Life with all its stresses can be a drag on your creativity. And yes, we all know about the writers and artists who use their anger, pain, and frustration as source material for their work. But what if your crappy, exhausting job, bills, debt and student loans, managing your kids’ school activities and issues, and if you’re a part of the sandwich generation, taking care of aging parents, isn’t proving to be terribly inspiring? When you do find a spare minute to yourself and finally sit in front of the screen or the canvas, then nothing comes. All those daily anxieties push out the great ideas that used to wake you up in the middle of the night. Can you force yourself to be creative? Or is it hopeless?
Take a look at it this way: some of those ‘daily grind’ things we do involve being creative. Things like parenting, successfully carrying out the tasks of your employment, cultivating your relationships and cooking meals for your family. When we appreciate that we are being creative in our daily routine, we must then figure out how to cultivate creativity for our artistry. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking, ‘what if…?’ and letting your mind answer the question with all the possibilities.
Remember that your talents have already manifested themselves. If you’ve been creative in the past, you can be again. Reflect on those past achievements. While it’s true that creativity may come naturally to some, many successful artists and writers have simply nurtured their creativity over time. You see what I’m saying? They worked at it. The writer or artist who sits staring at the blank screen or canvas waiting for inspiration to strike is going to be waiting a long time. Inspiration comes not just from within but also from without. We must take the initiative to find it.
Read other authors in your genre. Read other authors outside of your genre, including non-fiction. Watch films, television programs, go to the theater. Go outside and move your body. And for Pete’s sake, turn off the podcasts and the news and refresh your mind with some quiet time. Listen to music. Go to the art museum, or even a small gallery and take time to study the paintings, photographs or sculptures. Spend time with your friends, especially those who also have creative pursuits. Join a book club – you might be able to find one through your local library or independent book store. Take an evening art class, even if it’s way below your skill level. You’ll always learn at least one new thing. Spend time with people who inspire you, rather than drain you. Granted, we can’t all hang out with our heroes but this is the time to read interviews, listen to lectures or read their biographies.
And since we began this discussion by acknowledging the scarcity of free time, I’m by no means advocating ALL of those suggestions. Just pick one that fits into your schedule. Above all, don’t get discouraged. If the creative reservoir seems dry, it might take a little time to fill it back up again. Start adding just one bucket full at a time.