How to Get Out of a Creative Slump

Written by: Courtney Senior

We’ve all been there. Those days, weeks or months where you just can’t seem to bring your creative vision to reality. Maybe you’re uninspired and unmotivated, maybe you just can’t get into that flow state or maybe you’re just purely and utterly frustrated with everything you produce and feel like nothing is working. Battling a creative slump is exhausting, especially when in your heart of hearts you know you want to create something beautiful and inspiring. I slipped into a deep creative funk in 2019. I was invigorated after preparing for months for the Artist Project, a massive art show in Toronto, and immediately fell into a slump the following week. At first, I thought it was because I pushed myself so hard for months leading up to the event, but after a month I was surprised and concerned that I didn’t have any desire to paint anymore. Getting out of a creative slump does not happen overnight, but for someone who has experienced this on more than one occasion, I can promise you that it doesn’t last forever. Here are my tips for how to get out of a creative slump.

1. Take a Break

If you haven’t put a pause on your creative endeavours, now is the time. Forcing creativity only causes a vicious cycle of frustration. You’ve already entered into a funk and now everything you create is going to reflect that. This is not only going to cause more angst, but puts you at risk of wasting time and materials. Just as an athlete would allow their body to rest after a race or training session, you too should give your creative brain a chance to rest and recharge. Whether its 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months, set a timeframe for your break, commit to it and don’t feel guilty about it.

2. Assess Your State of Mind

The relationship between mood and creativity is complicated; one minute we’re inspired, the next we’re questioning our competence. This, of course, is what the creative process is all about and one we’re all familiar with. When it comes to unravelling your creativity, being in the right state of mind is essential. Some of us use creativity as an opportunity to escape negative thoughts while others express their melancholic emotions through art. The key is to identify which state of mind makes you the most productive. Do you remember how you felt when you painted your last masterpiece? For example, did a certain song trigger an emotion? Did you recently spend time with family or friends? Were you high on workout endorphins? Try to pinpoint any outside influences that impact your state of mind and either replicate or avoid them.

3. Seek Out Inspiration

Sometimes when you’re in a creative slump, witnessing other artists success can be disheartening, when it fact it should be uplifting. The artist community is full of inspiration that can help get your creative juices flowing. Whether it’s on Instagram or at a gallery, set aside time to study and admire other creative work. Consider keeping a journal about your favourite artists, artworks, photographs and stories. What do you like about it? Why does it inspire you? How can you reimagine that inspiration in your own work?

4. Shift Your Focus

When you feel like you’ve plateaued creatively, it’s time to dip a toe into something new. This doesn’t mean you throw your artistic style to the wayside; it means you try something else. You could try a completely different colour palette, medium or even subject matter. Or you could take up a new creative endeavour altogether like pottery, photography, woodworking. Perhaps you take a Masterclass in art, gardening or cooking. Giving your brain the opportunity to concentrate on a new task will help stimulate your creative motivation and mojo, while also helping you get back into the flow state, we all know and love.

5. Read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

The Artist’s Way changed my artistic life. It is essentially a self-help book that teaches artists new ways to leverage creativity while reframing negative thoughts. Through a series of exercises and affirmations, it’s designed to help unblock the mental and emotional channels that get in the way of being happy, productive, and creative. While some artists might find the messages in this book a little “woo woo,” if you have an open mind, it is a valuable tool to get in touch with your own creativity and heal your artistic self.