We all know those days. The days when you feel drained of creativity and no ideas come to mind. You look at your paper, laptop, notebooks, or magazines for inspiration, but simply have no clue what to do next. Your mind feels empty, your ideas missing and your creativity feels like it went down the drain. It’s so familiar to all of us. Whether you’re in the arts, dancers, magicians, teachers, writers, or designers, we all need creativity. And when it’s gone, it can be very frustrating and worrying.
November 15, 2021
We look at ‘lost creativity’ to figure out why it might happen and the best ways to overcome it. As people ourselves who are creative for a living, it’s quite handy to, at least, understand this process. And we believe anybody can need to spark their creativity from time to time.
So, where does it come from, this sluggish feeling that none of your ideas are any good and nothing mind-blowing is emerging? There are a million reasons that this might happen, and it will vary from person to person. You might have had a bit too much wine yesterday, and your body is in recovery mode; you might have watched too many episodes of a dramatic TV series, and your idea-generating brain is occupied with figuring out the unbelievably bad plot, or you might be over-working. It might be the weather, the news, your diet, or you simply just don’t feel like it today.
Creativity isn’t a given. It’s a skill, we believe, that you need to nurture. Just like you need to train to keep fit, you can also train your creative muscles. By challenging yourself, taking care of your body, and giving your brain some rest, your creative muscle will grow stronger.
With most of our daily lives filled with distraction and long to-do lists, we often don’t leave ourselves time to explore, to wonder, to sit, and to think. This is where creativity comes from. Creativity isn’t a neatly organized process you can jot down on a to-do list. Creativity can be messy, and it comes sporadically. But if we don’t create space for creativity to come to us naturally, it will certainly go to someone else.
Ok, so we figured out that one of the biggest reasons we end up in a creative rut is because we fill up all our hours on any given day and don’t leave space for creativity to flourish. The solution? Get bored. But not bored in the ‘sit-in-front-of-a-tv-for-hours-on-end’ kind of way. But bored in the ‘I’m-just-walking-outside-and-have-nothing-in-particular-to-do’ way. Sitting in front of a TV does not give you the mental space to think. Walking without a goal other than simply walking frees up that space for thoughts to flood in.
Why do you think ideas often come up in shower? Or what about that creative spurt moments before you fall asleep? When your mind is in a state of rest, with nothing it particularly needs to do, your creativity finally gets the space to step forward and present to you all those amazing ideas it has cooked up in your subconscious.
There is another magical thing happening when you get ‘bored’. It’s called incubation. Incubation happens when you sit on your ideas or inspiration and let them sink in. This is when the magic happens. So, let’s get bored; bored in a way that our minds can run free. Let ideas pop up and creativity come running back to us. Sounds like a plan, right?
Far too often we run to the internet for ideas and inspiration. As a designer, you might spend hours on Behance looking for ideas. As a dancer you probably spend hours on YouTube looking for a creative spark; as writers, you have read thousands of articles; and as cinematographers, you have seen every single video on Vimeo. But is that the correct way?
Ideas can’t be found online; they are found in your mind. Sure, you must fuel your mind with inspiration and information to cook something up, but if you stay online and online only, nothing will be created within you.
Your ideas are just that, YOUR ideas. And because your idea does not exist yet, it cannot be found online. So, after we get bored and keep offline, we let our creative brains run free with the fuel we put in it. The fuel we find from appreciating the environment, observing wildlife, time with family and friends, and taking in art.
Still feeling demotivated and that your creativity has left for good? First, don’t worry, your creativity will come back. There is enough of it in the world, and everyone can have a piece of the pie. But we have to work a little harder to get it.
Having a routine can be wonderful for productively, but a routine with no space to explore new ideas can bring an end to your creativity. Let’s switch things around! If your morning run normally takes you through the city streets, then find a park instead. If you always look for ideas online, leave your phone behind and go to a library. If you always listen to hip-hop music, try a classical playlist. Change it up and do something completely different.
This can be one of the easiest ways to spark creativity. By simply allowing your brain to figure out how to do something new, you put things in motion. And as many Instagram quotes have said before us, “motion creates emotion”.
Trying googling those topics you never really thought much about; read a book on a subject you know nothing about or do a craft you never tried before. Get out of your comfort zone!
Getting started is often way harder than doing the actual work. The first 25 minutes are the tough part. After that, you get in a state of ‘flow’ and the work just continues. To trick your brain, say to yourself you are going to work for 25 minutes on the given task instead of setting a goal of 4 hours. 4 hours of solid work can seem too big and daunting, but 25 minutes is doable. You know what will happen, right? You will most probably get sucked into the work and the 4, 5, or 6 hours will fly by.
This technique is called ‘The Pomodoro Technique’ and it’s a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late ‘80s. Set a time for 25 minutes to get started, and the rest will be history. Trust us, this really works!
And finally, we talked about where a creative rut comes from, how to get out of it and how to stay inspired. But we forgot to mention one important thing; it’s all a cycle. You can’t and won’t always be creative. Although we often strive to be constantly creative, and our work might demand this from us, you can’t and you won’t always be creative.
When taking on a creative project, consider the possibility that your upcoming week might be a ‘not-so-creative’ week. This is not an excuse to do nothing and wait for your creativity to arrive on time, like a train. Creativity is hard-won and you need to go after it. But understanding the dips and highs of the creative cycle means you can manage your workflow better.
So, keep feeding your brain with ideas, take breaks, go for a walk, plan a 25-minute task, and get started. You’ve got this!