5 Tips for Boosting Creativity
If you're working in a creative industry, or striving towards that goal, it can sometimes feel like you're chasing inspiration.
Usually we use the term art-block as an umbrella term to describe what we really mean, which is either, 'I'm too tired, mentally or physically, to be creative right now.' Or 'My priorities in life have shifted temporarily (for various reasons) and being creative is not at the forefront of my mind right now.' There may also be other reasons such as a lack of confidence or direction. So let's break it down into 5, explain how to spot which one you're feeling, and what might help in such a situation.
1) Let's tackle the former first. Are you tired from life events, work burnout or both? The solution in this case is rarely to push through the creative slump, but to allow yourself to recede. Let yourself draw when the mood takes you and don't overthink the outcome. Take time away, refuel the tank with nature, books, rest, games, people and life. Life is not just for work but for living as well, make sure you're doing both. I promise you will come back stronger, that energy will return even when it's hard to see that.
2) Sometimes as artists we feel that our job and passion should always be at the top of our priorities in life. However, realistically, as we move through life and are faced with different challenges, turmoils and events our priorities will shift accordingly. Go easy on yourself here and remind yourself that it is absolutely normal to set your goals aside from time to time and pour your energy and love into other areas of your life. So long as you find your way back to your creative journey you will be fine. An example of this is moving house or family reasons, or even getting your health or mental health back on track. There are so many times in life where you will have to shift your priorities, and your job cannot stay top dog year round nor should it. Trying to shoe-horn your job to the top priority all of the time will result in you getting spread thin when your mind is needed elsewhere. Allow creativity to take a back seat at times, it's hard to feel like you're not making progress during these times, It might feel like you are just showing up, doing the hours and not being innovative, but remember you will have opportunity to prioritise this again soon. Sometimes, your enough (or all I have to give right now) is enough.
3) Sitting in front of a blank page, loads of ideas swirling and energy to boot but still not getting anything done? Taking breaks doesn't seem to help you just keep coming back to that blank page and not knowing where to start. The key to this one is to step away from social media, stop looking at the other lanes of traffic and focus on your own. Draw something that you won't post, draw something rubbish in 5 minutes, draw something with your eyes closed, with a different tool - in the words of Shia LaBeouf, "JUST DO IT!".
You are sitting in a space of overthinking, analysing and worrying too much. It's a great thing to be critical of your work and to try and improve, but blocking yourself with this floundering isn't getting you anywhere. You don't have to be the biggest fan of your own artwork to create, you don't have to think about what this will add to your portfolio or what you 'should' be drawing. Just draw for fun and forget all of that, it's time to get out of your head, stop thinking about what others will think and comparing yourself to others and just make something. Push through.
4) You are lost and lacking direction, so you're tapping your pen against your chin. Maybe you even know what you want, but getting there seems impossible. This is a time for planning, list making and researching. Yes, you can do courses until you're blue in the face, but you won't get anywhere without putting the hours in, so set out your goals, make some check lists and start one step at a time. If you don't know how to get from A to B then it's time to start researching, but ask yourself do you really not know? If the quest is to get better at drawing people and deep down you know that you just have to try drawing lots and lots of people, from reference photos, from memory and then practice, practice, practice until you find your flow and style, then spending 2 hours googling it, trying YouTube tutorials and copying others' characters isn't the solution, you are wasting your time trying to find a quick fix. You won't be happy with the result.
5) Your confidence has hit rock bottom, maybe even imposter syndrome has set in and you're wondering whether you even want to do this anymore. This is a hard one, because there can be so many factors into a lack of self-belief and it's probably the one that I personally struggle with the most as well.
I think if you haven't reached a point whilst doing a creative career where you've considered downing tools and getting another job altogether then you've definitely had a lucky time indeed. I'd wager most professional artists hit these slumps. It can come as a result of less jobs coming in, less likes on social media or having a demoralising experience on a job that makes you question everything. There are so many talented people in the world, and you wonder if you belong among them. Why is it always so hard? It looks so easy for everyone else, maybe I don't belong? Roung peg, square hole? Just remember that everyone online is showing their highlights reel, you aren't seeing the late nights, the edits after edits and the tears of frustration that all artists are flapping around with.
If you really do want to consider other job options, if your life is made miserable by art then I won't discourage you because I really do think that daily contentment should be something worth striving for. But, if deep down you know that you're just in a slump, and that no matter how rubbish you think you are, no matter what roadblocks come up, you really do want to take them in your stride and come out the other side - then don't give up!
There will likely never be days that you love your work, there'll always be nit-picks that niggle at you, but if you can find your way back to neutrality, back to not overthinking things and just being happy for what is, then you really will flourish.
No one ever bullied themselves happy, and no one ever bullied themselves better at any skill (Yes, there's something to be said for self-discipline - but trying to bully yourself into improving your skills will come at a high cost.) Instead try encouraging yourself, celebrate the small wins.
Stop chasing perfection and find happiness in the wonderfully wonky, perfectly imperfect you. And the reflection of that wonkiness in your artwork. Fill each crack and imperfection with heart, and your artwork will be overflowing with your soul - let it spill off the page, every inkblot, every messy doodle, every bit you wish you'd changed but left nonetheless. Just because you hate it, doesn't mean someone else won't love it for exactly the things you hate it for. Be you, be flawed, make mistakes - and smile the whole way through. There isn't a destination, only a journey, so go with it, flow with it. Let yourself crawl when you need to so you can run with it when you can.