I don’t often find myself in a creative funk. When my creativity isn’t flowing, most likely I am burnt out, bored, overwhelmed or experiencing negative self-talk or confidence issues that cause me to doubt or procrastinate my art. Reading this back, it sounds a lot like a creative funk and I’m only now realizing that this is my way of reframing it so I can get myself out of it. Spoiler alert: it works.
When your creativity isn’t flowing, what’s your reaction? Are you frustrated, angry, complacent, relieved? Do you blame something outside of yourself? Really think about, identify and own your answer. For now, just be aware of how you respond to the blockage of creativity. You don’t need to solve it, but I do recommend writing it down.
Ask questions. What was your last creative endeavor like? Was it lackluster? If so, are you doubting your art? Are you fearful of simply getting started? Was it perhaps the best thing you ever created? This can also create doubt or fear: “I don’t think I can create anything better. Maybe this is just the best I can do.” Again, write it down.
Perhaps you just scrolled down your Instagram feed and saw an incredible representation of art within your genre. Did it inspire you or did it provoke voices in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough? You know the drill: write it down.
It may sound irrelevant, but what you take into and how you treat your body can have a huge impact on your creativity. Are you eating enough and eating healthy? Are you taking in more alcohol, caffeine and/or sugar than usual? Has your sleep been off? Get it on paper, as well as any other thoughts that pop into your head during this short evaluation.
Any answer you provide gives you a tangible and solvable problem. Using this process makes it easier to see how your creative funk probably has its roots in something much more identifiable. Those blockages can manifest in different ways, depending on our own contexts, habits, self-narratives and more. Your job is to find a solution to the obstacle(s) you’ve identified. Obvious solutions: train, be kind to yourself, change your mindset, take an Instagram break, eat better, etc., are great!
I’d also like to give you different tools and suggestions to help jumpstart your process:
• Collaborate on a project with somebody outside of your genre.
• Talk to creatives outside your genre to hear about what projects they’re doing and see if you can adapt their process to your art form.
• Make a collage of inspiring snippets from your art form (pictures, riffs, written phrases, etc) and arrange them in a random order. Fill in the blanks between them on your own, moving from one to the next and taking liberties in how to get there. I’m not suggesting you plagiarize the work of others, but that you use this process to anchor and inspire your own creativity.
• Have an accountability friend! I have one (outside of the dance world), and we text each other when we train, try something new, finish a piece, etc. It’s a great way to stay inspired with somebody else!
• Grab a book! Three of my favorites in the subject are:
Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovich
Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
My challenge to you is: don’t accept your creative funk at face value. Identify the cause, find solutions and feel empowered by the change. Good luck, and happy creating!
Nadine is an engineer, owner of Nadine Medina Designs, owner of Troy Dance Factory and Artistic Director of Synergia Dance Project.