There are days when I can’t find my flow. As a creative professional, when I can’t be “creative” I feel unproductive and start to freak out that I’m not using my time wisely. Before I allow myself to enter that downward spiral, I take a step a back and figure out ways I can support my future self to be more productive. Those steps look different depending on the day. Some days I focus on self-care and step completely away from work. And other days I spend time analyzing my creative workflow or doing some background research so that I have everything lined up for the next time I’m feeling creative.
I’ve had my own creative studio in my home for over 20 years and it’s taken time and patience to hone in on the combination of things that allow me to find my flow. Sometimes I sit down to work and can’t even remember doing the work at the end of the day. It came in an effortless way – I was in the flow – almost like I was being guided to create. I’ve heard some creatives speak about times when they’re co-creating with the universe – that they are so in tune with universal energy that it flows through them. It’s days like those that make me love what I do. But sometimes I’ll go weeks and not feel that way. It takes a journey inward to really analyze where inspiration comes from and even then, the source can be elusive.
Here are a few of my tips and tricks for those times when you’re having a hard time finding your own flow:
I need to preface this information with my circumstances so you can understand better some of my perspective. I’m a working mom. I have 2 sons and a puppy now, which makes juggling creative projects challenging at times. For one thing, having my studio in my home opens my world up to the constant interruptions that come with being a mom. So if my boys are home, then my creative moments can be few and far between. Or, if I’m suddenly struck with inspiration, sometimes it’s a challenge to find the space to get my ideas down on paper before they go away (or before I have to remember the password to log into the Xbox or Minecraft or *insert any device here*).
HOW I SHIFT MY DAY:
If I start to find that I feel frustrated that I can’t seem to get my ideas out of my head in a way that makes me happy, then that’s a tell-tale sign that I need to change my direction. I do this by walking completely away from my work. I do something (anything) else. Since my studio is in my house, some days I’ll spend time getting caught up on chores that are looming or straightening things to make my physical space feel more in tune. One of the things that I’ve learned about myself over the years is that if my physical space is in order, I can find mental space to create (I know it sounds weird, especially when the stereo-typical creative space is usually messy). But in the order, I can find peace and probably feel a little more in control. I’m sure I could spend hours talking to a professional counselor about it.
One of my tried-and-true ways of finding my creative flow is to move my body. I’m a runner, so sometimes going out for a couple of miles can clear my head and reset. Or maybe I take my dog for a walk just to get some fresh air. Any way I can move my body, generally helps me to feel less stagnant and more open. If that doesn’t do the trick, then sometimes I just need to change my physical location. If I explore a new part of town or find a new place to have lunch, or even meet a friend to catch up for coffee then sometimes I can return to work feeling refreshed. On other days, an outing like that can make it worse if it creates a tighter time constraint (remember, as a working mom I’m juggling carpool, soccer, whining, food, and ALL THE THINGS so the time I have to work/create is already tight).
For those of you who don’t know this about me, I went to college to study engineering. Now that I’m a professional creative, there’s a good chance that on any given day, the left side of my brain is fighting the right side of my brain (or vice versa). I can remember the extreme pressure I used to put on myself in the early days of my studio, to be productive each and every day. It took years of self-reflection to really understand my motivation and my own creative patterns to better support myself on days when I am in a flow. What I’ve learned is that I don’t force myself to create when I don’t feel it. Instead, if I find it necessary to feel productive, I choose to do a background task that can optimize my creative workflow in the future.
Everyone is different and you need to experiment with your own time and energy to find solutions that work for you. I’ve shared some of mine here, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m still (and hopefully always will be) a work in progress. Happy Creating Everyone!
If I’m feeling stuck be NEED to feel productive:
Compiling a list of places I find inspiration for a given project
Organizing files or physical samples/collections to use as future inspiration
Combining list of ideas I’ve been brainstorming into a master list for a project
Creating background textures
Researching new techniques or taking a tutorial to learn something new
Brainstorming new projects or business partners
Background business tasks (accounting, etc)
I’m feeling a little stuck – here’s a list of things to get your creativity moving:
Change the medium you’re working in (if you’re working digitally try sketching)
Explore the internet for inspiration (*BIG caveat here: don’t spend too much time doing this or scrolling through Instagram because that can have the reverse effect)
Go for a quick walk/run for some fresh air
Straighten up your workspace/surroundings (works for me!)
If I’m feeling REALLY stuck:
Walk away from work
Give yourself permission and space to take time off
Go somewhere new
Walk in the woods
Meet a friend for coffee/go to lunch
Take a bath/shower (this is huge for me because personal hygiene takes a back seat to my kids some days)