As with all aspects of life, creativity is an ebb and flow.
I recently completed The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s 12-week program for recovering and nurturing your inner creative. Though initially skeptical, I found it incredibly helpful for reviving and celebrating the creator within me. It gave me insight into why I have been stuck in my creative endeavors and provided many tools for working through those blocks. It also gave me something even more important – permission. As artists, we don’t often get permission from anywhere, least of all ourselves, to exist in our creative element.
Cameron does affirm, though, that no matter what your process, there will be times in life when the creativity just gets stuck. It’s your work to figure out why, give yourself some compassion, and unblock your own energy. Sometimes you just need a break. Sometimes the creativity is in rest and play, not endless productivity. Focusing on productivity, or end results, as everyone does, actually suffocates your inner artist. Creativity is all about the process – curiosity, play, adventure, and inspiration. We cannot draw new ideas from a dry well.
It can be hard, in this world of pressure and expectation, to feel okay while in a dry spell. We are told that we have to constantly grind if we ever hope to become prolific and successful. When the focus is on producing and not process, it’s very difficult to enjoy what you’re doing. Basically, you’re going about this all wrong. But it’s not your fault! The world is not kind to creatives – and it’s gotten less kind as the decades progress. Now you are not only supposed to produce amazing, unique art (whatever your medium), but you are expected to be a full-time social media expert. You are expected to market and promote yourself constantly. With all this pressure, no wonder you feel stuck and discouraged.
The first rule of being creative? Learn to block out the noise and listen to yourself. If you are trying to please everyone else, you’ll never get anywhere. This includes any judgments around your productivity or lack thereof. And then, once you learn to disregard outside criticism, you must face the harshest critic – yourself.
Think of your inner artist like a child, because it basically is one. It’s delicate, tender, easily discouraged, and it needs nourishment and nurturing. If you don’t take loving care of it, you cannot thrive creatively. Have compassion and patience with yourself when you are feeling stuck and uninspired. This is when you need to let yourself rest and play. Pushing desperately to produce material when blocked will only cause more frustration. Remember that it’s a natural part of the ebb and flow of life to go through lulls – creative hibernation, if you will.
Love yourself and trust yourself enough to allow times of rest and rejuvenation. It’s imperative to thriving creativity. The flow will return as long as you don’t force what isn’t meant to happen. Accept the dry spells, knowing that they aren’t forever. Sending compassion, kindness, and love!