How to Get Over a Creative Slump
We’ve all been there. An empty white page, beckoning to be filled with words, an empty canvas, taunting you with its emptiness, or a song that refuses to find its own chord progression. Sooner or later, all creatives find themselves in the doldrums of unproductivity. Where nothing seems to stick, a spark can’t ignite, and you find yourself doubting your talents and your capabilities. The first step is to remember that you’re not alone, and it’s all a natural and inevitable part of life as a practicing artist. The vital first step is to recognize that you’re in control of this situation and how you choose to manoeuvre around the particular conflict you’re going through right now. Here are some quick tips and guides to help you get back on your feet.
Form is temporary, class is permanent.
As a creative, it’s natural to feel like each and every project you take on is a reflection of your skills and talents, which is fair and sometime good when you’re efficiently producing work that you’re proud of, but this mindset can be destructive when you’re not as productive or are feeling let down by your recent output. I often tell myself “Form is temporary, class is permanent”.
It’s a golden nugget of advice I keep reminding myself of often when I’ve lost my rhythm or feel like I’m in a creative rut. It’s important to trust in the fundamental essence of what makes you an artist and to take time to recreate environments that birthed your passion and refine it to your new circumstances and weed out all the factors that lead you to doubting yourself. Once you’ve accounted for the conditions that lead you to where you are, you can use this insight to grow past your current hurdles.
Your input is your output.
While reading a thousand books, listening to hours of music or watching days upon days of films may not be the skeleton key that makes you a brilliant artist overnight, it helps a great deal. Broadening our creative horizons and searching for new media in different art forms and genres, can be the engine that accelerates the next stage of your creative development. Often, the most obscure sources of influence can guide you towards a new channel of thinking about your practice as an artist, however, you’ll never know until you take the time to explore.
Returning to old influences also help remind us why we started this journey to begin with, and a renewed sense of purpose brings vitality to the work we produce, and with it, our productivity. Your input is your output, changing the flavour of the media you consume, changes the flavour of the art you’ll produce.
Outside of art, it’s also beneficial to absorb influence from the world(s) we live in. As artists, we exist as translators of the human experience, continually absorbing and articulating the textures of the worlds we live into poetry, paintings, music, dance, film or all the above combined. If we stop immersing ourselves in the breathing reality around us, in all its variety, then we limit the colours of our expression.
Just do it!
The first and last thing you likely prioritize when making a work of art is making something that you’re proud of. So, it follows, artists spend an inordinate amount of time curating, manicuring, and double/triple/quadruple checking their work so it looks as pin-point-pitch-perfect as possible. We hate appearing amateurish, and above all, we hate embarrassing ourselves. This may be the origin of your slump. The anxiety and fear of attempting risks because they might not work out.
I once had a lecturer in film school who told us, if you’re going to fail an assignment, fail spectacularly in a blaze of glory rather than fail simply because you weren’t really trying. Retreating into comfort zones or restricting your creative output to follow conventions are more detrimental in the long run to your creative practice than taking risks in the first place.
Go ahead and write that draft even if it’s legible to you and you only, ruin a canvas with a nonsensical scribble (if you can afford it) or shoot a short film on your phone with your childhood toys. Ultimately, you’re growing, step by step and you’ll be all the better for it. Let go of perfectionism and try something no one else is doing, and if you fail, at least have the fire be glorious. Even if privately, be unafraid of embarrassment and unabashed in your ambition for new frontiers for your practice.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
As much as athletes spend time in-between games and in the off-season training and refining their bodies and skills, practicing your craft as an artist helps keep you consistently on the creative edge. We sometimes have the tendency to only work on our craft when we’re commissioned to do so, either through a client or a project. However, in-between gigs, allocating an amount of time to practice can be beneficial to ensure we don’t endure creative droughts. The practice ought not to be creatively strenuous tasks, you can often spend that time practicing doing small tasks that sharpen and fine-tune your skills.
Ultimately, everything will be fine, and despite what you believe about your current creative drought, it’s honestly within your grasp and control. These tips may not be overnight cures but using these steps will slowly and surely guide you towards your peak once again, and possibly, even guiding you towards a stronger and more refined artist in control of their form. Remember, it all takes time and learning to appreciate these doldrums and opportunities for growth.