I hear you. I know many of you are feeling overwhelmed, stuck or just creatively zapped. I GET IT! If you feel it, chances are I've felt it too and it's a constant effort to keep from getting sucked under.
Stop feeling stuck
STUCK is a terrible feeling. It usually means we just don't know where to start or don't know what to do next. I always try to give myself a little bit of allowance for this feeling. As creatives, we often feel like we need to be "on" all the time, but the fact is that the juices just run dry sometimes. In my experience, putting pressure on myself because I have to be creative just makes it worse. When I'm feeling stuck for short amounts of times, I try to nourish my creativity to get things going again (more on that in a moment!).
Other times STUCK can last longer than an afternoon and really start to set in. Weeks or even months (years?) can go by and that feeling of being stagnant starts to hurt. Many of you have heard my story, but if you've never heard the very beginning of it, let me share it with you:
After graduating from business school, I fell in love with fabric design. It's what I wanted to do above anything else, but it felt BIG and SCARY. I didn't know how to design and didn't have a clue on how to get started.
But I had decided that this was my dream. Period.
About 6 months went by, and though I had daydreamed about becoming a designer, I had actually done nothing in order to make this big dream come true. I believe, this is where so many creatives get STUCK. I didn't know where or how to start, and the end goal was so big that the whole thing was overwhelming. It would be much easier to just give up.
That's when it dawned on me: I should start doing just one thing every single day that takes me in the right direction towards accomplishing my dream. Simple enough, right?! So this is what I did. Over the course of the following 18 months, I did something every single day to make my dream come true. At the beginning, it was doing a lot of research and for nearly a year, it was taking Illustrator lessons online. Over the months, tasks involved writing emails, working on patterns, sketching, building a portfolio, contacting companies, making a phone call, etc etc. Some days I spent 15 minutes on my dream, other days I spent 8 or 9 hours working on it. Most days, I didn't know what I would be doing in two weeks, but one thing led to another and the answer always came in time for me to do the next thing.
After about 2 years, I signed my first contract to become a fabric designer. I cried and was filled with so much awe and joy! For the first time in my whole life, I had accomplished something HUGE. What I learned through this experience is that it's important to set BIG goals. You know, the ones that are scary, and may never come true. The next important thing is to not let it overwhelm you, but rather let it inspire your small steps. When you're on step 2 or 3, you won't know what step 8 or 9 (or 532) looks like, but you'll know just in time to make it happen.
Everything in life is possible if you're willing to put in the work. Dreams come true by way of knowledge. This means you'll have to read and research, google your brains out and learn a lot. But you can do that, right?!
Nourish your creativity
Most often, I wake up rearing to go and ready to attack my creative goals for the day. I love what I do, and it hardly ever feels like work. For that, I am so grateful! But for the days or hours that feel just BLAH, I have a list of things I can to do in order to nourish my creativity. I believe that it's incredibly important to take care of your creativity and nourish it every day.
1) Keep style files. When I'm feeling low on ideas and totally NOT creative - I refer to my style files. Sometimes this is a folder on my hard drive, or an actual paper folder of things that inspire , or sometimes a 'secret' board on Pinterest. However you prefer, tuck things away that you love to refer back to when you need help getting your creative juices flowing. Think magazine articles, photographs, color palettes and more!
2) Brighten your space. Working in natural daylight is an absolute MUST for me and my sanity. I've worked in dark places before, and they leave me feeling tired, burnt out and depressed. This is such a concern of mine, that the amount of natural day light was the number one thing I considered when designing our home. If it's dark where you work, consider taking your work outside or moving it closer to a window, and seeing if it makes you feel any differently.
3) Step away from the computer. 70% of all of my creative work has to be done while sitting in front of a computer. Sometimes, I just need to take a break! This is when I take a walk outside, or do something hands-on and creative in my home. Whatever revives you, do it!
4) Keep something pretty in sight. This is simple and maybe a little silly, but it WORKS. A pretty plant or simple vase of flowers does the trick for me. It could be a photograph, piece of artwork or notebook, as well.
5) Keep a clean work space. What's that saying, tidy desk = a tidy mind? Keep your work space organized and your brain will be soon to follow!
6) Personal hygiene. Haha, but seriously! I remember when I first started showering first thing in the morning and it made the biggest difference. If you work from home, it can be incredibly easy to catch yourself in the afternoon with your pajamas still on. Start getting fully ready in the morning and you'll feel empowered, professional and motivated to work. (Just to be clear: I'm not saying dress up, just be appropriate if your neighbor stops by!)
7) Stay energized. Some do it with coffee, others do it with green smoothies and plenty of sleep. Whatever it is, just remember that energy = creativity.
8) Take time off. Sometimes, I just need a day. If you're feeling overwhelmed and zapped, don't push it. Do some mundane tasks that don't require your creativity like answering emails or organizing your work station. If you can afford it, give yourself an entire day off and spend it doing something you love.
9) Work when you're motivated. Because a creativepreneur means I can work whenever I like (woop!). Creatives don't always feel motivated to work from 9 to 5, so work when you feel most motivated. For some, it will be late into the night, for others it may be very early in the morning. Tune in to your energy and put your most motivated time to good use.
Here's our motto: keep your creativity nourished and your work will flourish!
Psst.. Enrollment opens February 19th! Surface Pattern Design Immersion is an 8-week Online training program for creatives who want to learn Adobe Illustrator, surface design and the business of how to become a licensing artist. It’s a completely comprehensive course, designed to give you a unique and immersive experience into the world of Surface Pattern Design. Because we all know, the best way to accomplish your BIG goals is to immerse yourself in the learning, the industry and in the community.