Rock bottom can surprise you. One day you feel completely fine, and then the realisation hits you, you’re not where you want to be.
If you are studying or have graduated from a creative industries degree, then I’m assuming you know exactly what I mean. Unless you come from a trust fund, there’s a good chance you’ll often wake up to a tedious job and realise that you couldn’t be further away from your dream.
Amid everything, it’s highly likely you allowed yourself a small creative break. This is entirely normal and should you ever start to lose joy or passion for your art then it may be an excellent time to take a break and assess why that is.
It’s in these days, weeks, or maybe even months of your creative holiday that you might dive into other activities such as drinking with buddies, watching mindless hours of Netflix, or endlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed. At first, you feel great and empowered and have what appears to be infinite time and space.
I’m warning you that this feeling does wear off eventually. That’s when you start to doubt your skills, because if you’ve been working on succeeding in the creative arts for this long what more can you do? Maybe you’re not as talented or inspirational as you once believed.
To break free, you need to accept that feeling like a creative failure is okay.
Mistakes are commonplace, and you need to move forward. Ignoring these negative emotions or feeding into them will only extend your procrastination and do nothing to improve your situation.
Instead, make micro moves, inch closer to your goals each day, even on the worst ones. It’s vital to understand that creativity isn’t easy to come by; you need to work for it.
1. Actively Consume
Start with something as simple as paying attention to what’s happening in your creative field. Personally, I start by searching for a few reviews on the best shows, books, and movies that have just been released. Pick a few that sound interesting, and sit back and enjoy.
Ask yourself a few questions about what you’ve just consumed. Even better, ask yourself questions while you are consuming content. What do you hate? What do you love? How did the creators do that?
While I’m watching a new show, I try to notice the technical aspects of the dialogue or picture how the script would have been written for a particular scene.
When reading, I pay attention to the flow of the text, the way the story begins and how the plot is moved along. Again, I try to notice the more technical aspects, I pick out what I enjoyed from it and how I could possibly achieve the same thing in my own writing.
Even just by switching the way you consume material, you’ll be making sparks in your creativity, before long you’ll have picked up a few ideas of things you want to try out yourself.
2. Journal When You Can
Journalling has been proven to have amazing benefits for both creativity and productivity. It allows you to brain dump and gather all your nagging thoughts in one place so you can begin to sort through them.
Think of journaling as a space to collect and then flesh out ideas, check in with your emotions, and draw inspiration.
Setting up a simple journalling habit doesn’t have to be difficult either. Just 10 minutes a day should suffice. Try to keep it consistent and focused.
3. Set Yourself Tiny Goals
Teensy, tiny, mini, little goals are the best way to take steps towards your dreams. When I was in a slump, these steps were spread out over months. I did something small like update my profile or write 500 words. These small goals eventually gave me the discipline needed to keep pushing forward and ultimately, I was able to land my first writing gig.
I was once a creative industries student working in benign jobs to earn cash and hoping that one day I’d publish that blog or write that novel which would change the course of my life. Somewhere along the line, I moved to New Zealand and found myself in a job completely unrelated to my degree. I had even started to resign to the fact that maybe I wasn’t one of the special graduates, who would see the spotlight for their beautifully written prose.
No, I’d stopped considering that I was unique and thought I would be stuck in dead-end jobs for the foreseeable future. Despite losing hope, I still advertised my skills in online forums and freelancing sites. I’d been on some of these sites since I was 17-years-old with no bites, but the profiles were already created, and all I did was half-heartedly update the resumes every few months.
Eventually, these small steps helped to snowball my writing career. Don’t underestimate the power of taking the next step, however small it is.
I realised that it’s completely normal to feel like a creative failure at times, especially when you’ve gotten yourself into debt studying the arts and have nothing to show for it.
But just because you feel like your creativity is all dried up, doesn’t mean you should stop trying to make your dreams a reality.