What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a creative desert? Creative burnout is real and it happens to a lot of us, so here are 12 proven ways to reinspire your creative spark. And it may all start with , taking yourself on a date, shopping your idea vault, or simply walking away.
What’s your favorite way to reinvigorate your creativity? Email me or DM me on Instagram @themakermuse.co to share your best tips! Many thanks to my followers Kesha, Jennie, Kim, Grace, Sarah, Cathleen, Janelle, and Margz B for sending in so many great ideas.
Scroll down for a full episode transcript.
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In this episode:
- 0:21 – Episode 7: Creativity is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
- 3:19 – Maker Challenges list on PetiteFont.com
- 3:52 – The 100 Day Project: a global art challenge
- 7:36 – Julia Cameron on “what is an artist’s date?”
- 8:06 – Buy The Artist’s Way on Amazon
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[00:00:00] ¡Hola! And welcome goes to the Maker Muse Podcast, the place where child-free Spanglish- speaking, mujeres fuertes are inspired to find their confidence through creativity. I’m Paulette Erato The Maker Muse. I hope you’re staying hydrated, mis amiges because as you know, that is super important to the creative process.
[00:00:21] Bueno today we’re continuing where we left off last time on the “Creativity is a Marathon” episode. If you haven’t listened to it yet, that’s cool. But you should go do that porque chica, es bien importante to understand the significance of community and strategic resources. But if ain’t nobody got time for that, here’s the quickie recap:
[00:00:40] The spigot to your creative flow can sometimes feel like it’s been shut off. These creative ruts are similar to the valley of despair, where our enthusiasm is outweighed by frustration and everything feels hard. You can try to prepare for this by rewarding yourself, having your hype song playlist on repeat, developing a support system and community, staying hydrated, and moving around. So your body and brain aren’t stagnant.
[00:01:03] Pero que pasa when you’re already in it? No amount of water or movement is working? Bueno, les prometí más, so here are 12 more tips for crushing creative blocks, recovering from creative burnout and getting back into your flow state.
[00:01:16] Numero uno: ignore your art completely. This first one is going to sound counter intuitive, but it’s also the simplest. I know it might make you go “¿qqqque??? Paulette ¡estas loca!” and that’s okay. I’m starting with this one precisely because it seems so bonkers out there that the rest of these are going to sound a lot more doable. But this is still an option.
[00:01:38] I’m telling you to walk away. And I know this works because not only have I used it and I’m going through the very same thing right now, but it was also recommended by at least three of my followers on Instagram. So shout out to Kesha, Jennie, and Kim! No te apures, this is probably temporary. But what you might need is distance from your art to let the burnout heal.
[00:01:59] If you keep pushing and pushing right now, it might only get worse. So take a pause. Instead use this time to lean into something new or go back to something you used to love. Start a journaling practice or a yoga practice, go skateboarding or to a baseball game. Make flower crowns, try doing Tik Tok dances, binge watch your favorite show, again. Read that book you’ve had sitting on your nightstand all this time. The point is to just move away from this. Your creative satisfaction might be found elsewhere for now. So let this one lay dormant.
[00:02:30] Numero dos: use your skills for a community project. If you can’t use your creative skills in your own best interests, look at giving them to a good cause. This is great, especially for those of you whose love language is “acts of service.”
[00:02:43] Back when the pandemic first started in early 2020, there was a massive push for home sewists to make face masks. Some people in the sewing community were able to crank out dozens of them seemingly overnight, and this really galvanized the community together. So where can you apply your skills in the same way? Look at non-profits and charities who are always in need of art supplies or volunteers to teach classes in your type of art.
[00:03:09] Numero tres: Grab inspiration from maker challenges. And I’m going to get a little self-promoty here, but I think you’ll indulge me. Sometimes what your creativity needs is rules and parameters to narrow your choices and maybe your next art project becomes clear. I keep a running list of monthly and year long challenges on my sewing slash maker blog, Petite Font. (And I’ll leave a link to that in the show notes.) In there, you’ll find inspiration in the form of casual and formal artistic events, like juried contests with cash prizes. Admittedly, many of them are sewing focused, but I’ve managed to turn art projects into sewing projects. So you can probably do the same in reverse. So give it a look.
