How to get out of a creative rut? If you are a creative person of any kind, you are sure to have come across the dreaded “creative rut”. Your mind goes blank, your workload looks onerous, there is nothing called “mojo” to be found anywhere nearby, and life looks like an endless downward spiral. How do you get out of this morose state of affairs, when you’re additionally racked by guilt that you are doing nothing towards your goals? I thought it would be good to go outside the community of content marketers to see how people in other fields of creativity deal with the creative rut! Sometimes, the answers are not the usual ones if you check in with people not of your field.
Our Content Marketing Roundups usually pick topics that most people would consider a question without easy answers. We think it’s important to see how different people have worked their way around the many challenges of this issue. That’s why we have chosen this topic of Getting Out Of The Creative Rut – for you to get suggestions from those who’ve found ways to come out of it.
Our picks for this Content Marketing RoundUp include some great quotes from the blog posts of Chuck Sambuchino, Margarita Tartakovsky, Lisa Evans, Mattias Westlund, Randle Browning, V Renée, Sam Matla and Cosette Jarrett. I hope their opinions open your mind to the ways to get your creative juices flowing again, if they get jammed. How to use these points of view is then up to you.
Keep showing up, even if you don’t think you’ll write a single word: Chuck Sambuchino
Chuck Sambuchino in the article “5 Steps for Getting Out of a Creative Rut”:
When you’re in a rut, it can be tempting to park yourself in front of the TV and wait for the muse to come back to you. But the truth is, this will only prolong your rut.
Instead, keep showing up. Even if you don’t think you’ll write a single word, it’s important to keep getting yourself in front of your work-in-progress on a regular basis. In fact, make it a habit. It won’t be immediate, but if you show up on a regular schedule to write, your muse will start showing up, too.
But even as you wait for your muse to show up, you might be surprised at what you accomplish. After just five minutes of staring at my draft, my mind starts to get bored and the words start to come. Even if they’re not the best words I’ve ever written, it’s still better than nothing—lines on the page give me something to come back and edit later.
If appropriate, make a list of tasks you need to complete for your work-in-progress, and order them from easiest to hardest. Or, find the point of re-entry into your manuscript that feels easiest. Start there, even if it means writing out of order. Starting with what feels easy is a great way to rebuild your confidence and tap into your flow.
We all hit a creative rut on occasion. The trick is not to let it get in your head and drag you down. Instead, keep your confidence up and use these steps to dig your way back out of it.”
A sense of powerlessness and habitual ways of thinking are the culprits: Margarita Tartakovsky
Margarita Tartakovsky in the article “7 ways to get out of a creative rut”:
According to Christine Mason Miller, a mixed-media artist and author of Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World, it’s normal to experience ebbs and flows in your creativity. A creative rut, however, goes beyond these regular vacillations and lasts longer, she said.
Miller believes that a sense of powerlessness contributes to creative dry spells. “It is challenging to tap into our creative well if we are dealing with unsettling issues related to our health, family dynamics, friendships, professional environment and finances,” she said.
Jolie Guillebeau, an artist who uses paintings as a way to tell stories, views fear as the biggest factor in creative ruts. “I find myself afraid to change things, because they’re working, then I find myself in a rut.” For Guillebeau, that rut can lead to self-doubt, which only fuels her fear, becoming “an ugly spiral.”
In the same vein, “habitual ways of thinking and reacting” sabotage creativity, according to Keri Smith, an illustrator and author of several bestselling books on creativity, including Finish this Book. “It is often tempting to recreate our past successes but this does not lead to new ideas and conclusions,” she said.
Our traditional view of work — “time plus effort equals results” — doesn’t help either, said Jen Lee, an independent media producer and performer in New York City’s storytelling scene. “We think, if only we had more time or had the energy to try harder we could get around to the creative projects we dream of or finally finish the ones we’ve started.”
When we look at creative work this way, Lee said, it becomes another task or chore. “Inside this model, our creative work is just another thing on our list of things we ‘should’ be doing, and the variables we think we need can seem outside our control to get.”
Make the decision that you are creative, and schedule creativity dates: Lisa Evans
Lisa Evans in the article “How to dig yourself out of a creative rut”:
Make the decision that you are creative. To get out of a creative rut, you need to take action. Get into the mind-set that you are creative.
You could state it out loud or write down statements such as “I am a creative person” and “I hear creative ideas.” Repeat these statements, and set your intentions to ignite your creative flow.
Schedule creative dates. While some people may need solitude to unleash their creativity, others find creative stimulation through interaction with others. Schedule a minimum of one hour a week to have a creative date, either with yourself or with others, depending on how your creative spark gets ignited.
If you prefer solitude, take a notebook to a café and try some creative writing or visit a museum to get inspired by art if that triggers your creative muscle. If you’re inspired by others, get together with a group of colleagues or friends with the intention of brainstorming.”
Don’t be so hard on yourself or be your own worst critic: Mattias Westlund
Mattias Westlund in the article “10 tips for getting out of a creative rut”:
You’re your own worst critic. It’s something of a cliché but it holds a lot of truth. Striving to do better, to be better, and constantly comparing ourselves with our peers and the people we look up to and consider masters of the craft, we often end up thinking we suck worse than we actually do.
By focusing on our weaknesses we become blind to the strengths we actually possess. While this isn’t something you can snap out of just like that — learning to have confidence in your own work takes time — being aware of it lets you start working on keeping these feelings in check.
