Lost Inspiration: The Creative’s Greatest Fear
One Method to Keep the Muse
As Creatives, one of our biggest fears is losing inspiration. That muse who yesterday filled us with vivid technicolour ideas and words spilling effortlessly onto the page (or screen) is a fickle bitch. And some days she seems to disappear in a wisp of indifferent smoke.
Sometimes art feels like an alchemical combination of ingredients that have to be distilled in just the “right” way. But when the stars align and you achieve something that connects with people, makes them FEEL something, it’s all worthwhile.
But what about when that DOESN’T happen. When originality remains elusive. And creative was that thing you used to be — last week. And every idea you come up with is (sigh) boring. Or worse, just not good enough.
Maybe you have a deadline steadily approaching (to make matters worse) blissfully unaware of your current creative drought.
Take a deep breath and don’t panic.
Here’s the advice you’ve probably already heard…
- Write every day. Or draw or whatever your artistic medium is — do it every day. In other words don’t be a slave to inspiration. I agree. I DO write every day at 5 am before the kids wake up. I write in the stillness of the pre-dawn hours 7 days a week. But man, it sure feels nice when inspiration is on your side and the words flow out of you.
- Take a walk. In other words, get out into nature. I also do this (although not at 5 am in the dark) and highly recommend it. It works if you can quell that inner voice that is panicked about the upcoming deadlines and growing amounts of work you’ve just left behind in search of inspiration.
I also do housework. At least I’m accomplishing something on my to-do list (so my brain shuts up a little) and something about my hands in hot soapy water with music blaring often gets me unstuck. Pen and paper are never far from my dishes.
But I want to talk to you about something you may NOT have heard before…
I first stumbled across this term on Ash Ambirge’s blog, The Middle Finger Project (her stuff isn’t for the humorless or faint of heart — so you’ve been warned!).
Essentially the theory goes that to increase creativity in one area you pursue creative endeavors in another area. It’s the same principle as physical cross-training. Creativity is thought of like a muscle and getting creative in more than one area is like exercising different parts of your creative muscle. It might make new neural pathways or at the very least leave you with new ideas when you sit down to your main creative endeavor.
To get the most out of creative cross-training, you should find a way to incorporate it fairly regularly into your schedule. It’s really more of a preventative measure.
So choose something creative that has nothing to do with your creative day job. Examples:
- dance (bonus you also get a workout)
- cake decorating (bonus creative AND delicious)
- play an instrument
- read (I know, I know, but I’m throwing this on there because if you’re not a regular fiction reader you should be, especially if you’re a writer. With my permission to mark great passages when you find them. Although, if you’re looking for concise imagery-laden inspiration my money’s on poetry)
- write (as long as this isn’t your day job)
- karaoke (I feel like this one’s a stretch but if it works go for it)
You get the idea. Also, you don’t have to be GOOD at any of these things. Enjoyment, however, is paramount.
For me, as a writer, now that my kids are starting to transition to school (they’re still little) I’ll be dusting off my old piano and unearthing some old sheet music. My mastery has seriously slipped but I enjoy playing and this seems like the perfect opportunity to freshen up my skills and get in some creative cross-training while I’m at it. (Without 4 extra accompanying hands- cute but frustrating.)
It might feel like wasted time at first. Time better spent hunched over your computer. Squeezing out that last ounce of creativity through your exhausted synapses. But we all know that results in sub-par work that either gets trashed or requires more hours of revision than it took to create.
Instead, try to schedule in some creative cross-training and those moments of inspired genius just might happen more often.
What’s your best trick for staying inspired? Do you do any creative cross-training?