I have to confess right away here folks: this post is starting off like a bad remake of Alan’s previous post, Want to Get Your Book Done? Get Focused and Get it Done! Because, here I sit, late at night, with my own deadline looming. I could go grab myself a beer and lounge on the terrace, waiting for “creativity” to strike, or I can take matters into my own hands. If you read Alan’s part one of this post, you’ll know that he’s a real hard-ass, so I generally go with option B: Get It Done.
It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Sometimes, the feeling of ultimate inspiration strikes me, and I could sit here for hours on end, creating away to my heart’s content. But some days I feel totally uninspired. What if I never feel inspired again? What the heck do I do? Popular wisdom would compel me to find an isolated area, relax, clear my mind of all thoughts, and… probably fall asleep, knowing me! But after years of practice and some real-life panic attacks over my lack of creative inspiration, I know just what to do: Don’t. Panic.
When you have any kind of creative deadline breathing down your neck and the mood evades you, don’t meditate yourself into a coma! I have few simple tricks that I use to get back on track.
First, I take an anti-break. What’s an anti-break? Well, like I just mentioned, closing my eyes, taking a walk, or “clearing my mind” in any other way really doesn’t make room for the creativity to flow in… it simply makes me wish I were somewhere else, NOT working! So I have a stable of great inspirational sites that I keep handy. My anti-break involves getting inspired by taking 5-10 minutes to check out the latest design trends, who is garnering attention for a new style or technique, and what my favorite creative voices have to say about current events in design or publishing.
Next, I try to itemize. It doesn’t always help, I admit, but sometimes writing out a list of things that I need to accomplish to finish my task puts everything into perspective and I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed. Even for a purely creative endeavor, there’s usually some little mundane task that doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking – when I write something, I might need to find a couple of sources to cite, or when I create a design mockup, I usually start with a little light background research on the subject. So make sure you put those easier items at the top of your list, and tackle those first – crossing off a few things can bring a real sense of accomplishment and help kickstart the old motivation a bit.
After I’ve primed the pump by getting in the right frame of mind to do my work, and I’ve created my own work outline to guide me through the task, all that’s left is to walk it off. Like any good coach would tell you, sometimes to win you need to power through and “play through the pain”. For me, I remind myself that I need to keep persevering, no matter how fruitless it may seem. I sit down and start writing or drawing, even if the result isn't quite what I want. At first, it might look like I’m producing nothing but run-of-the-mill artwork or even worthless garbage (that’s when I’m feeling really down in the dumps!), but eventually somewhere in that train of consciousness is a nugget. If you don’t play though the pain, so to speak, you may never find it. Or as Alan reminds me when he sees me struggling for inspiration: “Batman always fights through the pain.” That ridiculous sentiment alone is enough for a chuckle and a well-needed kick in the pants!
I'm a graphic + web designer/developer and closet airbrush artist (the 80s called and I answered). I'm passionate about sustainability and community, and I'm a big fan of my hometown, Pasadena, California.Follow @bethkuchar