As an artist, your job depends on your creativity. And, when you feel like your creativity is waning, the pressure can start to build. In moments when you can’t feel the ideas coming to you, it can lead to a cycle of inaction. You’ve hit a roadblock.
But, the best way to break the cycle? Get to work.
As prolific photorealist Chuck Close simply puts it, “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Sketch your dog, your feet, make a sculpture out things you find in your front yard, write a poem about your morning. Getting past the barrier of creating and the pressure of having to make something amazing will take the burden off of you and open up space for you to get to new ideas.
If you can’t get yourself to do anything creative just yet, spend some time in your creative space. Clean it, organize it, cut out pictures of things that inspire you and tape them to your wall. Remind yourself why you love creating in the first place.
Artist Sawyer Rose makes sure to tidy a bit before each of her studio sessions.
“Doing a few minutes of low-stress tasks is a good mental warm-up. It’s not healthy to walk through your studio door thinking, ‘Must create NOW.’”
Then … Get to Work
Chicago artist Jordan Scott says, “Sometimes people ask ‘Do you have days that you aren’t inspired?’ and I always say, “no”. You have to get past that resistance and doubt and just do the work. I believe when artists cut through that, that's where the inspiration cuts in. Cut through the resistance not by praying or hoping for it; just by working.”
Stick to a Schedule
As humans, as artists, we have a limited amount of cognitive bandwidth. By finding a schedule that works for us, we eliminate overwhelming ourselves with choices about where and when to do things.
Schedule your creativity for a certain time of the day–and then don’t waver. This frees up your brain to go into more interesting spaces, rather than using all that mental energy for scheduling.
As artists, we don’t want to waste our creative energy on scheduling tasks. Scheduling your creativity will actually help you to achieve your creative goals.
Different things work for different people. If you are a night owl, then try to go about your work at night with consistency. If you work well when you shut yourself off from the outside world, do your best to take time out regularly to get that time alone. If physical activities get both your blood and creativity flowing, take a few minutes before your studio session to treat your body right with some artist-specific exercises.
Remember that small, repetitive actions add up
The thought of starting a new large-scale painting or preparing for a solo exhibition is intimidating. But, if you break the tasks into smaller parts, you can tackle a little bit every day.
And, over time, these small sketches, studies, and ideas add up to your larger project, whatever that looks like.
The weight of having to make an entire exhibition can leave you with crippling doubt and fear. But, it is much easier to think about making one piece. Start there. And then do that over and over until you have made enough for a solo exhibition.
Put it on paper & hold yourself accountable
A great way to visualize the big picture and mentally commit to a schedule is to put it on paper first. Art Biz Coach Alyson Stanfield suggests using a horizontal timeline to better grasp the time commitments you have in the future.
In order to accomplish creative goals, you'll need to hold yourself accountable. That doesn't mean berating yourself for missing a goal, it means taking the time now to give yourself the tools you need to remember and accomplish those goals.
A little legwork on the front end will have a snowball effect on your creativity.
Make sure to put your goals and projects on a calendar or in your Artwork Archive schedule. Just the act of putting things into a schedule will help launch you down the path to more creativity.
Maintain the right mind frame
Meditation is widely known to boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that some meditation techniques can promote creative thinking.
It has also been linked with better emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity, all of which can lead to better creativity.
Australian artist Joi Murugavell describes a routine lifestyle that helps her with her art. “I like reading first thing while having my breakfast. Then, I meditate for 20 minutes and get the water containers out to start painting.”
Learn to love failure
Sometimes, you can be curtailed by the fear of failure.
In fact, fail more. Fail more frequently. Take your failures and learn from them. Failing means you are working. It means you are trying something new.
Don’t let failure (however you define it) deter you from going ahead and working. Being an artist is about taking chances. Not everything will be a masterpiece. But, if you make enough, you will catch on and you will get there.
The final word?
It is more effective to wake up and get to work every day than to wait for inspiration to strike.
In fact, it isn’t as if you ever run out of ideas. In describing creativity, Maya Angelou says, “The more you use, the more you have’. It’s all about tapping into your inner artist consistently and honing your skills, instead of letting “inspiration” take its time to help you create your best work.
Looking for an instant boost of creativity? Try one of these seven creativity exercises.