What Happened When I Stopped Fighting My Creative Rut
It happens slowly, and then all at once.
I'm not talking about love, although I have found that statement to be true, I'm talking about something much less appealing: the creative burn-out. When the ideas dry up. When the sheer joy of doing your craft morphs into a burden. When a blank page looks more like a void and less like an opportunity.
I've been battling a creative drought recently and I gotta be honest, I'm tired of beating myself up about it. I'm tired of wondering HOW ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH could I lose inspiration at a time in my life when everything is new and yet to be uncovered. I'm tired of thinking that it's my own fault, if only I had the willpower to DO the work then the inspiration would return to me like an energetic little puppy. And maybe there is some truth in the thought but if there is, why does it make me feel so...bad? Guilt is not a good foundation for inspiration, this I know.
For the last few weeks, I decided to loosen my grip a little bit and just ride the wave. I opened my mind, and my time, to simply wandering. Some days I "wandered" over to Netflix and Gilmore Girls, but other days I'd feel a tingle of excitement over a new project. And so instead of saying, "No, I need to write, not do that other thing," I allowed myself to just say yes and see what happened. I hope you've been okay with that.
In the process, I've found quite a few things that are slowly waking up my creative spirit again. These are simple ideas, really, and perhaps not anything new to you. I've seen several blog posts and articles discussing this idea of a creative slump and how to fix it, but it wasn't so much the content as it was the timing, for me. If you're not in a creative rut, run and look the other way! Keep doing what you're doing! Live in that glorious space and all its magical delights!
But if you are in a slump, I hope this meets you at a time when you most need it. I'm not writing this just to create some more content and stay relevant so that, God-forbid, you forget me and never like another Instagram post. I'm writing it because it's very real to me right now. And if I've learned anything from ATD, it's that the real moments in my life are the ones that speak the loudest in yours.
Here are a few things I've done in the last two weeks to free up my imagination to create again:
Read a book or two.
I started the 90s book club, selfishly, because I wanted to remember what it felt like to be lost inside the magic of a book for the first time. Guess what: it worked. Re-reading my first-love books have sent me into a rabbit hole of stories and I feel like that old lady who finally got to swim in spaghetti in Patch Adams: incandescently happy. My library card is maxed out and my nightstand is practically made of books at this point. The wonderful thing is, reading a book is a straight-up imagination portal. It's more accessible: now, when I need it, there's already a stopper holding open the door.
Indulge in a hobby.
My mother taught me to sew one summer and I like to pick it back up every once in awhile. I made some tasseled pillow covers for our couch and wondered how difficult it would be to make myself a new dress. Just around that time, my aunt shared this blog with me and I just knew I could do it. So last weekend? I did! I've already got a few styles in mind for another and I love that I'm creating something, getting new clothes, and saving money all at the same time. I'm also embarrassingly proud of this silly dress, which is a great creative boost.
Learn something new.
In my perfect world, I'd be able to talk to animals and flowers would blossom everywhere I'd go. (Yes, Snow White is my favorite.) My perfect world was shattered when every single succulent that I bought for our wedding centerpieces died within a year. I tried populating and failed. Recently, I tried to grow a potato vine and one day woke up to a rotten, molding potato sinking in a glass of dirty water on the window sill. ALAS! I'm determined to keep some plants alive and so far we have 7 in the house that haven't died. At least 4 of those are thriving! I've been reading up on how to nurture these little babies and it feels good to take on a new skill that's just for me to enjoy.
Read this article and listen to this podcast.
If the current article you're reading won't help you (it's cool, guys) then perhaps that one will. I read it at a time when I really needed it, and this was my favorite takeaway:
Intentionally ignore Pinterest for a week and travel, talk to new people, shop at a store you don’t usually stop into. Slowly but surely, those trend-formulated blinders will slide off and you’ll spot something new to build on.
Somehow, I have neither read nor seen Eat Pray Love, but I'm dying to get my hands on the new It Book you've seen all over Instagram, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I stumbled across her podcast in desperate motivation to make traffic a more productive use of my time and I'm addicted. Liz encourages creatives in particular situations, offering advice and assignments along the way. I furiously jot down little snippets (heavy hitters like: "All procrastination is fear..." and, "A talent we have but don't use becomes a burden..."). Listen once and 20 minutes later you'll be ready to face that mountain.
Go on a hike.
Easier for some, perhaps, but if you can find a way to get outside and stretch your body's capabilities a bit, do it. Matty and I live just over a mile from the entrance of Runyon Canyon, which re-opened recently after being closed for renovations since we moved here. We (willingly!) got up at 6 AM on a Sunday morning to hike the trail before visiting our favorite breakfast spot. Once we reached flat land (uh, hello, that hike is much harder than the celebs with their coffee cups make it look), I looked over to Matty and said, "I needed this." Some combination of the open air, the physical challenge and the camaraderie of others on the trail made me feel more inspired than I had in weeks.
I knooow, I know. You just want to scroll through this section because "Travel" shows up on every freakin' list ever. Want better skin? Travel. Want better friends? Travel. Want to lose weight? Travel.
But guys. It works. It could be a quick day trip or a visit home to surprise your mom for her 60th birthday (hi, mom!), just go. It's less about escaping and more about giving yourself something to digest besides the usual day-to-day. Think less about the things that burden you. Think more about the possibilities. I think that travel, done well, reminds us who we truly are.
Spend time with family or friends.
Surround yourself with people who have seen you high and seen you low. They'll remind you what you're capable of and they'll say things to you like, "Just stop whining and write already," but then they'll also bring you ice cream if that makes you cry. Pick up the phone. Write them an email. Book a flight. Do what you gotta do.
So, the big question: is it working? Well...I'm writing, aren't I!
Even though my mind is currently fixated on finishing the crucial last chapters of my current read, creating a pattern for a pink dress, baking up some paleo treats, and eating pancakes. The thoughts of a truly distinguished lady.
But I'm also thinking about characters, grasping onto glimpses of an idea, and imagining stories yet to be told. Because no matter how messy, boring, disheartening, or dull the creative process can get, the payoff is always worth it.
Sooo...what holds you back? Even better, what moves you forward?