The Dreaded Creative Slump

Come January and the pressure builds up for reinventing ourselves. Planning for a full year ahead, trying to make resolutions, push the envelope, break a glass ceiling or two. Hustle.

No, thank you. That's not for me. While I applaud people who are focused and pragmatic, my life of an artist is often a deviation from trying to plan. Most of the time, my art seems to follow its own trajectory, governed by feelings, moods and my own experiences. Often times, I also find myself in a creative slump because of these feelings.

Every creative person who crosses your path will tell you that this creative slump has no end date, it is scary as can be and the more we try to think about it, the deeper the slump pulls us in. The spark, enthusiasm, impetus and momentum is missing and that is what artists fear the most.

While everyone has their own approach of breaking out of a creative rut, here are some of the things you could try when you feel stuck in the meh days. When the momentum is missing and you try hard to find the spark.

  1. Give yourself permission to take a step back: Just because it is January, a new calendar year, the end of summer or the end of a exhibition/ project/ collection does not automatically generate new spark. Take a step back. Look at the work you put in already. Celebrate the smaller achievements made along the way. I learnt this from one of my dearest friends who always loves to remind me of how far I've come.
  2. Don't Force What Comes Naturally: Now, this is a big one. Creativity cannot be forced, it can't be taught. it can't be generated on demand, cannot be bottled and sold off the shelf. You can however use this time as an opportunity to explore the peripherals of your creations. If you are a fine artist, you could perhaps learn how to stretch a canvas or buy a new brush which could, in its own way, help you get to the flow of creating what comes naturally to you
  3. Learn Something New: This I swear by. The world of creativity is your oyster. there's no end or beginning to what and how much you can learn. You could learn something associated with your art, or break the pattern and learn something completely new. Learn to code, learn to milk a cow or become a wine connoisseur if you wish. The time you invest in learning a new skill, or technique goes a long way in fuelling your ideas and passions.
  4. Sex Up your Workspace: Make your workplace sexy. Like pretty lingerie (or whatever floats your boat) it should get you in the mood. Feel the creative wheels turning when you look at your beautiful line of pens or heat up your ideas when you see a blank canvas stretched out in front of you, begging to be touched. I love to set up my desk, light a few of my favourite candles and just enjoy the quiet time sitting in front of it with my coffee. I love to wake up before the world awakens and sit at my corner in reflection. Think of it like a first date with your lover. If this first date gets you all the way to juicing up the creative engines, then by gosh, GET LUCKY!                                 
  5. Revisit an Old Love: Revisiting an old love can work wonders for the creative wheels. Old sketchbooks, old techniques, old subjects, old supplies will bring back memories like revisiting the past. It will remind you of the feelings of when you drew something or wrote something. It will ignite and trigger the rest of your senses to follow those memories of creating.
  6. Read, Listen, Talk: Read something unexpected. Listen to music focussing on the lyrics. When I was young, I used to find amusing words on envelopes made of old books and scraps of newspaper that veggies were wrapped in. I love to read the back of cereal boxes and other cartons. Weird, but true. Comic books, superhero books, children's books are treasure troves of inspiration. Go window shopping to see what the latest design trends are. Hear a podcast. If all else fails, play with a dog or cat or both.
  7. Laugh: Most important, don't forget to take this slump on a humorous spin. Laugh, sing off-key, do something silly or improvise. Don't associate it with too much importance. Take it lightly and do not let it overstay its welcome.

Just like life, creativity follows patterns of ups and downs. The highs are inevitably followed by lows. How low you let it go, is often in your hands. The more at ease you are with your inner self, the more your creative voice is authentic and follows your heart, creativity comes back with gusto. And when it does, it shines through your fingertips and announces its presence to the world. In the shape of your next masterpiece that is just around the corner.