[00:03:47] There are also Instagram accounts that host weekly drawing and other art challenges. So look to Instagram using the hashtags #artchallenge or #artchallenges. There’s also a global challenge called The Hundred Day Project, which invites participants to create something every day for a hundred days. This one’s one of my personal favorites. And this year it’s origami.
[00:04:07] Numero cuatro: create your own challenge. Not finding what you want among the list of these maker challenges? Then make up your own. What is it you want to accomplish with your art? What would it be fun to encourage other people to do at the same time? What kind of contest is your art community lacking? Create a challenge around that. And if you feel like sharing it, please send me the details so I can add it to the maker list. And the reason you might really want to do that is because a community support system is key to help re-energize you when you’re in a creative desert.
[00:04:37] I created The Mendy Project to help me get through a massive laundry bag of jeans that all need their inner thighs mended, because thick thighs save lives right? To keep me accountable, I invited the online so community to join me in this, by using the hashtag #TheMendyProject.
[00:04:53] Have I finished the bag? No. Do I feel bad about that? Also no. It’s my challenge and I’ll do it whenever I damn well please. Like when I feel like I’ve lost my sewing mojo. Or what we call sewjo.
[00:05:05] Numero cinco: organize your space. If you can’t be arsed to actually make something, then maybe now’s the time for a cleanup party. Organize your tools and your supplies, rearrange your making space, take stock of all the finished projects, catalog them, plan for future ones. Fantasize about your next set of tools. If you’re a sewist my friend Grace from Maker Mountain Fabrics has this tip for you: buy more fabric.
[00:05:28] But for you, maybe it’s a set of bamboo knitting tools, a Babylock serger, a Mac book Pro, Caran d’Ache pencils, Artis makeup brushes. I don’t know, whatever the Cadillac version of your specific art tools are, where would you put them? How much space do you need? You know, whatever your art is, maybe now’s the time to plan for when you actually acquire those cool tools. Or at least get rid of the ones that no longer work. Throw that shit out! So you can make space for all the new things that you’re about to create.
[00:05:56] And shout out to Instagram followers, Sarah and Cathleen for recommending this tip too.
[00:06:00] Numero seis: try a palette cleanser. Creative burnout is real. Falling into those valleys of despair happens and it can really suck. If you need a reason to fall in love with your art again, try returning to a project or starting a new one that is simple, but enjoyable. It’s something that’s going to give you an easy win and will help remove any traces of annoyance. It helps if this is also something you can accomplish quickly.
[00:06:24] For cooks, maybe this is your favorite mid-week dish that you can throw together with your eyes closed. Photographers, where’s your favorite local place to shoot from the hip? Dancers, what’s your favorite choreography? Writers, who’s your favorite character? Sewists, what’s your T and T pattern? And so on, you can fill in the blank.
[00:06:43] Numero siete: go on an artist’s date. An artist’s date is what Julia Cameron describes in her book, The Artist’s Way as:
[00:06:50] ” a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its primary form, the artist’s date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on the artist date, but you and your inner artist, AKA your creative child. That means no lovers, friends, spouses, children, no taggers-on of any stripe. If you think this sounds stupid or that you’ll never be able to afford the time, identify that reaction as resistance. You cannot afford not to find time for artist’s dates.”
[00:07:26] So she suggests doing that weekly for the entire 12 weeks of the book’s run, which isn’t a bad idea for keeping creative blocks at bay. If your magical creative mojo is missing, what do you have to lose by going out looking for inspiration?
[00:07:38] So what does an artist’s date actually look like? Julia answers this with:
[00:07:42] “The artist’s date is a once weekly festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The artist’s date need not be overly artistic. Think mischief more than mastery. Artists dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”
[00:08:12] I’ll link both to her website and her book in the show notes, so you can check that out.
[00:08:17] Numero ocho: revisit a previous project. This can be something you made for you or even a commission. How would you reconceive that work today, if you got the chance at a do over. What would you improve or leave out completely? Would you do it exactly the same way? Have you learned a new method or technique that you could apply?
