The last month or so I've been feeling a bit flat. Not in the usual sense, where everything is a bit grainy, slow and unhappy, but more in a creative sense; I've been feeling a little bored, uninspired and unmotivated.
When this happens I am usually guilty of trying to push through, slightly unaware of what's actually happening, and tend to get even more frustrated because the creative juices just aren't flowing. Then one day I flop down onto the bed and can't get up again. This happened last week.
Being creative can be exhausting. Sure it can be inspiring and energising, but only when you remember to feed your creativity and curiosity too. The last couple of months I have been propelling myself forward without so much as a pause to recharge, to fill up the inspiration tank. I used to spend 10 minutes each night before I went to sleep writing. It could be a sentence or a whole page, so long as I wrote something. I also used to listen to a lot of podcasts, watch creative documentaries and read coffee table books. All of which topped up my tank.
As life gets busier, and the list of 'to do's' gets longer, the pressure to have and do it all amounts. We think there must be a perfect balance we can achieve between the career, the creative outlet, and our relationships. There isn't though, and when one thing starts to take up more time (often the career), instead of 'balancing' it with the others, we end up flopping down on the couch and binge-watching Netflix until we fall asleep.
If like me, you've had the realisation that you're on autopilot and finding the activities you're usually passionate about more of a strain than a gain, here a few things that I find help me get my creative mojo back.
1. Walk a new route
There really isn't much a change of scenery can't do. Whether it's your daily walk to work, or a stroll for the sake of a stroll, consciously turn down a different street, or walk through a new part of the park. By taking you out of your habitual movements, you're forced to take notice of your surroundings and into the present moment. I am very visually stimulated, so walking somewhere I haven't been before, or don't often go, I tend to notice new houses, flowers, views and dogs that put a smile on my face and give my mind a break from the ordinary.
2. Watch a tutorial
Usually when I get back from a trip, I am pumped to start editing the photos and see what I managed to capture. In May however, after a weekend shooting in Tasmania, I didn't want to open the files for over a month. I looked at the shots once and wasn't happy with what I saw, so I convinced myself they weren't worth it. It wasn't until Jacques sat me down to watch the next episode in Elia Locardi's photography tutorial series (which we hadn't watched in a couple of months), that I finally felt inspired to open the photos and start editing. The next day, I sat down and edited the whole weekend's worth of photos in one sitting.
3. Watch a documentary you wouldn't normally watch
Remember the whole walking a new route thing? Well watching a documentary about something you wouldn't normally be interested in is similar, in that it pulls you into the present moment and shows you things you otherwise wouldn't have seen. It can also be pleasantly surprising.
I have been watching the design documentary series Abstract, of which each episode is about a different kind of design: architecture, photography, graphic design etc. The other day Jacques turned on the episode about car design with the head designer of Chrysler. I squirmed and complained; cars really don't interest me and I wanted to watch something else. By the end of the episode however, I didn't want it to end. I was so consumed by the way this designer sees vehicle design and function, his thought process, and the whole process of creating a car from start to finish.
4. Watch a fail proof doco, too
It doesn't matter how many times I watch Chef's Table, I finish all amped up and wanting to create something. Not necessarily food, but photos, writing, painting, anything. The way the entire documentary is put together, from the cinematography, to the music, the way the directors get the chefs to tell their story and speak about their work, the whole thing just makes me want to create. A completely different style of documentary that has me equally inspired is Human Planet, of which each episode tells the stories of people living in one unique environment.
It doesn't matter what you love watching, but if you're feeling bored and uninspired, switch on one of your favourites. And if you don't know what to watch, try Chef's Table, seriously.
5. Listen to a new podcast
Podcasts are the new TV series, aren't they? There are some that have you binge-listening like Serial, and others that you'll need to ponder for a while after one episode. If you've lost your creative mojo, try something like The Tim Ferris Show or After the Jump. I personally find listening to other people's stories of how they find and use their creativity, or manage creative businesses really inspiring to work on my own.
When I've lost my creative mojo I find myself feeling restless, my mind just won't stop, especially when I'm trying to get to sleep. Going for a run, doing a yoga class or a gym workout really tires me out physically, and in turn helps my mind shut down at nighttime. Good ideas often come to me while I'm working out too. When my body is working hard, running or at the gym, my mind tends to calm down, leaving space for the ideas to flow. The shower is a good place to cultivate ideas too.
7. Work in a new space
It's becoming a theme really; but change it up. I often get into the habit of writing or editing sitting at the dining room table, and some days things take a lot longer, simply because I'm bored there. On occasion I'll write in the notes on my phone while on the train, or I'll sit on the deckchair outside (like right now). The change of scenery somehow allows my mind to focus on the task more easily and forget about all of the other items on my to do list.
8. Do some reading
Novels are great, but one of the best things to get my mind thinking creatively is to sift through a pile of coffee table books or old books I haven't read in years. It's something about the imagery and nostalgia. If physical books aren't at hand, give yourself a half an hour time slot to browse some reading online. Resist the urge to open Facebook or Instagram, and instead head to websites like Brain Pickings or The Design Files, where you'll learn something new and get a healthy dose of creative imagery.
8. Give yourself a real break
I am really bad at this. I go to yoga because I really enjoy it physically, but also because it's a forced time out for my mind. Since becoming a regular yogi however, I seem to have stopped letting myself just sit down with a book, or while away an afternoon in the sun. Instead I put things like 'read book' and 'watch French film' on my to do list, which is a little bit sad. I leave them on there however, to remind me to take time out, that the rest of the to dos can wait for the afternoon while the sun is in the perfect spot for a stretch and a read in the reclining chair.
Do you have any things you like to do that help you get your creative mojo back? I'd love to hear them, either in the comments below, or you can connect with me on Instagram @vickijanefletcher.