10 Paths to Help You Emerge from a Creative Slump

I’m having a bit of a blogging slump. The articles aren’t coming as easily as they usually do. So, I looked through some old newsletters and found this gem, which I decided to update and heed.

Everyone Has Creative Slumps

As you can see from my confession, you’re not alone. We all have creative slumps. Whether you have no interest in promoting your art (yes, it’s a creative task to promote your art) or are anxious about getting back into the studio, a slump is a slump.

Here are 10 things you can do to hasten your emergence from a slump.

1. Wallow. But wallow just a little bit. Wallow to honor your emotions and feel them fully. If it becomes depression, I can suggest nothing better than a couple of acupuncture treatments to get you back into alignment.

2. Plan something big with a deadline. Nothing gets the juices flowing like facing a deadline for a promotional piece, an exhibit, or an event.

3. Get out. Take a walk, go to the gym, sit at a coffee shop, go shopping, or head to yoga class. Just get out.

4. Talk. Make appointments for coffees, lunches, and gallery or museum visits. Talk to people! Being the studio is lonely. You need to exchange ideas, observe life, and feel to your bones that your time is now.

5. Create your escape path. Just keep making art. More and more art. Use a color you’ve never liked or copy an Old Master. Some of the work might really stink, but you’ll eventually find your way back.

6. Write. Write about your slump as I’m doing here. Write about what’s bugging you. Write your morning pages. Write a nasty letter to the juror who dismissed your work (then shred it!). Write about your dreams.

7. Read. Read an inspirational book like Art & Fear. Or read the biography of another artist. Read to find connection to ideas that are bigger than you and an artist community that you’re a part of.

8. Listen. Listen to CDs or audio downloads that motivate you. There are tons of self-help podcasts available at no cost. If you haven’t already done so, start wtih the Art Marketing Action podcast archives. Listen to the birds, listen to your children, listen to messages of hope. But don’t listen to newscasts that make you angry or depressed.

9. Watch. Watch a movie or documentary. Just like a book, a film can remind you of your connection to a larger group of artists. Rent the PBS series art:21. Don’t watch junk on television, especially if it makes you sad, mad, or causes you to withdraw further.

10. Purge. Clutter and things related to unhappy memories emit bad energy. You don’t need them around. In fact, you need them outta there if you want to create space for your rich life. Get rid of things you don’t love. Make more room for the good things to enter your life.

My favorites are #3 (getting out of the office); #4 (talking with people who get me fired up about what I’m doing – this doesn’t have to be face-to-face, but that’s my preference); and #10 (cleaning my office always gives me a boost).

Which path do you usually fall back on?

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27 comments to 10 Paths to Help You Emerge from a Creative Slump

  • I usually wallow followed by a nature walk. Being outside usually lifts my spirits.

    Having a big clean out usually helps too.

  • My confession is that I have no idea what a creative slump is. My problem is keeping track of, journaling, prioritizing and organizing my ideas so I can execute my favorites! Your blog and classes Alyson continue to help me put much of the chaos into loving places that I can access when I need them!

  • Thank you for posting this TODAY. I’ve been so bogged down in #10 that I had lost sight of the other fun things that usually give me a jump start.

    Numbers 3,7 and 9 usually work for me. Art 21 is terrific, and I just checked out Steven Aimone’s book “Expressive Drawing.” Following the series of drawing exercises he outlines will be a real adventure….bound to get some kind of juices flowing!

  • When I’m in a creative slump, nothing works better for me than trying new materials…….a different sized canvas, a wooden panel, a huge size of paper or drawing surface, different brands and colors of paint, switching from oil to acrylic, drawing and painting real big or real small, also placing my canvas flat on a table or on the floor instead of on an easel. All of these things are small changes but they seem to break me out of a rut. Also, as mentioned in the previous comment, Steve Aimone’s book on expressive drawing is wonderful! I highly recommend it!

  • This is a great article!
    I’ve been doing 2-10 lately! It feels so renewing taking a step back and looking at everything differently.
    I recently watched a documentary on how Pixar was started! It’s called The Pixar Story. It was really inspiring to me! Just had to share!

