It is much more common than you may be led to believe for creatives to get stuck in a rut. What the rest of the world perceives as absolute confidence is usually just a momentary snapshot in time, never the full picture. You don’t see the moments between creation where that person is in floods of tears because they just don’t know how to get in the right frame of mind to create. The tears, the agony, the negative self-talk, all of those things are private and hidden from view.
Life can be mundane. It is filled with daily, weekly, and monthly repetitions of mundane and almost thoughtless actions. Actions that we are required to follow through because they are important but are (and likely never have been) not at all exciting. We need excitement in our lives. Excitement is a positive and healthy stress response in our brains. It is a nice and welcome surprise as it forces our brains into creating new pathways and connections, to widen our perspective, and increase the joy in our lives.
When we lead a life devoid of new experiences and excitement we end up acting almost completely autonomously. We move through each day with zero thought required. This stagnation of the mind is cancer to your creativity. It slowly picks apart and destroys what makes you who you are.
“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
- Sherlock Holmes in The sign of four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The greatest (fictional) detective of all time is inclined to agree with me. Stagnation of the mind is akin to the decimation of the soul. It strips away who and what you are and leaves behind itself a trail of destruction and autonomy. We leave the realms of deep thought and creation and enter the shallow waters of mediocrity. When life offers no challenge we have nothing to resist, before we know it we become swept away and overwhelmed.
Your creative mindset combined with your thoughtful nature is a gift to the world, no greater gift can be bestowed. Your creativity opens up new worlds and possibilities to those who bear witness.
Allowing your life to be consumed by the mundane and autonomous is a travesty. There is never any single moment that creates that prison for your creativity, just a gradual loss of who you are. It is only when you reach the bottom of that pit do you even realise it has happened. That is when you recognise that you are in a slump. That is when you feel everything slipping away. That is when you are at your lowest and least able to fight back against the unrelenting tides of mediocrity and autonomy. That is when you truly stop being you.
There is no such thing as past the point of no return, despite how it may feel at times. There is always a way back to individuality. We are not borg. We are artists, we are poets, we are the very definition of what it means to be human. We are love, we are passionate, and we are a blazing inferno of emotional expression.
Our creativity does not just represent us, it gives those who are too scared to step into the light of day a voice. A voice that they need. A voice that understands them. A voice that will fight for them. You hold a position of nobility and honour as a creative. You are a modern-day white knight. A hero to many, a saviour to the few.
Respect your nobility and feed your creativity. Do so with passion and love, with intent and purpose. Grow with your creativity, evolve through the medium of your art. Your art is the glue that holds the building blocks of life together.
Climbing out of the deep, dark pits of a creative slump is something we all need to do at times. Something that many give up on before they begin. There is a way to craft your own ladder, so to speak. A way of creating elevation and momentum.
Before you even consider how to do that you need to take a moment to recognise and understand your current position and the impact it has on you and the people in your world. You are not broke, you are not defective, you are not lazy, your commitment to your art is not in question, and your creative abilities are every bit as fantastic as they have always been. You are just feeling stuck, that’s all.
The people in your world are desperate for you to realign with your creativity. Not because they need your art (they do but that’s not why), it is because they recognise that when you are stuck in a rut you are not the same person that they came to love and respect. To them, your art is secondary to your well-being. To you, it is the other way round. Your art is a key part of your well-being.
The path to creative freedom is paved by positive action. There is no more positive action than to experience something brand new.
As human beings, we are always trying to predict what will happen in the next half of a second. Most of the time we do a pretty good job of it, especially when we reach adulthood. This, in turn, leads to fewer moments of surprise as we move through life.
When we are incorrect in our predictions, i.e we are surprised, the amygdala provides us with a fear effect and slams us with a dose of cortisol to keep us sharp and alert. Small, short-lived surprises create a healthy stress response. The surprise gets incorporated into memory and we are then able to make more accurate predictions for the next time. When the brain realises that there is no threat it stops dosing us with cortisol.
When we experience something that is so completely alien to anything we have previously experienced the stress response is intensified and more enduring. The cortisol injection is greater and longer-lasting, the memory it creates is more impactful. This gives your creativity a boost. When I say boost I really do mean a boost. It is rocket fuel for the engine of your creativity.
If those experiences are positive then this is a sustainable exercise. The trick is making sure that those new experiences are positive.
If you find yourself regularly falling into a creative slump then make an effort to engage in something completely alien to you, and do so regularly. Those things don’t have to be big, you’re not expected to go skydiving or anything. Keep it simple.
One of the things I like to do for this particular exercise is watching a movie that is not something I would normally watch or would think that I’d enjoy. Some other things I like to do is eat something I’ve never tried before, drink something I’ve never tried before, go somewhere I’ve never been before, talk to people I have never spoken to before.
It doesn’t matter what it is that you do, so long as it is something you have never done before. Nothing lights a fire under your creativity quite like a brand new experience. Never in my life would I have considered watching a chic flick but thanks to this exercise I have and it was liberating. Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy the film but I think that was also part of why it felt so liberating to do. It was completely alien to me, I was way outside of my comfort zone and was forced to actively watch and listen because I had no predictions so had to gather more data for my brain to make more accurate predictions in the future.
It is a simple trick, although I don’t feel that trick is an appropriate label as there is no trickery involved. No tricks, no magic, just science and self-awareness. When you make it a regular part of your life your creativity will grow and intensify. There’s no instant solution here, just consistently trying something new. That consistency creates a compound effect in your mind, which leads to ripping the ceiling off your creativity; a truly liberating and uplifting feeling.
If you take anything away from reading this today I hope that it is that you need to take positive action to elevate yourself out of your creative slump and that stepping slightly out of your comfort zone is that positive action.
It is all well and good saying to yourself that you will implement this technique into your life but unless you act upon it you will be stuck in that slump forevermore. Nobody should have to live that way, least of all you. You deserve better. Your art deserves better. The aesthete deserves better.
Without implementation, your intentions amount to nothing. Without action, there is no momentum. Without momentum, there is only stagnation. Nothing is more poisonous to the creative mind than stagnation. Do not allow yourself to stagnate.
Take action today or regret your inaction tomorrow, it’s up to you to decide which path you choose. Your choices being the path to creative freedom, or the circular motion of inaction layered with half-hearted intentions.
Written By Mike on 07.06.2021