5 Steps to Getting Out of a Creative Funk

hands writing in a notebook surrounded by a phone, glasses, and coffee cup

Last month, I had just bought a new spiral-bound sketchbook and flipped open to the first page, excited to create something new and exciting! But, nothing happened. I sat and stared at this blank page feeling stuck. It felt like there wasn’t a creative bone in my body, which I know seems unreasonable, but it felt very real at the time. This is to say, it was not my first time experiencing this kind of creative funk, and it is certainly not going to be my last. 

As an artistic person, I have found myself feeling uninspired and unmotivated many times throughout my life and artistic journey. These feelings, no matter what you call them, will be experienced by all creatives at many points throughout our lives. Remember, you are not alone in these feelings. The question is, what do we do when this happens and how can we navigate feeling blocked? 

1. Take a break.

Often when we’re in a creative funk, our initial reaction is to drill down on the subject at hand and continue working. Instead, something I like to do first is stop and step away from whatever I’m doing and get my mind off it. As an example, when something is on the tip of our tongue and we just can’t remember the word we’re looking for, as soon as we go “eh, forget it!” the word eventually comes to us.

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our art is taking a break. You could go on a walk, listen to music, watch a movie, eat a meal. It’s also very possible you’ve overworked yourself and it’s time to rest or give your body fuel. It’s important to check in with ourselves and see what we’re needing. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Sometimes we don’t even realize this until we stop and take a break. So take a moment and step away, your project will be there when you get back.

2. Switch it up!

Occasionally, we still want to create and keep our creative mind active, but can get stuck in our primary art medium. I can recall a time when I was feeling stuck and decided to switch lanes and create with a medium I wasn’t familiar with, in this case, painting. I made what I would proudly call bad art. It was just for me, there was no planning or criticizing, it was for my eyes only. This allowed me to not only access a different part of my emotions and my skills but to also let go of some pressure I was putting on myself. Additionally, you could try a different form of art for the first time! There is so much out there.

Some ideas to switch it up are to write a short story, choreograph a dance to a song you like, or learn to draw your favorite fruit. The point is, flex the muscle. It doesn’t need to be good, or make sense, or look pretty! You never know, it might inspire something completely different in you. For more ideas to get the creative juices flowing, check out this article: https://mymodernmet.com/art-ideas/ 

3. Recreate!

Think back to why you started your art in the first place, even look at some of your earlier pieces for inspiration. Something I love doing is recreating pieces I’ve done in the past and seeing how I’ve grown and how my perspective has changed. Doing this can also remind us how far we’ve come even if we haven’t realized it yet. If you are just starting out and don’t have earlier pieces to recreate, try to remember what it was about your medium that caught your eye in the first place. Was it a person? A moment? An actual place you can visit? Thinking about these things can bring back the joy you felt when you were first starting out! (Bonus points if you want to journal about these feelings). 

4. Name stressors in your life.

This is especially true for the state of the world right now. Our mental health greatly affects our art and how we create. Not only that, it affects the way we view our art. Negative self-talk of ourselves and our creations can be at the root of some unresolved feelings. It’s very possible that this block is coming from a deeper place that needs healing or an emotion that’s been neglected. Like everything, this is a skill that takes time and practice. And for many of us, we need help learning how to feel our feelings. For a more in-depth resource about what it looks like to name stressors and regulate our emotions, I suggest reading this article as a place to start.

5. Find acceptance.

This is my last and most important piece of advice for any creatives feeling stuck: let go of perfectionism. Having moments of feeling uninspired and stuck is a part of the artistic process and we have all gone through it. Remind yourself that it’s okay that you are experiencing this. We all have, and you are certainly not alone. Nowadays, artists are expected to pump out piece after piece, this is especially true with the way social media works.

There is immense pressure to continue creating content, even if we are feeling uninspired or unmotivated. Perfectionism, in any context, can cause us so much fear that we become scared to create anything. This goes back to tip #2 – make bad art! Let go of any expectations you think your art is “supposed” to look like and let whatever happens, happen. And again, this is something that takes skill, but the more we practice letting go, the easier it will come to us. 

All of this to say, it’s all part of the journey. Like everything in life, there will be ups, downs, and everything in the middle. Maybe you’ve experienced these feelings in the past or maybe you’re in a creative funk right now as you read this. Know that it will eventually pass. These tips are what helps me when I’m feeling uninspired and I hope they resonate with you as well. Remember, inspiration can strike at any time, often when we’re least expecting it. So, try to embrace this part of the process, and let’s reframe this creative funk as just another component of what it means to be an artist.

Hi everyone! My name is Tal (she/they) and I’m an Administrative Assistant and Outreach Coordinator for Acacia Santa Cruz! I’m passionate about mental health awareness and try to portray that through my art. Some things I love: drawing/doodling, lino block printing, photography, hanging by the beach, cooking and dancing!

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