Lately I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. To be honest, I feel like it takes an incredible amount of effort to make anything, whether I’m writing a blog post, creating new pieces of art, or cooking dinner! Can you relate? You may or may not be an artist, but have you ever been in a place where you just feel really uninspired and can’t think of anything new? Now before you claim you’re not creative, I’d argue that creativity is required in a lot of different areas—from parenting, to building morale at the office, to creating a budget, to meeting whatever deadlines are on your calendar! So when you are feeling blank and flat and clueless (as I’ve been!), how do you jumpstart your creativity?
Now, there are a lot of resources out there and a lot of places to look for inspiration on the interwebs, but as I’ve been trying to “refill my creative well”, I’m also trying to spend less time online. If you’re feeling stuck, here are some ideas for jumpstarting your creativity that don’t require you to get sucked into Pinterest all evening (even if that does make for a nice escape sometimes!)
Read a book with pictures - I’m a total sucker for picture books, whether they are children’s books or the gorgeous coffee table variety. While I do read a lot on my Kindle, there is no replacement for feeling the pages and looking at beautiful photography or illustrations in living color. Some books I’m going to for inspiration right now:
- Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists - Interviews from artists and how they overcome creative block, plus photos of their work.
- Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art - Rich illustrations detail how to slow down and experience more joy in embroidery by trying simple techniques, reinventing materials, and limiting equipment.
- Uppercase Magazine - A beautiful quarterly magazine for the creative and curious intended to spark the imagination and inspire creativity in its readers. Each issue is lovingly designed by Janine Vangool and is worth saving for future use.
Browse the local library - Libraries are such magical places - all those books! I wonder how many of us venture into libraries nowadays. I really love making use of mine and just exploring what’s on the shelves. Whether it’s poetry, baking, quilting or birdwatching, find an area you’re interested in, make yourself comfortable and browse through the treasure trove.
Get outside into nature - Last weekend after a busy few days with family and friends, I was really craving the outdoors. Too much time indoors is stifling and there was nothing I wanted more than to get outside and get my blood flowing. The temperatures were finally less humid and the cool breeze was totally invigorating, so I took a brisk walk through the woods for a couple of miles. Reconnecting with nature and getting my body moving not only clears my head and shrinks my problems, it makes me feel alive and energized!
Look to your peers - What problem are you struggling with, and what sort of creative solutions have other people in your sphere or industry come up with to combat it? Learn from them and add your own twist to their solutions, or use their work as a jumping off point to something totally different.
Look at a different industry or organization - As wonderful as it is to follow peers or people in your industry, I think it’s equally important to look for inspiration outside of this “box”. I love seeing the work of other embroiderers, but it doesn’t inspire me half as much as when I explore the work of writers, ministry leaders or print makers. TED talks are one resource that’s great for learning outside your immediate sphere. Learn how to apply wisdom from other areas to your unique problem.
Listen to podcasts - The nice thing about listening instead of watching is you can be moving around at the same time. Go for a jog or a drive in your car and pop in a podcast. Interviews are probably my fave to listen to (especially when they’re with artists!) They have a way of reminding me that I’m not alone in my struggles and insecurities, and dare me to imagine future possibilities. Some of my current favorites:
- While She Naps with Abby Glassenberg - Interviews with designers and makers about what it really takes to build a creative business.
- The Jealous Curator: ART FOR YOUR EAR - Interviews with artists about their work and life.
- The Merriweather Council Podcast - Bite-sized episodes featuring tips, advice and tough love for running a handmade business.
Try something new - What’s a project or hobby you’ve been curious about, but maybe a little nervous about tackling? Today’s the day to step out and give it a try. Often in these moments of hesitation I’m really fearing failure, but the risk is worth the reward. Who knows what sort of breakthroughs might come from delving into something new? For me, this currently looks like painting a 2D sculpture on canvas. I have some rough ideas about where I want to take this, but it intimidates me a bit too because I’m in completely new territory. But it’s always something I’ve wanted to try, so I’m diving in!
Go exploring - Sometimes I find I just crave time to slowly explore so I can chase beauty with my five senses. Whether I’m visiting a museum, going for a hike, or checking out a local festival, I always take my camera along and just tune my senses to pay attention to everything around me. Which direction is the wind blowing and what are the scents it brings with it? What colors, shapes or patterns am I surrounded by? What are all the sounds I can identify at this moment? It’s a discipline to be fully present, but engaging our senses is a great way to refill our creative wells.
Hunt and gather - My niece loves to collect smooth white stones, small twigs and other bits of natural beauty when we go for walks. I’m beginning to think this practice would be good for me too. When you’re out and about, what can you collect for later inspection? Maybe it’s a business card for a new restaurant or a flier for that local painting class. Maybe it’s broken and imperfect shells from the beach, or wildflowers for a vase. Again, the point is to be present and tuned in to what’s around you, allowing yourself to be curious and explore. Don’t let yourself feel silly for tucking a pretty stone in your pocket. Who knows what it could kickstart down the road.
Do a daily challenge - There are lots of creative daily challenges out there to choose from. The great thing about these exercises is they are generally quick to do, and they put just enough limits on you that you focus your creativity on one area. Sometimes having too many choices can cause analysis paralysis. For example, I’m trying to do a drawing a day, but I find it much easier to approach when I narrow it to a category (like plants or birds) rather than deciding that I can draw whatever I want. Try creating an assignment for yourself for 30 days and see what you come up with!