5 laxatives for creative constipation

Everyone gets stuck. Everyone has times when they feel uninspired. When they feel like they are never going to have a great idea again…….your design work feels stale, your writing suddenly feels predictable, flat.

At times like these it’s easy to panic and that just makes things worse. But there are many things you can do to refresh the well again; to get the creative juices flowing once more. Below are five ways of finding release from the creative doldrums. Believe me, I am talking to myself when I write these. They are a good reminder to me not to panic when the next period of drought seems to arrive……

1. Take joy in the little things…..

This is the Big One in my opinion. Learn to sloooooooooow riiiiiiight down and take some time to find your grounding in the details of each day again. As Ferris Bueller says, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Really, really sage advice.
Try an experiment. For the first part of the day, carry a notepad around with you and write down everything that you notice around you that takes your interest – the way the sun breaks through the trees, the sound of the bin men as they carry away your rubbish, the sound of birds, the movement of crowds and people in the street, the colours of tiled rooftops, the curl of cigarette smoke through the air…….whatever you see and hear and smell. Don’t try to make it a big thing. Relax and let yourself remember that even within a foot radius of where you are at any time, there are inspirations for composition, colour, concepts just waiting to be realised from the minutiae of this world we have been given to live in.
I once read an interview with a well known illustrator who said that when he watched movies, it was the backgrounds, the textures, the odd camera angles, the little things that reinspired him to take out his notebook and make drawings and think…..
You can make this way of seeing and appreciating the world into a habit. It will affect you in your life generally and begin to show through in your creative work.

2. Share with like-minded people.

This is why I love social networking! A great way to rediscover enthusiasm and creativity is to share your stuff with other people and to spend some time discovering their work too. Sharing work you have done in the past, for instance, is a great way – through feedback – to be reminded that you have something special: a God given, original eye, hand, ear or all of these. Sometimes being in a rut can make us lose our confidence about what we are trying to do. Getting positive feedback about what we have already done is a massive boon. And don’t forget that this one works BOTH ways. Think about how good you feel when someone takes the time to make encouraging comment about something you have made. It feels fantastic doesn’t it? Well…..

3. Try something new.

If you are an innately creative person, then chances are you can put your hand to more than one activity and surprise yourself. Change your medium of expression and treat it as a fun experiment. If you draw, try painting or pottery. If you like poetry, try writing some yourself. If you have been inspired by stories in the past, try making up a short story. Darn it, go out and make art from the pebbles on the beach. The important thing here is to try something new with your mind and hands and treat it as fun. Don’t be ultimate about it! Don’t expect to be “good” at it. The aim is to find a new perspective and a new feeling by trying something new for pleasure. Be playful. You are not producing anything here to impress.

4. Play again.

This might be the fourth point but sometimes learning to have fun and rediscover our sense of playfulness can be a big key to unlocking the door to fresh creativity. My father in law once said to me that when he ran his plant nursery business, he always treated it as if it were a hobby and a passion, not a job. That way, he was never motivated by anything other than love and pleasure in his work. It is a hard thing to do this considering the financial and time pressures we put ourselves under in modern life, but I like what he said. I remember it.
Sometimes we simply have to stop and realise that in order to continue loving what we do, we need to let it go, spiritually and emotionally. We need to say “hey, it’s only making marks and having fun!”. We need to rediscover the playfulness of children in our work. If we feel stale, this playfulness is definitely missing. Young children don’t worry when they make things. To them it’s play. It’s unconcerned joy. They are not critics. They don’t work to “achieve”. They make things because making and doing and using their hands and discovering stuff is FUN. The results are not judged by them. They learn to judge as they grow up and become us! We, as artists and makers, need to remember who we once were before we restrained ourselves with all the criteria we set for ourselves. We sometimes need to take time out and do whatever we need to play and have fun: paint and make a mess in the attic playing loud music, try making faces out of doodles, try sculpting out of old bits of wood.

5. Move!

A practical one that I can’t forget. I am a keen fitness enthusiast and when not drawing and illustrating, I also run a sports massage and bodywork clinic. I often work with people who have what I call “digital pain syndrome”. They are tight and uncomfortable in the neck, back and shoulders because they sit at a computer all day long. I am a firm believer in how much what we do with our bodies affects us emotionally and psychologically. So, when you are stuck for ideas, get UP from your monitor or desk or canvas and get OUT and walk or go to the gym or go and do some gardening. Let your body stretch and move on a regular basis and you will find your mind follows suit.

The above are obviously my own thoughts borne out of my own experience. Feel free to share your own strategies for regaining inspiration in your work. If you have written on a similar subject, share share! I would love to know what you think!


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