5 Atypical Things I Do When I’m in a Creative Rut
They happen. In fact they happen often. So far in every creative medium I’ve tried I’ve had the experience of falling into a creative rut. But, I’ve gotta be honest - it’s been happening a lot more since I started Pizza for Breakfast Designs. Frick, I'm just getting out of one! I had the same problem when I started painting for commissions instead of doing it for fun (so that didn’t last long). Somehow, even though the money is a motivator, the second I monetize my art it starts to make me feel weighed down and shackled. It’s hard to make beautiful things from that headspace, so here are a few things I do instead while I wait for the fire of my creative spirit to rekindle.
Disclaimer: Note that this blog is not titled ‘5 things you should do to get out of a creative rut’ - I’m just here to share what I personally do. If you’re looking for advice you’re most likely not in the right place… but if you’re looking for a chuckle, I might have that for you. They do say that laughing is medicine… so it just might do you some good to read on, so here we go!
1. Ask why?
My creative ruts pop up for a handful of reasons. Some of them are strictly non-actionable. When this is the case, I quickly move on to one of the other things I do during a rut in order to not get stuck feeling shame or guilt about it (because ain’t nobody got time for that). But, other times it’s something specific that I can actually work out, and the only way I can identify that is by examining why the rut came about. For example, I’ve totally botched a batch of earrings before and the frustration and self-judgement I’ve felt afterward tried their best to disguise themselves as a creative rut over the following weeks. It took a bit of self-analysis to sort out the difference, and once I did I was able to get right back to creating again. But as I said, some ruts are just ruts and the only way out is through.
2. Work a different medium
I still like to paint. I don’t do commissions anymore, but I still love the feeling of sitting down to a blank canvas and painting late into the night with a movie or some tunes playing. Sometimes when I just can’t get into making or designing earrings, I’ll dig out my paints. I find breaking the mould and boundaries of the medium helps me feel free again, and that freedom can lift me out of my weighed-down state and remind me how much fun the experience of creating can be. Honestly, sometimes I just throw paint around. For me, it’s amazingly therapeutic and highly recommended.
3. Look for inspiration
Okay - this one does sound like advice, but it’s not really. The section title seems pretty insightful, but the inspiration I’m referring to here is actually just me binge-watching Broad City for the umpteenth time. I strongly believe that this show is magnificent, and that watching it can cure any and all of my rut-forging ailments. What did I say earlier about laughter as medicine? Yeah, exactly. You can try to fight me on this, but this show has seriously launched me out of a rut or two.
4. Look for adoptable hairless cats on the internet
What? You’re saying you don’t spend time googling rescue agencies that have hairless cats up for adoption? It’s weird if you don’t… This is a very legitimate and well-formulated pastime of mine. You can’t tell me animals don’t inspire passion, joy and the drive to become a better version of ourselves. Well, maybe you can but for real if that’s how you feel you can see yourself out, bring me all the hairless kitties! I’ll just be over here feverishly scrolling through adoption agency insta accounts.
5. Let it be
For me, when I've done all of the above (yes, all of the above), and the desire to create still hasn’t returned, I realize it might be time to just give it a rest. I find my brain is my own worst enemy during a creative rut. It tells me all these stories about how we’ve gotten to this point and how if I don’t make it I'll lose my business and blah-di-blah-blah. So, sometimes I just flick the off switch in my head and stop doing anything to ‘fix’ where I’m at. The funny thing is I might keep doing all of the same things with my time, but dropping the narrative about how those things will or won’t affect the rut is another way I find I can lighten the load. After a while, a true and genuine desire to make comes back every time. Because, well, I just really love making my earrings and seeing others enjoy them as well.