run dry? It’s hard enough when your art is just a personal (unmonetized) passion, but even harder when your job requires you to pump out content on command. I’m a poet, and lately I’ve had a lot of difficulty writing any poetry longer than a couple of lines, so the conundrum of how to overcome creative block has been playing on my mind.
A misconception amongst non-creatives is that our work is the product of inspiration and talent, but in fact the largest part of it is hard work and discipline.
Although the former two are a key part, creatives who pump out content regularly (especially as part of a job) aren’t in a cloud of divine inspiration all the time, they’ve just worked hard enough at their craft to have discovered a way that they (personally) can create even when they don’t feel particularly motivated. However, no methods are fool-proof, and even if you rarely feel uninspired, you may need to try something different now and then.
So, found yourself struggling? Here are my (tried and tested) methods to kickstart your creativity again:
- Absorb as much art as you can – whether you’re revisiting personal favourites or discovering new creators. Ingesting other people’s work may inspire and spark a new idea in you, or just remind you why you love your craft.
- Take stimulating breaks. When I’m trying to create something and I’m working to a deadline, it’s all too easy to give into the temptation to lock myself away until it’s finished. This is often counterproductive, as I end up feeling worse if things aren’t going my way and being in the same space for hour after hour can become claustrophobic and repetitive.
- In the same vein, make sure you’re peppering you days with other interesting activities besides work. It’s hard to create living, breathing work if you yourself aren’t really living. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you don’t have time to do anything apart from work. You do, and you’ll create better content as a result.
- Dare to be rubbish! When you’re uninspired, perfectionism can be your worst enemy. Being brave enough to draft “bad” content gives you a building block to work from, and however uncomfortable it may make you, it’s better than the suffocating sensation of creating nothing at all. Step out of your comfort zone! Nothing you create will be perfect in its first incarnation and it’s okay to not live up to your expectations at first. Keep encouraging yourself and eventually the good stuff will come.
- Without overwhelming yourself, try and toggle between several different projects rather than getting stuck on one. Having to constantly shift your perspective will keep things fresher, and it’s comforting to know that if you’re struggling with one project, you have a shot at making headway with another one.
- Share your struggles. Don’t be embarrassed that you’re having trouble finishing something or feeling creatively dry. Talk to your friends about it – especially if they’re fellow artists! Not only will they sympathise with this universal feeling, they might even be able to suggest something to help.
- Recycle old ideas. As a poet, when I can’t seem to find the words to make a new piece, I go through the notes on my phone to find fragments of old ideas that I never developed. Often there will be an odd couple of words or a phrase that piques my interest, and from that, a new poem can grow.
- Make sure you’re looking after your physical and mental health to the best of your ability. Although I used to write a lot of my poetry when I was depressed or upset, it’s not the healthiest state to expect to write your best work in. By all means draw on negative feelings you’ve experienced, but don’t try to associate your creative productivity with a poor mental state.
Those are just a handful of suggestions to help you find your way again. Of course, no single artist is the same, and everyone works differently. This being said, every creative could do with being more patient and forgiving with themselves.
Even if producing content is part of your job, remember that you’re not a machine, and it’s okay to run out of good ideas.
Inspiration is like the sea. Sometimes ideas come in great crashing waves, and you can churn out work at a rate of knots. Other times, all you can generate are little lapping white horses, fragments of ideas that one day might grow into something more. And then yes, on other days the water is still and quiet, and you have nothing. Take this time to rest, forgive yourself and give yourself space to think and grow, and, perhaps out of the blue, something will inspire you again.