Things have been a little dry lately. Finding the desire to paint has been like a slow trudge through the desert with very little to feed and water my soul. However, stumbling upon a creative oasis happens every so often and although I have to brush the grit from my imagination and force feed it just enough to get going, I usually finish something I'm proud of. Then, as I head out into the world with what I think is a better plan to continue painting with a better navigation map, I'm lost in the parched sameness of normal life, of errands, to do lists, and numbers, numbers, numbers.
It began just over three years ago. My husband was about to retire from the Air Force and we decided to purchase a business which would provide sufficient income for our family. It's been an absolute blessing on one hand, because my husband is happy, so much happier than when he was writing his own performance reports and following rules that were redundant time wasters but my right brained, creative self had to take a back seat for awhile. I decided to be his partner by handling the accounting so we could run the business more efficiently and my desire to be an art teacher was put on hold indefinitely. I thought there would be plenty of time leftover for me to paint, sculpt and write music, and technically there is. So what happened? It so happens that I've found it extremely difficult to flip the switch from the logical thinking required in bookkeeping to the random, kaleidoscopic, abstract thinking of creativity.
The good news is though, all is not lost. Here are 5 ways that I am able to reclaim my creativity when life wants to swallow my inner Picasso, and they can work for you as well.
Iphones, iPads, laptops, tv screens, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and Tinder. The list of distractions goes on and on and they're killing our divergent thinking capabilities, our attention spans, and our relationships. When was the last time you went to a restaurant or even a doctor's office without a screen hanging somewhere on the wall? In the grocery line not only do we see rows of magazines with countless shallow headlines, now we can zone out on our phones while we wait to throw our groceries onto the conveyor belt. You have to unplug to reconnect with your imagination. If you're as addicted to the screen as I am you may even have to forgo Pandora or Spotify until you're completely immersed in a project that feeds your soul because, Squirrel! Distraction is a disease, and Pandora sometimes plays lame songs that require you to look at your screen and fast forward to something better, which can lead to replying to that text which can actually wait until later. Kill the screen just for awhile and connect with your Self.
2: Engage in a Small Creative Act
Are you a painter that can't seem to lift a brush these days? Cross-train. The term doesn't just apply to athletes. Artists need to cross-train their brains like athletes need to cross-train their bodies. Take some photos of things that catch your interest. It's quick and easy and doesn't require a ton of effort. It could be a piece of garbage or an abandoned shopping cart. It doesn't matter. I like to use a few of the cool photo effect apps out there like ArtEffect and Artisto to make ugly images more interesting, even beautiful.
You can erase them later. Just engage in seeing the world from a different perspective.
How about if you're a photographer who's lost your desire to take photos? Engage in intuitive drawing, write down whatever comes to mind, or even strum a ukulele. The main thing to remember as I'm trying desperately to do now, is that eventually the creative juices will return, but it could take awhile. Be kind to your Self and don't panic.
3. Find Your Community
Like attracts like. Find or reunite with those people who feed your inner artist. There are people out there that understand exactly how you feel and can be there to exchange ideas, collaborate, and support the wide range of emotions that will occur during your dry spell. They are sure to be able to give you advice and ensure you that this too shall pass, because they know from experience. They can also affirm that what you're feeling matters, even if you technically aren't losing money or notoriety from your lack of artistic spark. Believe it or not, many spouses of artists, musicians and writers just cannot comprehend what the big deal is, and won't hesitate to say so. Some of us have heard the words, "It's not like you make any money at it so why are you so upset?" That itself can be disheartening to hear. With like-minded individuals you have the opportunity to soak up the opposite sentiment and share artistic experiences together such as seeing a concert or play, or even talking about an exhibit over a few drinks, which will definitely lift your mood.
4. Kill the Comparisons
There's a meme that I love called How to Feel Miserable as an Artist by Keri Smith.
The first item on the list is to Constantly Compare Yourself to Others Artists. It happens. A lot. Sometimes I hear myself and even other artists justify why someone else's work is so much better than our own, which absolutely kills creativity and confidence. On other occasions, I hear justification as to why another artist's work sells and theirs doesn't such as, "Well, all of their buyers are other artists and that doesn't count." Or, "People in this city just want ordinary northwest subject matter and don't know what real art is." Even worse, "I'm no good and no one wants to buy anything from me. Why bother?" None of that should matter if you enjoy what you're painting. One of the harsh realities out there is that people buy or appreciate art for all kinds of reasons and often it has nothing to do with you or how you suck. Well ok, maybe you need to develop your skills a bit, but let that go for now. Looking over at another artist while you attempt to be authentic can be disheartening. Read the book Gertrude McFuzz by Dr. Suess. Gertrude the bird was an example of how trying to be like someone else can actually harm you and make you into a second rate version of that person. You want to fly, not be anchored down by standards that don't fit you.
5. Just Do It
Yeah, that's f!?#ing annoying to hear, but it's the old fashioned way of getting things done. In our modern society we have self help books and inspirational blogs for virtually everything and sometimes the cheapest, most efficient way of accomplishing something that seems difficult is to just show up. There's a quote by child prodigy Akiane Kramarik that has stuck in my brain like cement. "I don't wait for inspiration, inspiration waits for me." Children in all of their simplicity, even prodigies, can have the best solution to problems.
In a Nutshell
This list is not exhaustive, but merely a start. You'll probably cut your own path to reclaiming your creativity. Just know that you aren't alone when it comes to hitting a few potholes in your journey as an artist and realize that many of the restraints that seem to be holding us back are often navigable if we're flexible enough to see multiple trajectories. Good luck and happy creations.