One of the questions that comes up frequently in my Digital Creatives Clan FB group is “How do I get myself out of a creative rut?”
It’s something that seems to plague all creative types at some point, often in frequent intervals throughout the year. I’ve definitely had my fair share of “loss of mojo” moments, so I know first-hand how frustrating and self-defeating they can feel at times. So after researching different ways to help get out of a creative rut for my DDClan’s Q&A Monday session on the subject, I wanted to share a list of 10 of my favorite ideas (most of which I’ve personally tested and found helpful at some point in my career):
#1: Take a Quick Break
If you’re working on something and it’s frustrating, walk away from it for a bit. Go take the dog for a walk. Read a chapter in a book you’re reading. Just do something completely unrelated to work for at least 15 minutes. Hopefully after you’ve had a chance to switch gears, you can come back with a fresh mindset.
#2: Take a Sabbatical
Have you ever had a feeling of dread with your business or felt constantly overwhelmed by all the work you needed to get done? If so, then you might consider taking a longer break (one week at minimum).
When I hit an exceptionally difficult rough patch in my business in early 2015, I took a full month off and it was the best decision I could have made. It allowed me to take a mental work break and also helped me to reflect on where I wanted my business to go. Since then, I started implementing week-long breaks regularly into my work schedule and I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful for me to avoid burnouts.
#3: Work on Something Else
While meeting deadlines is an important part of a well run business, if you’re designing something and just not feeling inspired, consider switching gears and working on a non-creative business task.
Maybe you have customers you need to reply to via email or you need to strategize what you’ll post to social media for the next two weeks – just pick something that’s completely unrelated to the creative task that’s frustrating you. By switching gears and completing something else for your business, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment which just may help to get you out of your creative slump.
#4: Write a Good Things List
To be honest, when I first heard of a “grateful list” as a strategy, I thought it sounded a little hokey, but you know what, it actually worked for me! When you’re feeling completely uninspired, get a piece of paper and make a list of everything that you’re good at or that’s working in your business. It can be something as small as “I got 1 new Instagram follower today”.
After you’re done, reflect on the list. You will probably realize that although not everything in your business is running perfectly, you still have a lot going for you. I recently used the same method for my personal life when I was having a not-so-good morning and although it didn’t happen immediately, my mood vastly improved by the end of the day.
#5: Get Off Social Media
You’ve probably heard the quote, “comparison is the thief of joy”. I find that quote especially relevant in the age of social media where we can see all the amazing work other artists are creating.
Being connected is a great thing when it helps to fuel your creativity, but as soon as you find yourself feeling jealous or “behind” in your business because of what someone else is doing, it’s time to shut your phone off. Next time you feel this way, try to only check social media during non-office hours.
#6: Make Sure Your Basic Human Needs are Met
We all know that we should maintain a healthy lifestyle, but so many of us don’t (myself included). Having a well-rested and nourished body is not only good for your long term health, it can have positive effects on your business.
I realize that in especially stressful times it can be difficult not to scarf down an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting or get the 6+ hours of sleep you need a night (both of which I’ve done at least once in the past month), but those are the times when it’s most crucial to maintaining healthy habits.
#7: Change Your Scenery
I bet that 90% of the time, you work at the same place every day. Especially if you work from home by yourself (which let’s face it, can be incredibly lonely at times), it can be incredibly liberating to mix it up and instead spend an afternoon working at a coffeeshop or library.
Personally, I love spending at least one morning each week working at a local Starbucks. The buzz of activity around me is very energizing and because I’m not at home with a million other things that need my attention (like laundry or sweeping), I’m much more likely toy stay on task.
#8: Work for Just 10 Minutes
Sometimes when you’re just not feeling it, working for an entire day on design can feel like a monumental endeavor. Instead, try setting a timer for 10 minutes and tell yourself that’s all you have to do. If you’re still not feeling creative when the timer goes off, you can feel good knowing you at least gave it a shot.
However, what’s likely to happen is that you’ll start to hit your stride before those 10 minutes are up and just decide to keep working. I’ve tried this a few times (especially for tasks I’m not as excited about) and it works like a charm.
#9: Put a Fresh Twist on It
There’s probably a few tasks you get caught up on during the design process and chances are, they are the same tasks each and every time. Maybe you are trying to create a themed Halloween collection, but you just can’t fathom sketching another pumpkin or ghost OR you get stuck when you go to pick a Halloween color palette.
Instead of just doing the same old routine, why not try to put a fresh spin on things? If you don’t enjoy creating Halloween motifs, maybe you should consider alternate, but similar themes like Day of the Dead, zombies, or monsters. If you get stuck in a rut picking color palettes, go to sites like Design Seeds to get inspired and choose a non-traditional color palette. Just by doing something a little different and outside your comfort zone, you may unlock some creative juices.
#10: Stick to Your Plan
I’m a firm believer in pre-planning, especially when I’m working on large projects with lots of moving parts. The best part of having a plan is that when I’m feeling unproductive or lost, I can just revisit my project notes and get immediately back on track.
Don’t have a plan, don’t panic? Just consider sitting down before you start designing for your next project for just an hour and brainstorm ideas for it – your future self will thank you!