How to Bust Out of a Creative Rut

Posted by on March 15, 2016

McKella Sawyer

Louka helping me write the final chapter of my novel. So helpful.

For those of us who create a lot or who create professionally, sometimes it’s REALLY easy to get stuck in a rut of creating the same type of thing over and over again.

Our paintings all start to look the same, we fall back on the same old layouts, and instead of really engaging with our work and letting it dig into the deepest parts of our souls, we just create on autopilot. Our work feels predictable, formulaic, and soon we get so antsy and bored that we might as well just not make anything.

It sucks, and there are lots of reasons why we might get in that rut in the first place. Maybe we are just creating what we know will sell, we’re afraid to lose our audience, or the don’t want to face the possible discomfort of creating what’s really in our souls.

Whatever the reason, you can get out of a rut and get back to creating work that truly lights you up.

Here are my 4 favorite tricks to break out of a creative rut:

1-Inspire Yourself-What inspires you? Ideas have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is like a creative well that needs to be filled with words, images, and sounds. Visit art gallerys, read a book, listen to music that gets your gears going, go see a play, get outside in nature. Look at pictures of art online! I love to look through my collection of art images on Pinterest. It’s great if I’m pinched for time or motivation and can’t make it to a gallery. My favorite reading for writing inspiration? White Oleander by Janet Fitch. It always gets me in the mood to write.

2-Relax. If you’re constantly stressed out and putting out fires, your body and mind will think there’s a real emergency and will dedicate all their energy to survival, not creating. Take time to breath deeply and relax your muscles. Meditate if you can. Notice the sounds, shapes, colors, and sensations around you. Ground yourself in the moment.

3-Face your fears-Is fear holding you back from creating? Spend some time thinking or journalling about what’s stopping you from creating. Are you afraid that no one will like your creation and you’ll be judged for it? Are you afraid that no one will pay you for your work? That you aren’t capable of creating what you want? That it won’t turn out right? Get honest with yourself about the thoughts that are stopping you.

4-Let go of the outcome-If you’re trying something new, chances are that your first try won’t be magnificent. You probably won’t get it “right” the first time, and if you’re used to doing something you’re good at, that can be really uncomfortable. If we’re well-practiced in our art, it’s hard to get back into the beginner mindset sometimes.

But it’s okay to suck at something, even if we’ve been doing it for years. If you’re sick of painting still life in oils and you suddenly want to paint watercolor portraits, there’s going to be a learning curve, and that’s okay.

Enjoy the process of learning, not just a new skill, but what really fulfills you creatively. Be will to try new things, to be bad at it, and to learn from your early attempts.

Soon, that rut will be far behind you and you’ll be working on a whole new level of creativity and genius.

Good luck!

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