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When writers can’t come up with anything to write, it’s called “writer’s block.” But creatives of all types experience this phenomenon — photographers, programmers, painters, chefs, musicians, poets, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Sometimes it manifests as difficulty coming up with ideas. Sometimes it’s a lack of motivation. And sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it — it’s just not working. Here’s how to get your creative motivation back.
Take Some Time Away
If you’re feeling burnt out and you need to rekindle your creative motivation, taking some time away from your usual creative endeavor can be a big help, especially if you mostly engage your creative pursuit in a professional capacity.
When you’re getting frustrated and discouraged because you can’t come up with a new creative idea, it might seem counterintuitive to take a break from writing, or painting, or gardening, or whatever it is you’re doing. But letting your brain disengage can give it the room it needs to get your creative energy back.
You don’t need to go on a week-long vacation, though that could very likely do the trick. Spending an afternoon at the park with a book or hiking through the woods on a Saturday might be enough to refresh your creative side.
Do Something Different
Even if you love what you do, sometimes you need more than a break. If you’re feeling stuck, trying your hand at something new might help spark your creative inspiration again.
You can find room for creativity in almost anything, and using your brain to come up with and execute ideas in new ways on new media can help you get out of your rut. The further away you can get from your usual activities, the better. If you’re on your computer all day, try your hand at learning basic DIY. If you do more physical work, try dabbling in digital art.
Making your brain think and solve problems in new ways is sure to get you thinking creatively again, and you can bring that energy back to your main creative pursuit.
Get Inspired with Creative Apps
Sometimes, all you need to regain some creative momentum is a dose of inspiration. You can’t force inspiration, but there are a few great tools you can use to kickstart it.
Oflow [No Longer Available] is an app that has a variety of creative prompts and tools that will help get your brain thinking in novel ways. Brainsparker is an idea-generating app that asks you to think about problems in ways you’ve never done before.
The Creative Whack Pack app app is an electronic version of the popular card pack that contains five different types of cards to help you come up with ideas, make decisions on them, and help you get started on taking action.
The IDEO Method Cards app [No Longer Available] is similar and starts you out with eight sample cards so you can trial it. If you decide to upgrade, you can pay for the full set of 51 cards.
Work on a Meaningful Project
Sometimes the drudgery of everyday life gets to you and saps you of motivation. Working on a meaningful project, either for yourself or someone else, is a great way to get your fire back. It will usually be enough to get you back into your groove on other work.
Anything can be a “meaningful project” — it just depends on what’s meaningful to you.
Maybe you want to do something for yourself (as a personal example, I’m working on a large photo documentation project on the three years that I’ve spent living in the UK). Maybe you want to do something for someone else, like write a children’s book for a friend’s kids or whip up a program to solve someone’s practical problems.
Taking on a project that’s meaningful to you can be very beneficial in that’s there’s very little pressure involved. Sometimes the pressure of deadlines and other people depending on you can stifle your creative process. Creating something away from that pressure gives you the freedom to think outside the box without fear of consequence.
If nothing comes to mind, you can look to volunteer your creative skills for people and organizations who need them. You can even volunteer in just a few minutes on Sparked, a website that lets you use your skills to help non-profit organizations.
Idealist.org also has a wide variety of volunteering opportunities. Just enter a keyword pertaining to a creative pursuit that you enjoy and you’ll get some options.
Read (or Watch) Something Creative
Sometimes the best thing you can do to get your creative spark back is to read about other people’s creative problems, processes, and solutions. They may not be dealing with the same issue — or even be in a remotely related field — but what’s important is that they’re thinking creatively.
In many cases, that’s enough to get you inspired again.
Not sure where to go for inspiration? You can try these seven inspirational websites, which Saikat called “a potpourri of interesting conversations, good news from around the world, uplifting advice, and thought provoking ideas.” One of my own favorite sources of creative inspiration is a website and newsletter called Creative Something. Lots of people like TED talks for inspiration, too.
Looking for something more specific? Try 5 Methods to Find Inspiration for Your Photography Online or 4 Great & Inspiring Sites for Creative Writers to Visit. You can also find loads of inspiration for any topic you want on Pinterest. Just search for “unique [your area here]” and you’re almost certain to find something good.
Plus, there are a lot of great books on creativity for you to consume. If you’re looking for one to get started, try Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne, or, if you want a more physically creative experience, Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.
If you have other recommendations for great books, websites, blogs, or other sources of creative inspiration, please share them in the comments below!
Every creative, regardless of their medium, has trouble with motivation and inspiration at times. But by taking a break, trying something new, using an idea-sparking app, or reading some inspiring articles and posts, you can kickstart the process of getting out of your creative rut.
What do you do when you get stuck and can’t get motivated or inspired to be creative? Share your best strategies below!