Quench Your Creative Dry Spell With These 9 Practices
Stumped. Creatively blocked. Uninspired. I’ve been there and will be again! Here are some things I do to get creatively unstuck.
Since I started silversmithing in 2017, I’ve been working to build my skill set through all parts of the process, from bezel making to properly polishing. While my skills have gotten visibly better over time, I’ve also been learning more about a not-so-visible or tangible facet of the process: creativity.
I soon realized after starting to smith that creativity doesn’t always feel accessible. Sometimes I feel uninspired, or straight up out of ideas. I began reading different perspectives about creativity in an attempt to better understand my relationship to it.
Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, taught a few things about creativity that resonated. I learned that much of my hesitation around creating was based in fear (of failure, embarrassment, finances, imposter syndrome, etc.), and needed to acknowledge this in order to move forward with the courageous practice of putting something out in the world. Gilbert also speaks of creative inspiration as an entity that lives outside of ourselves, and that creative ideas bounce from host-to-host until they find a willing host to bring them to life. In her words, creativity is “the strange partnership between a human being’s labor and the mystery of inspiration.” Ultimately, it may be less stress on the creator if we view creativity as an external source to be tapped into as opposed to putting that pressure on the creator themselves. Her perspective helped me understand creativity in a way that allowed me to move past my self-doubt & get to making.
While I’ve found it useful to my creative process to have some sort of mindful awareness about what creativity is [to me], I have also found a variety of practices and resources that help me get through creatively-tough-times. Below I’ve listed some of those, and I hope you find them useful too!
01. get outside
As creators, nature holds seemingly endless possibilities for inspiration. Getting outside even if it is a walk around the block, can help inspire, if not clear a cluttered mind and provide exercise.
02. get excited & be open to curiosity
Whether or not you choose to view creativity as fed to you by an external source, being open to ideas that arise can be really useful. What I enjoy most about curiosity, is that when I follow the trail of an idea that pops into my head, I’m much more excited about where the trail takes me. I think being excited about the creative process is where the magic & inspiration can happen. Interested in outer space? Read up on galaxies, blackholes or planets. Interested in trees? Learn all their parts and get to know their names and habitats. Follow the trail.
03. turn to books
I tend to turn to books in my creative process. There are really two types of books I turn to most often. The first being technical or history books about my craft in hopes of being exposed to a technique or style (i.e. The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques). The second type of book are collections of art or natural history. I’ve used a Frida Kahlo art collection book for inspiration, and most recently I’ve used an old Biology of Plants textbook. The books you open will depend on your craft and inspiration influence, and can be a great resource for getting outside yourself and seeing what is possible.
04. visit you local museum, library, or botanic gardens
Visiting cultural, scientific or service institutions can be a great way to look outside of yourself. I’ve visited the Denver Art Museum and left with a refreshed perspective towards creating after viewing a wide range of art forms from a wide range of time periods. I’ve also visited the Denver Public Library and put my nose into some of the books they have in the reference/non-circulating section. I learned a bit about the history of native american jewelry design while cozied up with a cup of joe. It was honestly so comforting and so fun. Botanic gardens, science museums, zoos and aquariums are also great places to explore for inspiration.
05. clean your space
For me, an organized space makes all the difference. While I try to keep my workspace generally clean, every now and again it needs a deep dive cleaning and organizing. If a clean desk means a clear mind for creating, then get after it!
06. play *with a different medium*
Sometimes when working with a single medium (in my case, silver & stone), we confine and limit ourselves to ideas based on how they might translate to a piece of work. Stepping outside of your medium for a minute can get you loosey-goosey and playful. Break out the paints and colored pencils and dig through an old crafting drawer. Put on some tunes and mess around. There is power in feeling the freedom of play (cue childhood memories of playing legos or make-believe store). Just the act of creatingsomethingcan provide confidence to return to a primary medium with a refreshed perspective.
07. make a vision board
Pinterest isn’t dead. The power of vision boards is that they help you to create an aesthetic and amass an endless amount of visual content (from the endless internet, of course). A vision board might just translate to your next piece of work! For example, I havePinterest boardsfor form, texture and color and can turn to those to spark ideas. Be warned, it can be addicting once you start pinning and creating boards/categories.
08. take some time for yourself
Burnout is real. Imposter syndrome is also real. Taking time to relax and breathe is important. A lyric in one of my favorite pep-talk songs, Choose Yourself by Star Slinger, he says “Out of silence comes the greatest creativity, not when we are rushing or panicking.” That is always a solid reminder for me to take a step back, take time to try out some of the above tactics, or just draw a bubble bath and relax.
09. just do the damn thing
Okay, okay, so you’ve procrastinated, read books, tried painting with some old paints from the craft drawer, now what? There came a point when avoidance took the reins, and now you’ve got to take them back. At some point sitting down with your medium, trusting yourself and the creative process, silencing your inner critic, following excitement and just creating is the only way to truly move forward. Just do the damn thing.
additional resource list:
Okay, so there are some options to get your creative juices flowing. You got this, friend!
Keep in mind that there are different philosophies on creativity (i.e. where it comes from, how to tap into it), so it’s really about finding what works for you and your process. There are also scientists that look at the brain in creative thought and explain some things from the science-based perspective (check #4 on the additional resource list above for a start). Have a look for yourself, follow curiosity and most importantly, have fun.
What do you do to tap into your creative process? How do you keep the well of creativity tapped? Do you think creative inspiration comes from an external, elusive source? Share in the comments below!