“When a poet digs himself into a hole, he doesn’t climb out. He digs deeper, enjoys the scenery, and comes out the other side enlightened.” ~ Criss Jami, Venus in Arms
Stuck creativity can feel like suffocating or drowning to any artist. Even when there is no deadline to create by, one can often go days or weeks feeling creatively stagnant. It can eat away at you.
Even while having a good or successful day there will be an itch to create and a nagging at the back of your mind saying, “yes, but I haven’t created anything today.” If you’re anything like me, you know how horrible it can be if this goes on for too long. Whether your projects are standing half-done, or your mind is just uninspired and procrastinating, here are a few tips to get your creative sparks firing.
This is the most valuable thing I learnt in art school. Morning Pages is a concept taken from the book “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron. What you do is: take 10-15 minutes in the morning, three pages of a notebook, and just write. This should not be a journal or a diary, it’s a free-form stream of consciousness that is free to explore anything that might be going through your mind; whether it’s your worries, musings, to-do list for the day, etc. There are no rules or “right way” to do morning pages. It should just be three pages of unedited, uninhibited, unapologizing you, and your thoughts.
What it accomplishes is two things:
1) You are emptying your mind of all the possible distracting thoughts of the day. These are all the thoughts that will otherwise nag and nudge at you while you may be trying to work, create, or just be. By giving all these thoughts the time and space to be acknowledged and expressed, you are opening your mind and attention for other things.
2) Morning pages are a good way to brainstorm or process. When I feel stuck (in any way, whether it be creative, emotional, or mental) I will pick up my notebook and use this free-form writing to explore my mind on any subject that may be keeping me stagnant.
It is just structured enough, and just free enough, to unstick my brain. Because your pen is following the complicated process of your brain, and putting it out in front of you, things tend to become clear where there was brain fog before. I will sometimes find amazing solutions to stubborn problems, or questions, in this way.
Don’t worry if it feels forced or unnatural at the beginning. Just write the three pages, whether your thoughts come out profound or simple, and you can even throw the pages out afterwards if you wish. The pages are just for you and will start to feel more natural and helpful if you stick to it for awhile.
Also note, that although it’s called morning pages, and it is indeed most helpful to do this at the start of your day, I have made a habit of doing it at any time of the day. At the beginning, the best way to get into the habit is to stick to the morning, but once you’ve got it, make it your own and form it to whatever you need it to be for your unique creative process.
Learn something new
Another way to get yourself unstuck and moving is to give your brain something new to eat. This can be in any form. If you’re feeling uninspired as a writer, read some new poetry, or read those articles you saved in your tabs but never got around to.
A painter can find newfound inspiration by seeing an art form that has never been explored before, and a teacher can be reinvigorated by watching an online video about new educational methods.
So, whether you’re trying to finish up that essay but can’t think of any original ideas, or if your brain just feels like it’s been sleeping on the job lately, a good way to jostle things is to do anything that will feed you new and interesting information and ideas.
Good ideas often lead to newer ideas and insights. So, go to a lecture or an art opening, buy a new book, listen to a new album, read an out-of-the-box article, or spend time around friends who bring up interesting topics, and see where new ideas can bring you.
Practice being a channel
Any artist will tell you that the best ideas and work come from a place completely outside of them, and at a time that they least expect it. Some people even say that you have no control over your creativity; it comes and goes in waves, and you just have to be there, ready with your pencil or paint, to ride with it.
This is definitely true, but there are two things that are helpful to ride the waves:
1) Acknowledge that you are just a channel for this creativity you experience.
2) Create a space for the creativity to find you.
This is done by finding a spot that makes you feel happy and inspired (or even just a place you feel you can concentrate). For me, it’s always my bed, or in a cozy room with lots of sunlight. For other people, it’s in nature, or in closed dark spaces.
Wherever it is, find it, and plant yourself there. Next is the acknowledging part. However you feel comfortable, put the message out into the universe that you are a ready channel to receive your work. You can say it out loud, just think about it, or even write about it (morning pages anyone?).
Being a channel is difficult. It requires you to let go of your ego and control over your creativity, and be grateful to something outside of yourself when you do receive it.
For some people, this is a hard thing to let go of, especially because creativity is so personal. But for others it is relieving and refreshing when they can feel that they were given these gifts for a purpose and there is something guiding them.
If all else fails, take a walk, spend some time with yourself, or someone you enjoy, and do something fun. Come back to the creative endeavor later when you’ve had some time away, and hopefully you will be able to see it with new eyes.