[00:08:34] Or go back to an old assignment. One of my favorite photography projects in college was to take 20 lines from different books, poems or songs, put them together to create a new written piece and then shoot a series based on that. I used a lot of nineties music in mine as you might’ve guessed. But 20 years have passed since I did that and I wonder what new song lyrics I might use this time.
[00:08:57] If that’s not your jam, then reshoot your favorite color piece in black and white. If you’re a baker, what would happen if you made a sourdough loaf in the instant pot instead of the oven? Painters, could you redo a watercolor painting in pastels or acrylics? Potters use a new medium or type of clay. Have you ever sculpted and terracotta or bone China? The point is to re-imagine your old piece in a new way.
[00:09:20] Numero nueve: join a test or a jury. Thanks to Janell on Instagram for this tip! In sewing pattern designers usually run a test of the design by having other people sew it up so they can ensure the directions are correct, pattern pieces fit together, and everything makes sense. It’s like a beta test before releasing it to the public.
[00:09:37] If your artistic community offers these types of opportunities, join them! Creating something based on a specific brief with little room for deviation might be exactly what you need. And just like a maker challenge, the narrow scope of choice could respark that creativity.
[00:09:54] If you’re not into beta testing, what about joining a jury and judging other people’s work? Look into what opportunities exist for that. And it can be anything from a taste tester at a chili cook-off to judging scholarship entries.
[00:10:06] And now that I think about it, that sounds really yummy. Dammit. Now I’m hungry.
[00:10:11] Numero diez: indulge in a new medium. This one is a good tag team for the first idea I gave you: to walk away. Artists are rarely if ever one-trick ponies. So many of you have multiple disciplines. And shout out to follow her Margz B for the reminder that a lot of us sewers or sewists, whatever, are also knitters or crocheters, or even pattern designers. So what other artistic outlets do you have? When was the last time you got a chance to indulge in them?
[00:10:37] Typography, candle making, woodworking, graphic design, painting, dancing, sculpting, weaving friendship bracelets, mixology, photography, doodling, comic book writing, knife forging, home decor, soap making, embroidery, filming a movie, rolling sushi, macrame, scrapbooking, mosaics, baking, napkin folding, balloon animals, pick up a new musical instrument! Shit, even build something out of Legos. That’s an art medium. Try it.
[00:11:05] Numero once: leave the studio. This is similar to the artist date, but not quite. It isn’t a date. It’s more of a change in scenery.
[00:11:12] You see people writing on their laptops at coffee shops all the time. Could you do that? Where else could you work besides where you always do? If you’re a studio photographer, try some landscape or street photography. Painter, move your easel to a different corner or go outside. Chef? Cook in, someone else’s kitchen. Musician? Hey, I’ve got a saxophonist who is regularly posted up at the train station across the street, giving us a free concert. But hey, if you don’t want to leave your house, go play in the closet or up on the roof. You get the picture.
[00:11:43] Finally numero doce: shop your idea vault. Do you keep an idea of vault? You know that your creativity ebbs and flows, so you can prepare for that by keeping a list of ideas you want to try one day. I have this on my phone, but maybe you carry a notebook or even a sketchbook with you instead. When all your good ideas seem to have dried up like the Sahara Desert or you’re at the bottom of your Death Valley of creativity, pop open in your notes and shop your old ideas. This is a good exercise, no matter what type of artist you are.[00:12:16] So to recap, the 12 tips for crushing your creative blocks, they are:
1. Ignore your art completely.
2. Use your skills for a community project.
3. Grab inspiration from maker challenges.
4. Create your own maker challenge.
5. Organize your space.
6. Try a palate cleanser.
7. Go on an artist date.
8. Redo a previous project.
9. Join a test or a jury.
10. Indulge in a new art medium.
11. Leave the studio.
12. Shop your idea vault.
[00:12:50] Is there one of these that you think will be most helpful to you? Which ones do you think you’ll be using the next time you find yourself facing creative burnout? Feel free to email me or DM me on Instagram to share your thoughts. I’d really love to hear from you!
[00:13:04] All right, mis amiges stay hydrated and that’s a burrito.