Even if you have a tendency of questioning your abilities (and who doesn’t?), I’m pretty sure there’s stuff you’ve done in the past that you’re reasonably happy with. You should revisit it from time to time, to remind yourself that even if you can’t do exactly what the masters are doing — yet! — you’re not half bad at it either.
An even better way of boosting your self-confidence is going back to your early work and comparing it to where you are at today. This will prove beyond any doubt that you are making progress, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.”
My perfectionism helped me get good grades, sure, but it decimated my creativity: Randle Browning
Randle Browning in the article “How To Get Out Of A Creative Rut”:
Growing up, when teachers and parents called me a “perfectionist,” I thought it was a compliment. Now I see that perfectionism can help you rise to the top, but it also becomes a liability if you let it gain too much sway in your life. My perfectionism helped me get good grades, sure, but it decimated my creativity in the process.
I believed that if I couldn’t rise to the top, I had nothing to contribute. If I didn’t get a perfect score, I was no good at all. And because I valued winning over doing well, my perfectionism made me believe it was better to be silent than to risk being mediocre.
Perfectionism doesn’t just mean “doing your best,” it also demands that you’re the best. But being the best is about ego—it takes the focus off of how your work could inspire others, and puts it on you. Now I’ve learned to ask: Who is this perfectionism serving? Would I demand this level of perfection from a friend? What could I learn by moving forward, even though I know I’m not “perfect”?
I’m also learning to value practice over perfectionism. The thing is, almost no one is perfect at something the first time—performing well in any capacity usually means you’ve practiced well. So why let your unrealistic expectations of yourself prevent you from practicing?”
Sometimes we all need permission to buck convention and break rules: V Renée
V Renée in the article “8 Kinda Weird Ways to Get out of a Creative Rut”:
You know what, guys? Sometimes we all need permission.
“Uuuuhhhh, I don’t need permission from anyone, let alone some short-haired, ninja mask-wearing writer who thinks she…”
Okay, shoosh. Calm it. It’s not a ninja mask. What I’m saying is…sometimes we all need permission to…how do I put this…to do some weird shit.
Yeah, I know some of you are super confident “I can do what I want when I want” types, but not everyone is like that. Some of us are a little more reserved, like to play by the rules, and inevitably get pinned down by the weight of convention, feeling our creative bones buckle as we desperately try to figure out how we got stuck in the first place if we followed all the damn rules!
Intentionally bucking convention and breaking the rules can produce awesome results.”
After spending a while away, it gets difficult, and your only desire is to produce: Sam Matla
Sam Matla in the article “5 Things to do When You’re Stuck in a Creative Rut (Or Unmotivated)”:
I’ve always had an issue with this one, mainly because it’s hard to do. For some people, taking time off seems absurd, especially if you’re trying to make a living off music. I agree, it’s stupid. While you’re taking time off, someone else is busy at work, creating music. Why are you not doing anything?
Here’s the thing though, you can’t force this. If you treat music production like a job, then you’ll likely become less passionate about it which can ultimately lead to a lack of motivation and creativity, for example: If I’m doing freelance audio production I find that I have more of a ‘get it over and done with’ mindset, which isn’t ideal.
If you find yourself trying to force it, take some time off. Spend a week away from music production altogether, and see how it helps. If it doesn’t help? Fine, don’t do it again. But in most cases it will.
Why would this even work? If you’ve ever been in a relationship you’ll know that spending a week away from your partner has some sort of effect on the emotional section of your brain. It goes something like this:
- Finally, I’m away. I can spend some time alone!
- You know, I’m actually starting to kinda miss him/her
- Okay, I’m sick of this
- [finally reunited] YAY!
Call me weird, but I find it the same with music production. After spending a while away, it gets difficult, you find that inspiration, and your only desire is to produce: you’re out shopping for groceries and you can’t get that new melody out of your head. Hear a new song on the radio and all you’re picturing is yourself in front of your DAW.
Unless you get paid by the hour, then taking some time off can be incredibly beneficial. It doesn’t have to be long, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re not committed. If you’re worrying about not progressing then just remember that when coming back after a break you’ll be moving ahead at 110%.”
Regular exercise improves creative thought by acting as a cognitive enhancer: Cosette Jarrett
Cosette Jarrett in the article “6 Ways to Get Out of a Creative Rut”:
Get your body moving. Studies show that taking part in regular exercise improves creative thought by acting as a cognitive enhancer. The catch is, you have to exercise regularly to see the full benefits.
Getting up and moving around when you’re feeling unmotivated might help you gain a little focus back, but creating and sticking to a regular fitness routine will help you build and maintain a stronger ability to focus in the long run.
The Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. This means you should shoot for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week.
If you don’t think you have time for this at the end of the day, consider transitioning to walking meetings or dedicate a portion of your lunch hour to taking a quick jog or walk around your building.
If neither of those is an option, you could always start your day 30 minutes early and get a quick workout in before you head to the office.
Making time to work out isn’t always easy, but it will be worthwhile when you not only look and feel better, but also improve your ability to focus and get creative at work.”
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Marketing RoundUps”:
- When Content Marketing Doesn’t Work … Solohacks Roundup #1!
- How To Make Blogging Feel Easier … Solohacks Roundup #2!
- Traffic From SEO vs Traffic From Social … Solohacks Roundup #3!
- Content Creation Outsourcing Success … Solohacks Roundup #4!