11 Ways To Break Out Of A Creative Slump
1. Ask your audience what they want.
Crowdsourcing is a cheat code. Not only does it allow for a deeper connection with your audience, it also allows you to get firsthand perspective on what they want from you. We have to trust our intuition to a certain extent, and at the end of the day we have to live by the choices that we make for ourselves. That being said, in a world that places value on creative work based on the way that it's consumed, maintaining a thorough understanding of what your target audience is interested in goes a long way. Posting simple questions on your social platforms of choice can help you to find new sources of inspiration when you run out of ideas. Ask your audience what they want from you. Ask the question in different ways. Ask consistently. Don't let pride stop you from asking questions that will give you insight into how you can help people.
2. Don't worry about structure or purpose - let your thoughts flow freely.
Sometimes, you just have to get your thoughts out. Let your thoughts flow freely in a journal. If you’re more visually inclined, consider drawing in a sketchbook. If you’re more technologically inclined, type your thoughts into Apple Notes. The medium isn’t important - giving yourself space to think, process, and put pen to paper without restriction is what matters. You can always put your thoughts into a more structured, organized format after you’ve given yourself space to get them out. The things that are weighing you down, taking up space in your head, and distracting you from the task at hand might end up becoming fuel for your next "thing." Even if you don't end up doing anything with the thoughts that you let loose, writing them out will help you to think things through to completion and move on.
3. Open up that book you’ve been meaning to read.
I have a collection of books sitting around in my room. I don't read them. They just sit there. I bought them a while ago, based on friends' recommendations and my own research. I know that I need to read more consistently to continue my own self-education process, but it's tough to make time for it. This year, I know that I need to force myself to make time. Outside perspective can be a catalyst for creators. Intentionally consuming relevant content can spark new thought and inspire new forms of creative output. Opening up that next book isn't a waste of time, it's a form of self-investment that you can't afford to pass up on.
"Don't let pride stop you from asking questions that will give you insight into how you can help people."
4. Listen to a (relevant) podcast.
If you read #3 and decided that you STILL don't have enough time to read anything, this one is for you. No matter how busy you are, you likely have idle time on your hands from time to time. You can't avoid getting stuck in traffic or waiting for someone to show up late for a meeting, but you can make the most of that time by listening to something that can inform or inspire you. You might not feel like getting out of bed when your alarm goes off for the first time, but maybe you can press play on a podcast for a few minutes while you enjoy those precious moments before you have to actually start your day. Think of your idle time as an opportunity to soak up gems, gain new insight, and stay up to date on trends. Invest in a comfortable pair of headphones if you haven't already, and start making the most of those boring moments.
5. Reflect on your wins and losses.
Unless you’re a prodigious baby or a time traveling connoisseur (or both, like Stewie Griffin), you weren’t born yesterday. You have experience. You've experienced setbacks and come ups. Wins and losses. You've seen dreams unfold, nightmares come true. The things that you've lived through can provide you with stimulus for new creative endeavors and valuable life lessons. When was the last time you intentionally reflected on your wins and losses? Chronicling your high and low points can put you in position to gain new clarity about what works for you, and what doesn't. Even if you don't think of anything that applies directly to your current situation, the cumulative effect of making reflective time a priority will change the way that you think for the better.
6. Punch somebody in the face. Call it boxing.
Sitting behind a computer screen or at a desk for hours isn't the most stimulating way to spend time, but it's inevitable for many of us. Physical activity is a great way to break out of a creative slump, especially if you've been staring at a screen since you woke up. Get the blood flowing, let some Trick Daddy run through your speakers, and punch somebody in the face. Working out in general is great, but there’s something great about taking out frustrations on a heavy bag, or the face of a willing participant with appropriate protective headgear. I recommend giving the heavy bag a few rounds, and seeing where it takes you. I do not recommend punching anyone in the face who didn’t sign up to be punched. I will not bail you out. Do not go to jail on my account. Do consider finding the form of physical activity that you enjoy the most and sticking with it. Do not listen to Drakey R&B songs while attempting to perform the aforementioned vigorous activity.
7. Switch your routine up.
Experiencing new sights and sounds is a great way to find inspiration. Even if you can't afford to travel often, adding variety to your daily routine might do the trick. If you eat the same meal for breakfast, take the same route to work, listen to the same music during your break, and get served by the same waitress at the coffeehouse on 39th and Lenox (you know, the one with the braids?) every single day, it's probably time to switch things up. Force your brain to break out of monotonous routines. You don't have to spend a lot of extra time to break your routine. If you're eating out for lunch anyways, consider trying at least two new locations every week. If you have to drive in rush hour traffic, try a few different routes. Turn off autopilot and continue to explore the world around you.
8. Watch a documentary about somebody you draw inspiration from or look up to.
We have access to endless amounts of content. It's all a click away. Use the internet to your advantage when you hit mental roadblocks. I'm not talking about scrolling your timeline endlessly, I'm talking about intentionally seeking out inspiration from the people who you look up to. Think about people whose work you admire, and look for documentaries, interviews, or other video content about them. Doesn’t matter if it’s Hulu, NetFlix, or YouTube. Learning more about people you admire might help you to think of new ways to approach the task at hand. Learning more about their lives can help you to draw connections to your own experiences and goals.
9. Sleep more.
It’s hard to be disciplined or focused when you’re struggling to keep your eyes open. Many of us are constantly sleep-deprived, and it hurts our productivity more than we know. Lack of sleep makes your brain process information slower and forget things quicker. It will also negatively affect your mood. Sleeping more isn't a waste of time - it will help you to be happier, healthier, and more efficient with your waking hours. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Being "busy" isn't an excuse, because sleep deprivation puts you in position to move more inefficiently and ineffectively. Prioritize sleep, and not just on the weekends. It will serve you well.
"Don't be afraid to lean on the homies for support, encouragement, and accountability purposes. They need you just as badly as you need them."
10. Lean on the homies, guilt-free.
Say it with me: “I. Am not. Alone.” It’s hard to remember sometimes. Being communicative can be difficult - particularly during busy, stressful, and gloomy seasons. Half the time, we keep problems close to our chest, because we don't want to burden anyone else with our struggles. Never forget that there are people who are experiencing similar struggles, hardships, and insecurities. We all need someone to lean on. Even if your friends are experiencing different setbacks, they can empathize with the way you feel. They can provide outside opinions and moral support. At your lowest points, they can remind you of who you are. Don’t be afraid to vent to your friends. If no one wants to hear you out, consider finding better friends. We're all going through something. Having people to talk it out with is a necessity. Don't be afraid to lean on the homies for support, encouragement, and accountability purposes. They need you just as badly as you need them.
11. Put your phone on airplane mode and push through.
Sometimes, we just have to focus on what matters the most. Block out all those distractions. Start with your phone. How much work can you accomplish in twenty minutes if there are no distractions to impede your progress? I’m talking texts, apps, tweets, DM’s - all of it. Consider putting your phone on airplane mode and working for a predetermined amount of time. When days feel too hectic or motivation is lacking, I like to set a 20 minute timer, dial in, and work until the buzzer rings. My reward? A five to ten minute break, some sort of snack, and the satisfaction of seeing tangible progress take place. You might surprise yourself with how fast you work when you're truly dialed in and working against the clock.
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