Creativity seems to come naturally early in life. I spent my entire childhood painting bedroom furniture with colorful nail polishes (sorry Mom and Dad). From there, I had a camera permanently affixed to my hand, photographing every last friend, pet, and flower. Eventually, I even became someone who does web design and photography for a living. As these activities transformed from hobbies into a career, I couldn’t help but feel like I had lost my creative spark.
The majority of my fellow creatives seem to understand this concept too, noting, “Ah, I was so much more creative when I was younger” or “Turning my passion into a profession has taken away the drive.”
If you’re an artist of any sort, you know how devastating it is to feel such a sudden loss of creativity. You’ve always defined yourself by this awesome ability, and then, just like that, the pen won’t go to paper, the brush won’t glide on canvas, and the lens shutters less frequently.
While you’d think that such creative people could find a creative way to get out of such a creative rut, it’s really not so simple.
When you’re tired of being uninspired, here are 10 things you can try to reclaim your passion.
1. Go on an adventure – big or small
It doesn’t matter the time of day or where I am, a long drive to nowhere is always a period of introspection and inspiration. Think a little bigger and travel somewhere for a day trip. Even bigger than that, find an inspiring place to vacation and take a few days off.
Given that stagnancy is the death of creativity (or really anything), a new surrounding or experience can be the exact spark you’ve been looking for.
2. Spend an entire day reframing negative situations into positive ones
When someone gets their hopes up only to be let down, they can feel easily defeated and unmotivated. Since many events in our lives are out of our control, it’s important to be able to frame these negative situations with a positive outlook.
Say you’re looking forward to plans with a friend, but they cancel unexpectedly at the last minute. Most people would feel pretty disappointed by this (except you introverted creatives out there), but instead, consider all of the things you can do with this newfound free time you otherwise may not have had.
Or, you’re nervous about an upcoming job interview. Instead of saying, “I’m so anxious about this interview going well,” rephrase it into “I’m so lucky for this opportunity, and I know I’m well-prepared.” This turns your anxiety into optimism with just a few different words.
While it can seem like an overly optimistic and simplistic approach, the power of positive self-talk can have such a grand impact on your life. Try out one day of this trick and see if it doesn’t improve your perspective on life and, ultimately, your creativity. And check out this video: An Experiment in Gratitude: The Science of Happiness.
3. Do something outside of your comfort zone
This could be something as simple as doing something outside of your everyday routine, or something larger than that, depending on where your comfort zone lies. Move towards your fears, where the unexpected exists. This is where new experiences can jumpstart inspiration and creativity.
See a movie by yourself.
Cook a new food.
Try a new art or fitness class.
Take a different route to work.
Start a conversation with a stranger.
Take a solo trip somewhere.
4. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to music
Even when I’m not seeking a spark of inspiration, books and movies and music tends to manifest it anyway. Experiencing someone else’s story and/or emotions seem to get my wheels turning and makes me want to find my passion again. And there are these kinds of media out there that are created to inspire their audience. Some of my personal favorites are:
- It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
- Books on the subject of philosophy
- Books of poetry, especially Pablo Neruda
- Any work of Shakespeare
- We Bought a Zoo
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- The Science of Sleep
- Romeo + Juliet
- Big Fish
- Life of Pi
- Lost in Translation
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5. Watch a TEDx Talk
**While we could lump this in with #4 (which is basically just indulging in digital and print media), it deserves its very own bullet.**
Personally, there may not be a higher caliber of instant inspiration than watching a TEDx Talk. You’ve likely watched one before, as they host “local speakers presenting to local audiences about everything from politics to pollination.” And, of course, they host all kinds of creatives.
- “That Underdog Spirit” – Tall Tales from a Large Man | Aaron Draplin
- Pain & Art: Write What You Honestly Know | Ryan Gattis
- Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can | Graham Shaw
- A writer’s secrets to catching creative ideas | Brad Herzog
- Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude | Barbara Sher
- Trick Your Mind into Being Creative | Aadil Vora
- Why you should make useless things | Simone Giertz
- Cosmic creativity — how art evolves consciousness: Alex Grey
- Graphic design and the making of meaning: Law Alsobrook
6. Do the exact opposite of #4 and #5
Shut off your phone and go for a walk. Sometimes the best way to break through a creative block is to tune out the outside world for better introspection. My favorite way to do this is to go for a solo hike and put my phone on Do Not Disturb. This allows for unending, free-flowing thoughts AND you get your endorphins going from the physical exertion.
7. Read about other creative geniuses and their stories of loss and success
It’s important to remember that everyone starts somewhere, and most creative people experience this loss of drive and motivation at least once in their process. The best of us, from J.K. Rowling to Vincent Van Gogh, experienced one form of struggle or another in their creative process. Some go ten years without writing a book and then finally achieve their drive again, like Ryan Gattis.
8. Write – anything
Even if you think you lack the proclivity to writing, just start. Write a short story, a journal entry, a letter to someone you love, a letter to someone you hate, write your own “10 Ways to Get Out of a Creative Rut.” Writing generates ideas and can help to organize your thoughts. Writing can help unload mental debt to make room for creative ideas.
9. Learn something new
Human beings have this impressive ability to learn new information and reinvent themselves and their abilities (daily even, if we wanted to.) Remember when you were a kid and you learned about a new sport or book or game, and you were GIDDY? That emotional response to learning is not limited to your childhood. We should always be on the hunt to learn something new, whether it’s an entirely new skill or just a little factoid.
In 2019, the educational resources that are in reach are absolutely endless. Go on YouTube and discover anything new. Acquire a new skill on Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, CreativeLive, or any of the other many websites built for such. Learn a new language on the multitude of websites and apps designed specifically for language-learning. Take free online courses from the world’s best universities with edX. In addition to TEDx Talks, check out TEDEd Student Talks, which is TED’s youth and education initiative.
10. Do something that will make yourself proud
It seems that, a lot of the time, the human population strives to impress their peers and make their loved ones proud. While this is certainly a great motivator, what’s most important is to do things that make yourself proud. Go outside of your comfort zone. Complete a personal or professional project. Compete with yourself. Perform a random act of kindness without telling anyone. Exercise and eat right.
While creative ruts happen to every single creative out there, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Passion can be momentarily lost, but it can always be rediscovered. Hopefully, at least one out of these ten things can help the next time you find yourself looking for that spark.
- What is your favorite way to spark creativity?
- Do you think people can benefit from a creative pause?
- Who is your favorite creative idol?