Creative work isn’t always free-flowing.
There are times when we feel like anything is possible: Ideas are coming one after another and we have the resolve to get things done.
However there are also times when we lose that drive.
Creative slumps are a period of time when creative energy slows or stalls. This can happen due to various reasons ranging from lack of ideas, lack of motivation, or stress from overworking.
Throughout the years that I have been working in the creative field, I have had many periods of creative slumps, whether they last a week or several months.
That is why I decided to create a blog post for others who want effective ways on breaking out of their own creative slumps.
1. Find What Ignites Your Fire
I believe one of the most helpful insights we can have about ourselves is figuring out what ignites our passion.
We all have something that lights up a fire in us: The fire that leads to excitement, motivation, and determination to achieve a goal.
For example, it could be the idea of making more money. Beating a goal. Recognition. Inspiration or a role model. Your loved ones. Future success.
Make a list of things that get you excited to do something.
For example, for me, I love feeling at ease.
It seems like weird driving force, but somehow I learned to use it to my advantage especially during my time in school.
I would always finish my work in advance or study in advance because I love the feeling of not being burdened by due dates.
I would also accomplish more difficult tasks first so I could feel at ease later.
I learned pretty early on that I could use my love for being free and at ease to my advantage (as a delayed-gratification reward) and it has carried over into my creative work.
I have accomplished so much because of it.
So do some self-analysis and figure out what thoughts and ideas get you excited to do something.
2. Identify What’s Stopping You
Sometimes we’re in creative slumps not because we don’t have ideas, but there are root issues or thoughts stopping us from executing our ideas.
The first step of overcoming this is becoming self-aware of what is stopping you.
Maybe your environment or circumstances has always felt poor, so throughout your life you don’t try to reach for more.
Maybe you don’t like the feeling of being uncomfortable or trying something new so you only do what feels comfortable.
Maybe you wonder what others will think about you.
Or perhaps you think it’s not going to work and stop everything before you even give it a try.
There are thousands of different reasons why your mind may be stopping you, but you need to be aware that these are just wandering thoughts the brain mindlessly thinks.
These thoughts aren’t true.
In the end, you make the choice whether you believe them to be true or not with the actions you take.
So next time you have a thought that kills the excitement you have to start on a creative idea, bring your attention to what kind of thought it was.
Do you really want that thought to be true?
Instead, what other mindset would you rather have?
And take action on what you truly want for yourself.
3. Stop Thinking and Just Start
Sometimes we unintentionally put ourselves in a “creative slump” by overthinking on our ideas or the next step.
We try to plan out everything on top of all the Plan B’s and C’s in case Plan A doesn’t work.
We may say to ourselves that thinking about it is part of the creative process, when really, isn’t it just leaving it off for later?
Stop thinking ahead about the “what-if’s” or what you have to do after you finish step one… GET ALL OF THAT OUT OF YOUR HEAD!
Research what you need and begin on the first step.
I find it helpful to use an easy tutorial to follow along to step-by-step.
If this isn’t applicable for your case, try thinking about it like this: If you’ve been thinking about this idea for so long, it must be very important to you. Are you okay with just leaving it off so long that you end up never making something of it?
And in case you’re still thinking about it, look up Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule (or check out this Youtube video here). Essentially you countdown out-loud from 5 to 1 and do the task you need to do at the end of the countdown.
This forces you to stop thinking and focus on the task you actually need to do.
4. Self-Discipline Strategies
Sometimes we just can’t rely solely on motivation to keep us going creatively.
Finding self-discipline strategies that work for you is critical to keep the creative momentum moving.
Here are a few self-discipline strategies to try out and see which one fits best for you:
- Countdown: Start counting down from 5 and do the task once you reach 1 (Credit goes to The 5 Second Rule from Mel Robbins)
- Write down a To-Do List (It can even be just one item on the list, but do it!)
