A rut. A block. A creative desert or dry spell. No matter what you call it or what your creative medium, it's likely you've experienced some kind of uninspired, unmotivated period in your work and getting unstuck can feel daunting. Maybe even impossible. I know I'm not alone in saying that there have been times in my career that had me thinking I might as well just throw in the towel and call it day. As you can see, I haven't been taken out yet, and I've inspected those times closely, as if studying anything else in this profession, to narrow it down to a few simple practices you can really lean into when this feeling hits, or when you sense you're being pulled into that vortex of creative void.
*I recommend following these practices in order, as though each are ascending steps leading to creative freedom.
First | Slow Down
There is absolutely nothing more stifling to creative flow than manic flailing around, panicking your way through a task (probably multiple tasks at once, if you're like me). There was a time when multitasking was a prized skill; an esteemed resume merit. But I'm here to tell you, that ship has sailed. And while we're at it, let's send the ol' hustle right on downstream too. Sure, we have to be wise time managers, but I will fight anyone who tells me that creativity can be rushed or that's it's a hustle. I have learned first hand that accelerated chaos, which is usually self-imposed, is the absolute nemesis of good creative work; enjoyable creative work. So slow. It. Down.
Feeling frenzied by a deadline? Go against the seemingly obvious need for speed and just stop. Take a breathe. Take a break. Walk away from it. Honestly, reschedule if you have to/can. It is absolutely crucial that you clear your mind of worry that the job won't get done or can't get done. That can, and often will, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say this all the time with my team, "it's not like the job won't get done." In other words, no matter how much pressure is on you or where it's coming from, realize that if you have any kind of good professional track record at all, it will get done. So relax. Turn off that overheating laptop of a mind, close the tabs. Take a walk. Take a nap. Read a book. Don't be afraid to stop. The funny thing about a creative mind is that it's always that. You're not losing it. It won't be gone when you come back to it. But you could be blocking it by focusing on whatever is stressing you out about the creative task at hand rather than being in a place of mental openness, able to receive that creative channel that you'll always be tapped into.
Second | Cut the Crap
After you've allowed your gears to quit grinding, take a look at some of your motivation and weed out anything that's not
purely about the very best end result of your art. For me, that means I have to eliminate or at the very least, put a pin in, any motivation other than the beauty of my craft. Yes, I have budgets and timelines to adhere to, but I absolutely have to chill out about peripheral things. For example, there was a time in my business that I was way too focused on using pieces that had the highest profit margins. On it's face, it seems like a shrewd business practice. After all, a business has to be profitable and who wouldn't want better margins? Seems reasonable enough. And it is. But it cannot be the deciding factor in my work. Not only does it limit me, it actually changes everything I do. I am no longer a designer when I'm only thinking that way, I'm really just a hustler, trying to flip a buck and I can't stress this enough- as a creative and especially as a designer, an amazing portfolio will take you farther financially than a room full of upcharged crap ever will. This is just some of the stuff I had to cut. It could also be simple glorified convenience, vendor relationships or even schedule that blocks your flow. Make sure you're keeping it in check, weighing the worth, and keeping your focus clear. The priority must always be beautiful, authentic work- whatever that looks like for you.
Third | Get Back in Tune
With chaos cleared and priorities calibrated, it's time to remember your creative power. You are good at this. This is why you do what you do and your clients hired you. You are the expert. You have the skills and the talent. Reconnect to this and spend some time immersed in whatever inspires you. This can be as extravagant as travel or as simple as letting yourself get sucked down a Pinterest hole and daydream. This time is about recharging, refilling, and reminding yourself that you have exactly what it takes to absolutely crush it. You don't have to try or strive anymore, trust your own talent and let it lead you.
Fourth and Final | Let it Flow
This is the simplest part. Just let it flow. From this realigned position, trusting your talent is easy and maybe not even conscious, it just is. I'm telling you, you will watch your best work come to life when you take the steps to break the "try" cycle and get back to trusting what got you where you are to begin with.