Have you ever wondered where your creativity, well, went?
I used to be the same. Now I know when I’m missing my spark, I take action and, as I now work for myself, I have found this knowledge immensely useful! Here’s five ways to get your spark back when it’s gone away:
If I’m straining, I won’t come up with my best ideas. ‘Straining’ to me is when I say to myself ‘Just one more and then I’ll rest’ or ‘I need to have achieved more today so I’m going to ignore the tiredness/yearning for the sunshine’.
Resting my body and mind, whether that’s just sitting and doing nothing (and not worrying), putting myself to bed, a 10 minute session of deep breathing or a week off, creativity happens when you’re not frazzled. I know I need to take time out, despite feeling as though I won’t get everything done. I’ve learnt to trust that process and what it brings me. If you’re used to pushing and pushing and pushing, stopping ‘halfway through’ to re-energise can feel counter-intuitive but try it, and see what happens.
When the ideas come, honour them
Let’s face it, sometimes ideas come at all hours of the day and night and often very inconveniently. I’ve had many conversations with Creatives Hub founder, Richard Lalchan about waking up in the middle of the night and needing a notebook and pen. I have one beside my bed, I have a notebook for my handbag, and I carry my phone with me so I can use the notes app for all other situations. For me, ideas are like dreams, they seem so vivid at the time but retreat into the far reaches of my brain without a prompt. If we can’t give them 2 hours of our time NOW to brainstorm and dream, we push them away and in doing so, push away parts of ourselves.
Instead, by allowing ideas a little air time when they surface is a way to honour and value yourself. There have been times when I’ve been in the middle of writing an email and so rather than wait until lunchtime, I spend a minute writing down everything in my head. It means it’s there so I can reflect on it later. That tiny time value I’ve allowed an idea gives it shot of energy which can be expanded or just filed for another day. Let them come when they come, just put boundaries around their exposure to oxygen.
Create time and space for creativity
Creating time is ‘making time’ and, unless your diary is empty, this means saying no. I started small with this. At first it was just to stop going out on Saturday evening and arranging to see my friends in the day instead. That allowed me a good chunk of time to write my newsletter (which goes out on Sunday morning). Making ’saying no’ easier on myself was important. I would decline company work drinks but go out with my team on our planned nights out. I chose and picked and found middle ground wherever I could.
Sometimes I would have space but I often just KNEW I was going to fill it up with coffees and seeing friends, so I put some appointments in that just said ‘BUSY’. When I was trying to make arrangements I could say ‘Oh I can’t do then, I’m busy’. After a while I gathered the courage to say: “I can’t meet then, I need me-time.”
Show up and try to fail
Trying to fail might sound a bit weird, but it does take the pressure off for any tendencies towards perfection.
I know that, for me, half the battle of resistance is sitting at my computer and starting. I sometimes I pretend I’m at a wonderful creative writing retreat and we have a stupid assignment. For example, that we have to write an essay about pigs. Or we have to write something in a genre in which we have never written before. It sounds a bit daft but the fact that you’re not trying to create a masterpiece means that your mind is distracted from any resistance you feel in creating something perfect first time. Once you get into the flow, you can start writing about the subjects or in the style you were planning to all along.
Another method is to set a timer. You tell yourself you only have to write for 10 minutes and then you stop. It has to be proper sentences but it can be rubbish. Really bad. The worse the better.
One of my favourite authors, Tama Kieves, says “Showing up always shines”. If I can actually sit down and open my electronic notebook, I’m most of the way there; I can often start off from a few sentences I’ve written before.
Yes, there’s times when all you need is a cup of tea and some cute pictures on Facebook, but mostly we miss connection or inspiration.
I holed myself away in a small room in Italy working on my website for a few weeks and then wondered why I wasn’t coming up with ideas for blog posts.
So, I reached out to some friends and had some wonderful Skype calls. I wandered outside in the warm, historic centre of the city and ate gelato. I took trips to Venice and Lake Garda and wow, was I inspired again!
You might not have the budget for a holiday abroad to recharge the inspirational batteries but a train ride to a nearby city might be just tonic you need. Or spending an hour in a museum or art gallery, or even trying a new creative medium (like painting if you’re a writer or photography if you’re a sculptor). Or cooking yourself a scrumptious meal.
These are my go-tos in times of creative and inspirational drought – have you any to add?