  • I’m big on getting out..going for a walk..rolling out my mat and practicing yoga..turning myself upside down. Usually – when I return to earth – the world looks a little brighter and more hopeful. My creative juices flow…

  • Meredith

    Sometimes I put everything I’ve been working on up on the wall- or I spread it out on the floor, so I can take in all I’ve accomplished so far. I’ve noticed I often get down because I’m impatient…. I feel the art-making process is too slow going… or I finish the day thinking I haven’t done enough/what I’m doing doesn’t matter. Stepping back and seeing it all as a whole can help.

    If organizing, museum visiting, talking etc. doesn’t help- I give myself a total break from everything art related.. and know that I’m simply recharging my batteries for my next go.

    • Meredith: That’s a good one: spreading things out so you can see your progress. I usually do that with a book or new product. Put it all over the floor and then I’m inspired to reorganize it.

  • Jen

    Great post; I will be sure to visit it when I need to. I just wanted to give you all a heads up that the Art:21 series is available for free on the PBS website, and you can watch full episodes streaming online. It’s a fantastic series and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in or curious about contemporary artists and their work.

    • Jen: THANK YOU! I had no idea that art:21 put those videos up and I’ve been following them for years. They used to have them up for a short period of time, but now they all seem to be there. Nice!

  • I find 1, 3, and 9 to be the most helpful. Watching art documentaries or biographical movies always inspires me, but to be honest, sometimes a completely brainless movie helps clear my head! Getting out of my studio, out of my house, and out of my daily reality helps ground me back into the real (larger) world outside of the one I’ve created. Though sometimes it takes a little force to get me out there. And sometimes a good old-fashioned wallow is just what the doctor ordered. I even wrote about that in a blog recently: http://www.bittybiz.com/2011/04/mama-said-thered-be-days-like-this.html. I guess different slumps call for different solutions – and sometimes more than one!

  • I think I wallow, but my creative slumps are usually because I am busy with school. In the summers, I go outside for a walk or to the mountains…I also create more crafty work for fun which eventually leads me back.

    I also agree that a big project is often a motivator. I have never had a solo show, but just got chosen for a spot in November…I cant stop thinking about concepts for the graphics pieces and the overall theme and researching ideas. It is great! In fact most all of my goals for the summer relate back to this project. http://feliciafollum.blogspot.com/2011/04/summer-goals.html

    I should add Declutter to that list. I think the ArtBizBlog will be helping me accomplish several of my goals (and my goals were inspired by this blog)…Thanks!!

    If you are ever in a blogging slump again, I would love some advice for artists who are just finishing college and looking to transition to the working artist world (or artist who are still at the lower end of the spectrum). Maybe some common mistakes to avoid… : )

  • Thank you so much for this. I mashed and executed #3 and #4, and as an completely unexpected result I made 3 new contacts, and was invited to bring my artwork for “look-see”, and a possible event collaboration. If it weren’t for your email arriving today, I probably would have missed the inspiration to take action today. The first contact was amazingly inspiring and a posterchild for flawless customer service! (who can say no to cute shoes and great customer service?)

  • When I slump, I slump all the way…creative, emotional, physical, intellectual- all at the same time…Here we say “I’m in a rut”… So far, the best way for me to get out of a rut is Schadenfreude…It sounds awful- the joy one gets at another’s misfortunes- but, it is an excellent tool…When in a rut, seek out someone whose story is sad, tragic, difficult, brings you to tears…The perspective that gives you forces you out of your own sorry plight…Once out of your rut, you will feel inspired again to create…Use judiciously…

  • Whenever I am in a slump I have a tendency to stop everything, and procrastinate. So I re-read (or listen again to the audio book) of the War of Art by Steven Pressfield . That always, always helps!! I highly recommend it to everyone!

  • Lovely list with plenty of ideas. As a creative, I love #3 + #10. Purging is one of the most effective tools and often the most difficult in our super consumerist culture. Oh, but so worth the work to clear our spaces for new life to emerge from the depths of our being!

  • Great article! For me, doing something NOT related to writing helps…I can’t work on a non-work writing project. I have to get out and get calm. Go to the beach, do yoga, etc. Get away from it, then return refreshed:)

  • Great advice here, thanks for sharing!

    Purging, organizing (and going through old art stuff) and home improvement projects (especially if they’re art studio related) are my sure fire ways to get out of a slump.

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