- Give yourself a reward after performing the task or reaching your goal
- Perform a task while doing something you love (I love drinking coffee while working, so much so that if I go out and buy coffee, I find myself wanting to drink it while working) – I think this creates a more positive association with work.
- Delayed Gratification Mindset: Truly know and believe that the actions you take now are the seeds of success you plant for your future self.
- Say no to distractions or temptations (Focus gets things done!)
- Acknowledge and keep track of your progress: Write down in a journal what you’re proud of and the progress you’ve made.
5. Shift from a Work Mindset to a Play Mindset
Try incorporating a separate session during your day where you create for yourself and not to show others.
Sometimes the pressure of having to work, perform better, and make more money can cause stress and stall the creative process.
You lose all sense of fun and enjoyment from the creative hobbies you used to love.
If this is the case, give yourself a break from creating something for work. Create something for fun instead.
Don’t worry about whether your work is worthy of being shown to other people. No one will see this work aside from yourself.
So have fun and let go of expectations.
Create something silly, messy, weird, or whatever you like.
Do it for the enjoyment, and who knows – It might lead you to some new and beautiful creative insights.
6. Find a Different Idea
I will occassionally have a slew of ideas to work on but not have the urge or excitement to carry out those ideas.
During these periods I often assume it is a creative slump regarding all ideas, but really as soon as I stumble upon one different, very specific idea the creative slump disappears and the excitement returns.
Creative slumps can sometimes be redirection.
Maybe it’s a part of you telling yourself that right now is not the right time for certain ideas, and another direction feels right instead.
But how can you tell?
When you’ve been working creatively for a long time, sometimes you work in a more logical fashion.
You stick to ideas that have worked well before and find yourself doing the same thing every time.
Having the urge to diversify or try something new is normal, especially when it comes to creative fields.
Give yourself permission to try new things while also giving your audience what they want as well.
7. Take Action
Sometimes we all need to just start doing something (no matter how small of an action).
Even the smallest steps can lead you to bigger places, so here is a list of easy actionable creative things you can do now.
Hopefully, doing some of these steps can help you get your creative drive back.
If you would like some drawing ideas, I have a bunch of blog posts to follow along to:
8. Seek Inspiration
If your creative slump is due to a complete lack of ideas, here are some ways you can seek inspiration from the world around you.
- Scroll through Pinterest
- Read a book
- Look at art / art process (Youtube, Instagram, etc)
- Listen to songs
- Analyze your dreams (Did you know that Mendeleev was able to create the periodic table of elements because he saw it in his dream?)
- Take a walk out in nature
- Try a new hobby
- Spend time alone
- Spend time with others
- Learn something new
Extra: Maybe You Do Need to Rest!
Some of the creative slumps I have come due to the fact that I overwork myself.
There are periods of my life where I love working from the moment of I wake up to the moment I sleep. I would even work on the weekends because work no longer feels like work and it is something I do for fun.
I don’t have anything else I need to worry about so I just focus my time on work.
However, this snapshot of my life is during my creative highs. Eventually I end up crashing and burning if I don’t keep myself in-check.
There have been weeks or even months where I didn’t feel like doing anything after these creative highs because I overwork myself.
Sometimes we’re in creative slumps for a reason.
Learn to identify when you just need to rest… and rest!
It is perfectly okay to rest when you’ve been working so hard!
During these times, I still do some work through self-discipline tactics, but I don’t put myself down for not producing as much work as during my creative highs.
Accept that life isn’t a straight, consistent line. It’s a crazy wavy line that goes up and down, back and forth – and that is completely okay and normal!
Thank you so much for stopping by this blog post!
I hope you found some helpful mindsets and strategies to help you out of your creative slump.
Creative slumps are normal to practically all creatives.
They feel horrible to be in, but they won’t last forever.
They are an opportunity of growth and I often find they are pivotal to new self-discoveries about ourselves and our creative path.
You will overcome this! Trust in that!
I wish you have a wonderful day or night my fellow creatives! Take care as always!