Written by Arianna O’Dell Originally published by FastCompany.com
While this article was published last year we find the thoughts and advice expressed in it just as applicable today.
We have spent an abnormal amount of time confined to our homes over the last year. It is clear the pandemic has not only wreaked havoc on our mental health but our relationships, our wallets, and our creativity. On top of that, most of us eagerly await a return to normalcy.
For many, it can be hard to get out of bed during turbulent times; and being creative is even more difficult. If you feel like this is you, this is a common trend, be assured, you are not alone. It has been reported that 19% of Americans are struggling with a mental illness this year, an increase of 1.5 million from previous years.
So, how can you be creative when the odds are stacked against you? I spoke with top creatives who broke down pandemic walls, void of inspiration, and found the strength to pursue their passions even amid tough times.
1. TAKE MONEY OUT OF MIND (EVEN WHEN YOU NEED IT)
From writing new songs to teaching myself to make videos, I found that constantly creating has a direct correlation on my mood. On days when I would wake up unmotivated, I would quickly feel reinvigorated from making a fun TikTok video or writing a new song. While these things had no direct correlation to my bottom line, they helped lift my mood and inspire me to work harder on my business where I could generate income. Many creatives are out of work this year—and it is hard to work on something that doesn’t directly create funds. But oftentimes, my creative work has been noticed by others and led to conversations down the line. Companies are often eager to turn to artists to add creativity to their brands.
“Inspiration can be an elusive thing. Sometimes, I am inspired out of necessity, like how I’m going to pay rent? The best kind of inspiration is when you get the idea to do something just because you feel like it and are curious about the process,” explains comedienne, actor, and singer Noël Wells. “I think ruts are not a bad thing, and being unmotivated is often seen as lazy in our culture, when it could just be a sign of needing to be nurtured or needing rest. I felt very uninspired for at least six months in 2020, but I had to remind myself this was actually an opportunity to refill the well.”
Even many long-practicing artists have to learn that it’s important to embed self-care in the creative process. Allow yourself to make it part of yours. Remember, it may not always come naturally.
2. MAINTAIN GOOD MENTAL HEALTH
Putting pressure on yourself to create something can further dim your creative spark. Be kind to yourself and remember that if you don’t create something amazing today, there is always next week, month, and year. It is completely okay to take a break and put your mental health before productivity.
“I try to stay actively aware of my mental health, as I don’t want to put pressure on myself to create if it feels more obligatory than it does fun,” explains actor and musician Rocky Paterra on why this tactic works for him.
Let go of your worries, just for the day. Take some time to get outside and enjoying the outdoors. Research shows that living in areas with more green space can reduce levels of the stress. So, invest some time to zone in on present moment—and take some deep breaths, simultaneously.
3. CHANGE YOUR LOCATION
Sometimes, when I’m feeling a lack of inspiration, a change of scenery can leave me feeling refreshed and reinspired. Whether it’s a trip to the beach, a road trip, or taking some time to travel abroad, changing my location can stoke creative inspiration. A change in surroundings can rejigger your mood and change your mindset.
“I’d recommend spending time away from home to anyone seeking to reinvigorate their outlook,” says Katelynn Minott, a partner at the tax services company targeting expats, Bright!Tax.
4. TAKE RISKS WHEN BEING CREATIVE
If you are feeling stuck in your creative discipline, trying a new hobby can be a fresh breath of air, reinvigorating your creativity. Sable Yong, a freelance writer and podcast host has been constantly creating through the pandemic. Her advice is to “Try new things. [Stir up] your routine.”
While routine can be a stabilizing foundation for creativity, redundancy can suck air out of the creative process. It’s vital to try new things and keep your creative self challenged and interested. If the idea of trying something new scares you, that could be a sign it’s something that deserves your attention.
5. CARVE OUT TIME FOR CREATIVITY DAILY
Working your creativity muscles is similar to working your gym muscles. You can work on making them stronger by firing up your creativity, daily. Then there are some days you just don’t feel like “working out,” which is okay, too..
“I see myself—half-jokingly—as a gardener in a field of ideas,” explains Philippe-Aubert Messier, founder of music licensing company, Bopper. “I will water and tend a very wide bunch of undeveloped ideas, at seed stage if you will; some will mature, some not. These are a number of [mental] games with good ideas. Most [ideas] aren’t good, so I personally feel I need to maintain a good flow of ideas at different stages to eventually get a good one. When I actually run with one of them, it might look like inspiration, but there is more discipline and a process to it.”
In the creative process, there is no such thing as wasted work. Everything you do, good and bad, informs and builds towards a final product. Take solace in that and exercise those muscles.
Whether you have had a productive day, or will try again tomorrow, it’s important to remember that creativity takes time and patience. Think about the things you enjoy doing, jump into fun, small projects today, and watch as bigger ideas gradually emerge.