Top 10 Things to do When You’re in a Creative Rut

Coffee Cup Collages by collage artist Megan Coyle

I was recently in a bit of a creative rut. I was feeling uninspired and noticed that my attitude about my work was getting increasingly negative. I had developed this “what’s the point in making artwork anymore?” mindset, which was clearly toxic and needed to be fixed.

I started making some changes in my life, and found that several of them were pretty helpful. So if you find yourself in somewhat of a creative rut, here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you get out if it:

10. Take a vacation

If you have a day job and you’re working on your artwork on the side, or if you’re a full-time art entrepreneur, you might find yourself having trouble figuring out when to actually stop working. The danger of having a “never stop working” attitude is that you run the risk of burning yourself out. So if you’re finding yourself uninspired, and feel like your creative passion is beginning to fade, take a vacation. Your body is telling you that you need a break.

9. Give yourself pep talks

I realized I was being too hard on myself, and I needed to start talking to myself the way I talk to my friends or family members when they’re going through a hard time. Instead of dismissing my work as “terrible,” I started editing my thoughts so they’d be more like, “this might not be where you want it yet, but it will get there.”

Afternoon in the Park by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Afternoon in the Park” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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8. Take better care of yourself

Taking a step back from your work and focusing on yourself can really help. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat, and exercise. If you’re worn thin physically, it’s difficult to work hard on your craft.

7. Go to a museum

Simply setting aside your work for a while, and going to an art museum or gallery to admire the work of others, can help you get inspired. It can also give you another perspective by showing you what else is out there, and how your work fits in. Or how you can do things differently now that you have learned about a new artist or body of work.

6. Spend more time with friends or family

Spending time away from your artwork and around others can help you get motivated again. Conversations can jumpstart new ideas.

5. Go to a concert or play

Seeing the work of other creative artists can help you get passionate about your work again.

4. Do something for someone else

Doing something for someone else can help you get out of your head, and you can start focusing on something new for a while. It can also help inspire future works of art.

“City Sunsets” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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3. Organize your life

When your “to do” list is growing out of control, it’s difficult of feel in control of your life, and it’s easier to fall even deeper into a creative rut. Getting organized can make tasks related to your artwork more manageable. I’ve also found that mapping out what I plan to do for the week on my calendar, really helps breakdown my workload into manageable chunks. Plus, if I don’t have enough time to get to one item, I can easily reassign it to a new day. So instead of taming an incredibly long “to do” list, I’m working on a couple of tasks every day.

2. Set goals

First, I think it’s helpful to list out what you’ve already accomplished. It’s useful to keep a running list, so if you’re ever feeling negative about your work, you can pull out the list to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved thus far. Then I think it’s helpful to work on setting new, manageable goals, to continue to move you along with your artistic career.

1. Change something

It’s easy to become a creature of habit and fall into the same routine day in and day out. But if you’re in a rut, changing things up a bit can really help. It can be something as small as taking a different route to the grocery store, or experimenting with a new medium with your artwork. Change can take you out of your comfort zone and help move you forward.

 

Have you tried something else that’s helped you get out of a creative rut? Feel free to share what worked for you in the comments!

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