5 Reasons Why You Can't Create (and what you can do about it)
Feeling uninspired is the dreaded fear of all creatives. It's like the He-Shall-Not-Be-Named of creativity but we all get it. And when we get it, we panic that it’s never going to come back. And sometimes that ends up being a self fulfilling prophecy.
Maya Angelou said, “You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have” and I’m completely with her. Especially the bit about not being able to use it all up.
Because it’s going to come back, it’s not gone for good. But that doesn’t mean sitting down and waiting for the apple to hit you on the head. That my friend, worked for Einstein, but it’s an easy excuse to put your hands up and absolve yourself from creative responsibility.
And we’re about making life happening, not letting life happen to us around here.
There are things you can do to nourish your creativity. There are things you can do.
So if you feel completely blocked and stuck right now, I hope this helps you. And chances are if you’re really honest with yourself, that you’ll find something that really helps you below.
And remember - reasons you can't create are valid, and definitely completely different from the voice in our head that tells us that we're not good enough, that we should just quit and asks us who we are to be doing this in the first place. That voice is bullshit.
5 Reasons You Feel Uninspired
1. You're 'waiting for inspiration'
This old chestnut. If I could go back and cut out the scene in every film about a writer/painter which involves them sitting down, waiting for their muse and suddenly being inspired, I would.
I have bought into this myth time and time again.
If only I had a nicer notebook/pen It will come to me, I just need to wait
Nope, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. If anything, it’s going to give space to those voices of self doubt and make you less likely to create.
If you only create when you feel really inspired to, you’re going to put so much pressure on yourself and judge yourself so much more harshly. We all need to sit through the shitty first drafts and a lot of us have piles of work we’re not that impressed with. But the difference is doing it. Use that muscle, even when it’s not screaming for exercise. Especially when it’s not screaming for exercise.
Things you can do: Go outside. Get out of your comfort zone. Make memories. If you’re a writer, take a camera out with you to one of your favourite places and get creative. If you’re a painter, try writing. If you like all manner of creative pursuits, try a new one. Just try something. Just do something.
2. You're underestimating what you have going on in your life right now
As creatives, we often give ourselves excuses, but I think this is something we massively underplay. So many of us have so much going on in our lives and sometimes we don't have the head space to create. I know a lot of us creatives struggle with our mental health, and put an enormous amount of pressure and guilt on ourselves to create when we're feeling less than great.
And we're not only underestimating ourselves, but we're berating ourselves for not being able to live up to our often unrealistic expectations that we put on ourselves while we've got so much going on all at once (I'm absolutely raising my hand for this one!)
So be kinder to yourself and stop hating on yourself so hard. You're doing great!
Things you can do:
- Start small. And do something that's going to make you feel good. If you paint, mix colours and find one that speaks to you. Carve out a space and some time for you, and just play. Do things to show yourself you matter. Our creativity heals us in so many ways, but only if we save some for ourselves. And if you have got a lot going on, start a journal, or an art journal. You'll be surprised how much it can help you.
- Take a break and just focus on looking after you. Take it off your shoulders and give yourself some love instead.
3. The pressure has built into a mountain
Somewhere along the line, the pressure started piling up on us: to make everything we do a great piece of art, to be able to create a masterpiece in a heartbeat, to be able to live from our art, and to be able to create on demand.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are human. And while humans are capable of many incredible and wonderful things, they also take time as well. I've said this before but I really wish we could see more bad drafts and more ideas that went wrong from the people who are well established in our fields. Because so often we only get to see the end product and that's bullshit. It lures us into this trap of thinking that everything we do has to be great and has to be measurable in some way.
It really doesn't.
And I learned that the hard way because I put so much pressure on my ability to write stories that I haven't written fiction in a long time. I spent a good 8 years not writing full stop.
The only thing pressure does to your creativity is kill it. And we're pretty peaceful around here.
Things you can do: Allow yourself to be messy. Give yourself permission to fuck up. Give yourself space to suck (my friend Violeta Nedkova has a great 30 Days of Sucking Challenge!). Create things just for the fun of it. Start silly projects that make you smile and not a lot else. You have great things inside you but they're going to stay inside you if you don't get off the mountain.
4. You're consuming too much
Okay, so I think all of us are guilty of this one. Of constantly checking social media, ending up in the internet black hole for hours, finding things to procrastinate with that make us feel like shit - like looking up people you went to school with on Facebook, spending too much time in our inboxes and not enough time connecting with people in real life. Or binging TV series' to the point that we lose all sense of reality. (I once watched so much One Tree Hill that I thought I saw one of the characters in the street and nearly asked him how his fictional life was going.)
But the problem here is that we're consuming too many of other people's ideas that we're not leaving any room for ourselves. We're bogging our brains with so much that it responds to that it's no surprise that we can't produce jackshit.
Things you can do: Amber Thomas wrote a great guest post for That Hummingbird Life on her experiment on how what and how she consumes influences her creativity. Start your own experiment and see what you find out! Turn notifications off your phone and give your brain a bit of space to think. Have an internet-free hour at the start of every day and see what's naturally on your mind instead of responding to everything you see. When you start consciously consuming, things start to change and your creativity will come back.
5. You're comparing yourself
If you do your work online, it's seemingly impossible not to find people who are relatively similar to you and start comparing. Or to start stalking your favourite writers/artists/creators and compare where they are to where you are. And if anything is likely to demotivate you and make you feel completely uninspired this it.
But here's what you need to remember.
No one can do exactly what you do in the way you do it. You have stories and experiences and memories which are completely unique to you. And you have an understanding of all those things in a way that is unique to you.
And if you think about it, there is no competition when you look at it that way.
Your step 2 is going to look like someone else's step 45. And someone else's step 9 is going to look like your step 109. And that's okay. We're all taking a different route and we all have a different destination. And how you choose to get there is two thirds down to you and one third down to the pure randomness of life.
Know that when you're comparing yourself and it makes you question where you're at, you're not building yourself up, you're slowly chipping away at what makes you you.
Things you can do:
Get some willpower and stop checking up on people you think you're in competition with. Unsubscribe from any emails that end up with you doubting yourself. Write a list of things that only you've got the experience and understanding to do. Use your creativity to write yourself a letter about what makes you you, and pin it up somewhere you can see it. Do things that give your light instead of finding things that add to your darkness.
You have so much to give to the world, but shit isn't going to come out if you're waiting for inspiration to show up, if you're unintentionally making yourself feel like shit by comparing yourself and you're putting the world on your shoulders.
You have something to say and you have a story that no one else in the world has or gets to tell.
That's pretty fucking amazing.
So be honest with yourself, and instead of waiting, start doing things and go make life happen.
How does creativity show up in your life? I'd love to hear what you do when you're feeling uninspired. Let's get chatting in the comments!