Like the moon, the seasons, and blood, all good things come in cycles. So too, I have found, do motivation and inspiration.
If you’ve found yourself at the bottom of a creative pit, you’re struggling to create, ya got no muster, start by asking yourself a few questions!
· Have I been meeting my basic human needs? – eating a good amount of nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water, getting rest and relaxation, have i had a good chat with someone i care about
· Why do I want to create? – i miss the colors, i want to zone out into something, i feel like i’m “supposed to”
· Just what am I trying to do here? – follow my whims, assign myself a task, find inspiration, have i made a to-do list
I’m not sure why, but taking good care of our bodies is not instinctual for many of us, myself included. Apparently you just can’t treat your bod like a punching bag and then demand a non-stop productivity machine. Who knew?? Sometimes a lack of motivation is just your body’s way of saying hey, we don’t have time to draw or write right now. It’s time for vegetables and sleep, remember those?
Part of being an artist and dealing with a constant pressure to create is learning to tune into the waves of your own bod and developing habits that make staying creative easier.
As someone who has dealt with lifelong mental illness, I’ve had to spend a lot of time teaching myself forgiveness, self-care, and understanding, to really shape the way I look at things. I am no stranger to fighting the constant battles of beating myself up for not creating enough when depression strikes, followed by overexerting myself to compensate when it passes.
This cycle leaves me exhausted, and balls-to-the-wall stressed, and my weight constantly fluctuating like crazy--overall non-ideal meat-suit conditions. So, over the last few years I’ve been working hard as hell to find a balance between the highs and lows that come with...well, the body and mind, life, creativity, and everything in between!
This balance comes with reminding myself to eat lunch even if I'm deep in a painting and don't want to get out of the zone, ditching the late-late nights in exchange for sleep, and not frickin beating myself up when I don't have the energy to create.
When I’m being down on myself for “not creating enough”, I like to try to remind myself that anything I do is an act of creation! Whether it be the dinner I make, the outfit I choose, the words I say, lists I make, frickin etc etc, it just goes on.
Asking yourself why you want to create can help you harness some muster, and focus your inspiration! Whyyy? Do you want to mix colors? You could paint! Do you want to do something with your hands? Sculpt! Do you want to channel about how you feel? Write a story!
If you just feel like you GOTTA draw because you “should be” for the practice, do some of the learning basics! Figure studies, speed paints, color swatches, free-writes, sketches from life, anything low-pressure that improves your skill and gets you in the habit of putting pen on paper.
* Sidenote, a bit of inspirational burnout could also be an opportunity for you to look within and see if you need to chill out. Are you demanding too much of yourself? Sometimes you just don’t have the muster for a reason and that’s ok, my dude.
On the flipside, as someone who does this creative thing for my profession, I can’t really always just sit around waiting on inspiration to strike me at just the right time--right when I’m sitting down in front of my desk--pen in hand. I have to stay productive and inspired a lot of the time.
The myth about inspiration:
Inspiration isn’t something you wait around for, it’s a great monster you have to feed regularly and water twice a day or it withers away and hides in the shadows.
If your inspiration monster is starved, you must feed that beasty with things like scenic walks, people watching, and thought-provoking media.
There are times for creation and there are times for observation.
I like to take the times when I don’t have ideas or inspiration to reflect within, and observe the world around me. I take extra care to harness and document thoughts as they come and go throughout the day. In list, and doodles, in Instagram mood boards, and phone note ramblings.
I can’t afford to waste time forcing myself to stress about working on projects I just don’t feel inspired to do yet, because that is the quickest way to burn me out. Learning to balance creativity with productivity for me has been about learning to follow my creative whims (and hoping that my whims stay on task. I’m looking at you mr.to-do list).
Every few hours, I like to pause and ask myself what I am trying to accomplish right now. I just grab my journal, flip open to my latest to-do lists, brilliant ideas, or goals lists, and see what calls out to me (or what is most urgent)!
Having all my ideas and tasks written down in front of me instead of jumbled up in my brain makes it so much less daunting. I have options for things to work on instead of having to think of something to do from thin air, (which usually just leads to deep reddit/instagram rabbit holes and not cool sketches. I just need a designated task ok or else I’m useless).
Often times creative frustration can come from expectations and pressure; expecting your work to turn out a certain way, a pressure to create what we think people want to see, a pressure to create something good and worthwhile. But that’s all nonsense!
We are merely a vessel for creation, we don’t need to decide if something will be good especially before we’ve even finished making it! We can’t guess what other people want to see, or what will resonate with people, art is extremely unpredictable.
The amount of projects I’ve never started because I didn’t think they would turn out very well would put the muses to shame. The amount of times I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with something to draw that would get a lot of praise only to draw it and hate it and not even end up getting likes...just, let’s say far too many.
The most important thing to keep in mind is creativity is meant to be fun, and a means of self-exploration! There’s no one right way to do it. You don’t have to create anything perfect, just have a groovy time with it.
Merely by existing we are creating something that has never been before!
Take inspiration from everyday, ordinary moments.
Dedicate a page in your journal to keeping an ongoing list of little things that matter. Throughout the day whenever you notice a small moment that left you feeling a little something-something, add it to the list.
When you're feeling motivated to create but can’t find the inspiration, come back to this list! Here are a few from my own list to get you started:
· The feeling I get when I look up and see the moon
· Sipping sunny dandelion tea in the spring breeze
· Trying to fall asleep when my brain is being so loud
Rocks and moss