Updated: Aug 7, 2019
I don’t often find myself in a creative funk. More likely, when my creativity isn’t flowing it’s because I’m burnt out, bored, overwhelmed, or experiencing negative self-talk or confidence issues that are causing me to doubt or procrastinate my art. Reading this back, that actually 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.
So, let’s dive into that. When your creativity isn’t flowing, what’s your reaction? Are you frustrated, angry, complacent, relieved, etc? 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.
What was your last creative endeavor like? Was it lackluster? If so, are you doubting your art and fearful of simply starting? Was it perhaps the best thing you ever created? This, too, can 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 art within your genre. Did it inspire you, or did it cause voices to pop into 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 healthy? Are you taking in more alcohol/caffeine/sugar than usual? Has your sleep been “off”? Get it on paper, as well as any other thoughts that popped into your head during this short evaluation.
The great thing is, any answer you provided presents you with an tangible, and solvable, problem! It becomes easier, using this process, to see how your creative funk likely has its roots in something much more identifiable. And sometimes those blockages can manifest in different ways, depending on our own contexts, habits, self-narratives, and more. Now your job is to find a solution to the obstacle(s) you identified. Some perhaps obvious fixes to the results of the questions above are: train, be kind to yourself, change your mindset, take an Instagram break, eat better, etc. I’d like to, however, give you actual tools to try out if you need a jumpstart. So maybe try one of these:
Collaborate on a project with somebody outside of your genre
Talk to creatives outside your genre to hear 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 phrase etc) and arrange them in a random order. Now fill in the blanks between them on your own, moving from one to the next as shown 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! Four 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
A Choreographer's Handbook by Jonathan Burrows
My challenge to you is that you don’t accept your creative funk as “just that”. Identify that cause, find solutions, and feel empowered by the change. Good luck, and happy creating!
Column first featured in Collaborative Magazine