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Rekindling Your Creative Flame

How to survive the potholes on your creative journey.

 What do you do when your creative flame splutters? Lately, I’ve been staring at a blank page and the page has been staring back defiantly. I blinked first, sighed, and thought, ‘here we go again’. I write new articles every week. After sticking to that publishing schedule for months, I find myself judging everything I have created. I have days when I’m convinced that I’m out of decent ideas.

This is nothing new. I have had numerous periods where I felt as if I didn’t have two brain cells to rub together, nothing to useful or relevant to say, what I do write is crap, and … why bother. Perhaps this has happened to you, too.

Here are some of the warning signs that the creative flame is flickering. They apply equally well to any creative work from the fine arts to designing a new product to building a new business:

  1. You don’t feel excited about your ______________.
  2. You don’t feel connected to your ____________________.
  3. You struggle to find things to ________________.
  4. You don’t enjoy the process.
  5. You don’t know what to do to sell more _____________.
  6. You don’t know how to make money selling your ____________________.
  7. You don’t have enough time to work as a(n) ________________.
  8. You find you start ____________, but you never finish a ___________________.

Experiencing these sucks and can lead to feelings of defeat and failure.

Over time, I’ve learned various techniques to rekindle my creative flame. Some, or some combination of these might help you as well.

Remember your ‘Why’

Why did you start creating __________in the first place? What is meaningful about it to you? I have writing friends who have said things like, “I write stories to make the day happier for the reader.” “To show that kids can survive their families if they know someone is rooting for them.” “I want to help people see they have a choice.”

Why does your particular craft give you pleasure? Is it the whisper of a brush on canvas? Turning an elegant phrase? Designing a product that is the perfect blend of form and function?

For Steve Jobs, is was to “make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advances humankind.”

Remember your ‘When’

When did you know you wanted to create _________? Often it goes back to childhood, typically around age eight.

·      What did you want to be then and why?

·      How did you think it would work?

I remember clearly that at age eight, I was determined to be a writer. I would spend hours fashioning little booklets and write stories heavily populated with anthropomorphic animals. Tapping into that feeling has helped me to navigate many a pothole in the highway of creativity.

 Approach it laterally

Sometimes our creative juices just feel sucked dry. I’ve found that stepping away from the creative endeavour that’s giving me a hard time and into a different kind of creativity has been very helpful. When I’ve done something like tackling a knitting or quilting project; designing a garden; or decorating a fancy cake it’s taken my mind off my frustration and given me creative satisfaction. This has helped to refuel the creative tanks.

Act ‘As If’

Take micro-steps while acting as if there is no creative problem.

But, and this is key, lower the expectation bar drastically.

Schedule your time for your micro-steps and make it a priority.

The practice can take three forms, length of time, quantity of output, a combination of the two.

Length of time: Set a timer for two minutes. That’s it. Sit down in the workspace you’ve been used to working in. Stay there for the two minutes with your current project. You may find that you feel silly just sitting there and see where you can start to do something. Feel free to get up after the two minutes or continue on if you’ve had an idea.

Quantity of Output: When things get really bad, I set myself a goal of writing twenty-five words. They don’t have to be good words. Sometimes, I carry on after the first twenty-five words and sometimes I call it a day.

Combination of time and output: I have had considerable success with setting a timer for 15 minutes and a word count of 250. Again, they do not have to be good words. Give yourself permission to create junk. Fragments of genius will find their way to you if you give yourself permission to unleash your muse.

It’s natural to expect some resistance to this at first!

But in each tiny episode, there is a sense of small accomplishment that helps to rebuild confidence. Sometimes it takes a while to hack through the barricades we’ve built to hem ourselves in but once those puppies come down, watch out!!

Let it flow.

But perhaps one of the greatest gifts of acting ‘As If’ is that it doesn’t rouse the gnarly head of your Inner Critic. Because you’re holding the activity lightly, remember they don’t have to be good words, there is little or no performance anxiety.

Join or Form a Mastermind Group

One of the most creatively nourishing things I’ve ever done was to join a small mastermind group of other creatives. We all come from different backgrounds in our personal and professional lives and we are all working on different types of creative projects. This makes it completely non-competitive. We meet over a video conferencing system every two weeks. We have found there are common themes around every creative project from dealing with thought issues (the inner critic, perfectionism, confidence,) to process issues (setting priorities and scheduling productive time), to getting the relevant product out into the world. Everyone contributes to finding solutions, breaking down barriers and using lateral thinking for problem solving.

The group also serves as accountability buddies. An accountability buddy is an excellent way to fast-track progress and keeping the end game firmly in sight.

Last but not least, they are a cheerleading squad through good times and frail moments.

Practice Self-Compassion

Everyone struggles to create a great product. Even great writers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs.

Anyone who creates something on a consistent basis will begin to judge their own work.

It is natural to judge your work. It is natural to feel disappointed that your creation isn’t as wonderful as you imagined it would be, or that you’re not seeing visible signs that you’re getting any better at your craft.

We all have good days and bad days.

But the key is to accept this and not let your discontent prevent you from continuing to do the work.

You have to practice enough self-compassion to not let self-judgment take over.

No one gets it right straight out of the gate.

Create for the joy of it and see where that takes you. I’ll bet you’ll find you’ve rekindled your creative flame!

TL:DR Pin Rekindling Your Creative Flame to read later.

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