10 Ways to Get Your Creative Mojo Back When You Feel Uninspired

One of the questions that comes up frequently in my Creativity Clan FB group is “How do I get myself out of a creative rut?” 

10 Ways to Get Your Creative Mojo Back When You Feel Uninspired | shannonmcnab.com

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.

10 Ways to Get Your Creative Mojo Back When You Feel Uninspired - (Tip #7: Change Your Scenery) | shannonmcnab.com

#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? In my 12-page Product Planning Guide, I share with you my three part system that I personally used over the last two years. I lead you through each part step-by-step so by the end you can implement your own product planning strategy.

Why Taking a Month Off Was the Best Business Decision I Ever Made

It feels good to be back in the swing of things after I made the decision to take all of March off from my business. However, I should confess that there is a tiny part of me that is sad my "vacation" is over.

While I got several things accomplished, many of which I had been meaning to tackle for years (top to bottom house cleaning I'm talking to you!), I came back last week not entirely sure I was ready to settle back into work.

We took a weekend vacation during my break to Monterey and the change of pace it provided was very refreshing.

We took a weekend vacation during my break to Monterey and the change of pace it provided was very refreshing.

Fortunately, I was happily surprised that I got more accomplished in 4 days last week than I did in two full weeks pre-break. So what's the difference between Feb 28th and now?

Well I'm not 100% sure, but I know I can attribute a big part of it to the shift in my attitude towards my business. Before I went on break I was drained of creativity, having become a self-mandated digital scrapbook collection making machine for the past two years.

That design mentality was toxic and it made me resent and regret certain choices I had made.

And more importantly, it meant that I started to lose sight of the reason I started this business five years ago: because I have a passion for designing and enjoy seeing what scrapbookers can do with my kits.

So while starting my design break with a less-than-awesome mentality and after taking four full weeks off to do whatever I felt like, you'd think I would either be:

  1. Completely uninterested in design and ready to shut the doors on Scotty Girl Design and move on to other creative endeavors OR
  2. Exploding with design ideas and salivating at the thought of building my first new kit in over six weeks.

Well, the truth lies in the shades of gray between those two options. During my time off, I did sincerely contemplate moving on from scrapbook design, but I had to be honest with myself that I'm too fond of the industry to move just yet. And while I wasn't bursting with new design ideas, I did come back last week with a renewed sense of purpose and a slightly altered mindset, a happier one at that.

So while I wouldn't say I found the meaning of life or the key to my business's prosperity, I do know I want to continue to search for what will make me happy and successful.... one design at a time.

Finding My Happiness Again

It's been two months since I published the post about my battle with depression on my sister site Scotty Girl Design, so I thought it was time to address it on this blog and give an update on how things have been going. Have I reached a new self-enlightenment in the past two months since my commitment to change? The answer is "maybe a little.”

Take Time to Do What Makes You Happy | shannonmcnab.com

After realizing that overworking myself was having an adverse effect on both my physical and mental well-being, the biggest hurdle I overcame was making the decision to slow down and reprioritize:

New Releases

I decided that churning out weekly or even bi-weekly collections of new product just wasn't doable for me in the long term, as I firmly believe in quality over quantity. So for 2015, my new product goal is to create only one kit or collection per month in my personal use shop at The Digital Press. (UPDATE: I retired from digi design in June 2016 to pursue a full-time career in surface design).

There will be times, of course, when I'll break this rule as inspiration will strike and I'll decide I want to create two kits instead of one. And that's ok, because it will be because I WANT to and not because I feel like I HAVE to.

Work that's created when you're excited to design always turns out much better than those that are forced.

I can actually look at any kit preview in my shop and immediately tell exactly how psyched (or not) I was to make it. And from now on, I want to be amped up about EVERYTHING I make.

It does not mater how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. -Confucius | shannonmcnab.com

Learning a New Skill

I feel that one of the best ways to grow as a designer is to learn a new technique or add to your current skill set, yet last year I was in the mindset of just maintaining where I was at and churning stuff out.

I feel like my creativity has suffered as a result, but it's not something I realized until I was in the middle of teaching my pattern design class at Scrapaneers – NOTE: I now teach design and business classes on Skillshare. Throughout the course of the class, many of the students had "ah-ha" moments when everything they learned came together and suddenly creating tiling repeat patterns just clicked. It was a joy to witness!

So they inspired me to revisit something I've always wanted to improve upon: my hand drawn typography skills.

I've dabbled in typography in the past, but I'd love to dive deeper into it and learn some tricks of the trade from the best in the business.

First up, I'm taking a Skillshare typography class by none other than Jessica Hische. I've worshipped her type skills for years, so I'm really excited to take her class! I'm also hoping to follow it up with a class or two from Mary Kate McDevitt, another hand lettering goddess I admire.

Breaks Are Totally Ok

Perhaps the biggest shift in my mindset is realizing that it's ok to take breaks from the business. Actually it's not just ok, it's essential to be a happy, creative business owner.

That revelation actually started back in December when I was neck-deep in work, and then I opened an email from Do What You Love. Beth Nicholls was sharing her very personal story of being in a constant loop of burnout---quick break to recover---repeat and boy did it sound all too familiar!

But then she said something that gave me pause: "...so we have decided to take December off – no classes, no deadlines, no stress." How could a business owner just stop working for a month?

At first, I didn't understand how it was possible, but as my own personal burnout was manifesting, I realized how could a business owner NOT stop working on occasion to recharge?!?

Of course at the time I knew I couldn't just drop the ball and take January off – actually that should be plural since I was juggling so many different balls in December (PHRASING! <--Archer reference, I couldn't help it!) – but I knew I wanted to take some time off to help find some happiness and get a bit of my design mojo back. So after planning things out, I've decided to take the entire month of March off from my business.

Now that doesn't mean I'll become a hermit over the next four weeks while I recharge, I'm actually hoping for exactly the opposite, but it does mean that I won't be creating any new designs until early April. 

As for my blog, if I feel like I have a personal story to share, I may jump on here to share it, otherwise you can still keep in touch with me on Instagram. Toodles til April!