My favorite writer Elizabeth Gilbert says, “If you are alive, you are a creative person.” We are all born to be creative. It doesn’t matter if you don’t identify as an “Artist” or if you have been told your whole life that you don’t have a creative bone in your body. You don’t have to be making a living off your creativity, or any money at all, to be creative. You don’t even need to share the things you create with anyone. All you need is to tap into the remarkable magic that comes when you find something you really enjoy being creative with.
The flip side of living a creative life, however, is dealing with the inevitable dry spell that comes when we become disconnected from our creativity. Sometimes, this is totally normal and natural. Creativity, like anything, is seasonal and has its own mysterious rhythms. Other times, you might actually be cutting yourself off from your creative flow, without realizing or intending to. In either case, I have discovered that these five practices work wonders for helping me reconnect with my creativity and also shorten future periods of disconnect.
Consume art that inspires you
As creative people, we can become so laser-focused on what we are producing ourselves that we forget the benefits of consuming other people’s creative work. Oftentimes when I find myself in a creative dry spell, I also realize that it’s been ages since I read a good book, watched a great movie, or listened to new music.
If you are someone who looks at reading books or watching movies as frivolous leisure activities only to be done after you have put in an honest day’s work, this piece of advice may be really tough to implement. But the truth is, these are often the very activities that your mind needs to let your own creative river begin to flow. Just as fueling your body properly will allow you to improve your fitness performance, so too does feeding your creative brain allow it to optimize its creative output. Note, though, there is a fine line between mindful consumption and oversaturation. More on that in the next point.
Incorporate pockets of stillness and quiet into your day
In today’s over-saturated world, it can be easy to never ever be bored. The social media and entertainment industries profit and thrive off their ability to keep us engaged at all times. And while the reward-seeking parts of our brain love being constantly stimulated, creativity cannot survive in those conditions. It needs room to breathe. When you overfill your brain with mindless consumption, beyond what it is meant to take in, you begin to lose yourself. It is far too easy to use things like social media or a busy schedule to escape uncomfortable feelings or experiences. But you need to fully feel your feelings in order to create art that will resonate with someone else’s experience. You need to truly experience life to be able to write about it. Truly good art reflects a well-lived life.
Mix it up
For a long time, I approached my creativity with an almost evangelical attitude. I thought I had to pick just one thing to be creative in, and that was all I was ever allowed to do. So I picked writing, because I loved it and it was something that had always come easily to me. And when I hit my inevitable dry spell, likely from putting way too much pressure on writing to satisfy all my creative needs, I thought I was now destined forevermore to live an uncreative life.
In fact, there are billions of ways to be creative. And I have come to learn that it is not necessary to be great at something in order to do it. Nor does it need to become a side hustle or a new passion project. It can simply be creativity for creativity’s sake. Recently, I have found tremendous joy in playing guitar and baking. And the great thing is, I find that when I really allow myself to explore these new avenues of creativity with no expectations, other than having fun, the inspiration for writing comes flooding back.
So get out of your creative comfort zone. Being creative with your mode of creativity is going to, surprise surprise, increase your creativity!
I’m sure you’ve realized by now that the more you try to force your creativity into being, the more it seems to elude you. You cannot wrestle your creativity into submission and expect good results. So try a different approach. Let it be fun. Let it be light. Don’t make creativity a means to an end, but make it an end in itself. The most amazing creative works are ones that were not created with the purpose of becoming masterpieces. They were products of their makers’ genuine interests and delights. They were birthed from true enjoyment and delight, not from a place of should. The most powerful work you create will be the one you made for yourself, because it brought you joy and spilled effortlessly from you. It was not made to change the world or make you famous or earn you accolades. It was made because it was something YOU wanted to see in the world. That’s authentic creativity.
Enjoy the whole process, even these periods of disconnect, that are really opportunities for you to grow your creative practice. Creativity is meant to be enjoyed, not suffered through. So take the pressure off, and go make something for no other reason than the joy it brings you. Your life, and the world around you, will be better for it.