How to Stay Creative when You Don't Want To
As creatives, it’s not always easy to stay motivated. We find ourselves searching for inspiration only to end up wasting our time. Today, I’m giving you my top tips for harnessing your creativity and putting it to work.
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Last week was rough for me, creatively. Negative thoughts plagued my mind. My entire being was apathetic. Aside from a few moments of inspiration, I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to take photos. And I definitely didn’t want to edit them.
I actually found myself watching movies on Netflix. That hasn’t happened much lately unless I’m chilling with my husband.
I knew I had to do something to kick my butt into gear. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but I needed to up my productivity levels before my slump turned into a habit.
So I give to you my favorite ways to get back into being creative. And, of course, how to stay creative — even when you aren’t motivated.
1. Tear Down Your Fear of Failure
There’s nothing more paralyzing than thinking that your new creation is going to suck. And while it might turn out to be a total piece of crap, you won’t find out if you don’t start. Your fear could be holding you back from creating your best masterpiece. So throw your fear out the window and get started!
2. Rethink Your Process
Try pen and paper. Start from chapter six instead of chapter one. Instead of planning out your project step by step, just wing it. Do something to get your brain out of its funk.
3. Just Start
If your problem is procrastination, you actually have it easy. All you have to do is get a grip on your willpower and move. Get off of Netflix and open your sketchbook.
4. Create for the Fun of It
If creating is your day job (or side hustle), that can easily put you in a rut. Deadlines don’t help creativity, they kill it.
So instead of creating something for your client/work, create something for you. Update that comic book you’ve been working on since high school. You used to write short stories? Write a new one!
5. Limit Yourself
Write a six word story. Only use two colors in your next illustration. What can you draw by only using straight lines? Challenging yourself like this can help get your brain into conquering mode.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Your brain/body can’t function properly if you’re not taking care of it. Get to bed at a decent time so you’re not falling asleep at your desk when you should be creating.
Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of this project? and then write down your answer. Keep asking questions like “what problem does this solve?” or “what are related topics?” until you have a huge list of ideas.
8. Be Creative for 15 Minutes
You love being creative. You don’t understand why it feels like you have to chain yourself to your workspace to get anything done. It’s shameful. Embarrassing. Did you choose the wrong career path after all?
It sucks to feel like this. I know. But just for now, push aside those thoughts of disappointment. Just be creative for 15 minutes. You can handle that. Then you’re free.
(. . . Or you’ll find that giving yourself such an achievable goal sparked something in you and you’ll go for much longer. Maybe you’ll even enjoy it! Yay!)
9. Eliminate Distractions
Clear the dirty dishes from your desk.
Close down all tabs in your browser except the ones you need open.
Put your phone on silent.
Get away from people who pull you away from your work.
10. Try Working in a New Medium
Doodle if you write. Write if you paint. Paint if you draw. Draw if you take pictures. Try something new and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Maybe you’ll end up with a new hobby, or a new idea (yay!). If you’re stuck, it’s worth a shot.
11. Find the Perfect Environment
Did you know that being in a place with high ceilings encourage creativity? Neither did I until I was chatting with my husband (a musician) in a cute, local coffee shop. I noted that I wouldn’t mind spending a morning there getting some work done, and he mentioned how the high ceilings there would help my creativity.
12. Steal Like an Artist
If you take five different ideas from five different people and combine them into your own, is it stealing? Well, it’s stealing like an artist. As you go throughout your life, collect ideas. For blog posts, a new book series, a great watercolor painting — whatever. Collect them. Write them down.
That way, once you’ve glued yourself to your chair, you have a resource overflowing with ideas you either thought up on your own or grabbed from others (and can change to make your own).
13. Break Things Down
Maybe you’re avoiding creativity because your projects are too overwhelming. Well, here’s how to fix that:
Look at your project and ask yourself, “What’s the first step I have to take to get this done?”
Write that step down.
Repeat for step two, three, four, and on.
Keep the big picture in mind while focusing on the individual steps.
14. Walk Away
Just for a bit. Go for a stroll outside. Do the dishes. Bake something. Take a shower if you need to. If you’ve been staring at a blank page/canvas/whatever for too long, giving yourself a break can help.
Sometimes our brains go wild. We get ten project ideas all at once, plus we want to start planning our next road trip, plus we want to plan a surprise birthday party for our friend.
Refocus. Pick one thing to work on. Then get it done.
Do you use any of these methods to boost productivity or to stay creative? Let me know in the comments!