There are many things that turbo-charge my creativity, filling me with an indefatigable itch to create.
Some of them are external events that shift something in me that gets me off the couch and up and at ’em, creating like a man possessed. One such event was the birth of my first child, Rose. When I held her in my arms for the first time, I swear I heard The Voice of God (which definitely requires caps and which is the quietest, gentlest voice you’ll ever hear) speak.
“What are you going to teach her?” was all He said (mine is a He; season yours to taste).
Immediately, my answer came:
And from that day, I was back. Previously I had been slumped in a state of creative block. I had completely stopped making music. Oh sure, I was dabbling, but I wasn’t applying myself, I had all but given up. Same went for writing, I had been thumping out magazine articles here and there, even wrote a novel, but when it didn’t get snapped by the first publisher that sniffed at it, I stuffed it under the shelf and returned to my security blanket (or rather, bottle).
But on the day I held my little one, the flame was reignited and I got busy writing and recording a new album, getting out there gigging and I haven’t stopped actively creating and promoting something ever since.
Maybe you’re in some kind of “slump” yourself, right now.
- Starting but not finishing.
- Judging your work too harshly.
- Not knowing how to get it out into the world
- Not feeling confident in what you have to offer.
Maybe you’re wasting time, day after day, feeding your block with whatever “drug” you prefer, be it an actual drug or procrastination, entertainment, overwork or something else that distracts you from your True Purpose – to create.
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There’s no point waiting about for something to happen to you to snap you out of your slump. Why wait until the brush with death, the loss of a loved one or job, or a relationship break up? And I certainly don’t recommend spawning children as a strategy to turbo-charge your creativity. It will not surprise any parents reading this that my decision to persist with art-making was seriously challenged by my new found responsibilities as a Dad!
I don’t think we have to wait until something bad, weird, random or inspiring happens to us. Better to do something to try and jump start our creativity back to life on purpose. Here are 7 suggestions, all of which have worked for me at various times (I’m almost 43 and I’ve been a creative all my life; I have had more than one slump believe me!)
Get Out Of The Building
This is one thing I learned running my own freelance business: sometimes, if the creative juices just aren’t flowing, you just gotta get up and get out of the house. Pull on some running shoes and go for a jog or brisk walk. I get some of my best ideas while walking; your mind is free to wander and this gives your unconscious mind time to bubble up some stuff it’s been working on while you’ve been busy smashing your face against the desk for the last 2 days.
Another way to get out of the house is to socialize. As in constructive, sober, social interaction. I have avoided a lot of this due to social nerves but over time I have to admit that it’s never as bad as I think it is going to be. And blimey other people have great ideas, which are all fair game for bending and shaping to suit your own ends (but don’t blatantly plagiarize obviously).
Get A Coach Or Mentor
I find this really useful. For some reason bouncing your ideas – or lack thereof – off someone who’s opinion your respect, someone who’s been there or at least had similar experiences, just shifts something inside your heart and mind that very often just won’t happen on your own.
I think it’s the act of having to speak aloud what it is you want, what you think makes sense to make that happen, and then being held accountable to another that makes it so powerful. We are wired to be consistent with what we have told other people we are going to do, failing to do or at least try to do what we say we are going to do doesn’t sit well with us, so declaring “I will write every night after dinner for 6 of the next 7 days” tends to mean we will, especially when we have another paid coaching session booked in the calendar!
Just be sure you talk to someone respectful who is not going to try and fix you. You’re not broken, you’re just on a journey and you need to come to your own realizations and start getting into gear when you’re ready.
By the way, I’m offering one-on-one creativity coaching sessions now, and I’ve got an introductory rate offer – but they are limited so if you’re interested be sure to get in while the offer stands. I’m super excited about helping creatives like you to get some traction so for info click this link and don’t be afraid to contact me with any questions.
Join A Mastermind
I read about mastermind groups in that crazy, cheesy, awesome self-help classic “Think and Grow Rich” years ago and I came to thinking that actually it makes perfect sense.. If you can get some good brains aligned on the same cause, you can soon come up with strategies that will really get some great things happening in whatever creative project you’re working on.
This is what my old band Reckoning was really, a meeting of 3 hungry young minds who all obsessively thought about how to make a rock band succeed as one mastermind. Most bands have one or two people who are mentally committed but rarely the whole band and it made such a difference for us .. at least until we mentally checked out a few years later.
Just last week I attended a mastermind group run by good buddy Troy Dean and it was just totally amazing. 20 entrepreneurs at different stages of their careers, younger, older, some just getting started, some turning over millions of dollars a year, in room together systematically applying their collective mastermind to a major 90 day goal or problem within each participant’s business.
The suggestions they came up for my goals for Rebel Zen not only made great business sense, but they were also super creative, they combined elements of my abilities and subject expertise in new ways to come up with creative solutions that just hadn’t occurred to me. So if you’re running any kind of creative enterprise, consider joining a mastermind group, be it formal or informal, with people you respect and I guarantee you good things will come of it.
You don’t have to go it alone, and indeed, it is often a good idea to do the opposite and partner for a creative project. As a musician, well, we’re always naturally doing this as it is kind of hard to play the drums, bass, guitar and triangle on stage all at the same time. Maybe not impossible, but kind of silly…
And of course it gets hard, nothing breeds contempt like familiarity and all that and you get very familiar indeed with your fellow musicians in a band, or partners in an exhibition, creative business or what have you. But there is also a magic to it. It is kind of an extension of the mastermind concept I suppose, but in this case people are not just feeding you ideas, they also have skin in the game and potentially an equal say in what happens, in how the creativity unfolds and becomes real in the world. Sometimes, things can get tense. You might want this, but the other wants that, but as my good friend and musical buddy Peter Own said to me once, it’s this pressure that means we creates diamonds, not just lumps of coal.
One thing that happens also when you partner up is you become accountable (there’s that word again). You don’t want to let your partner or partners down so you bring your A-game. Or at least you do if you intend for the project to survive and flourish. And when you’re feeling creatively blocked, one of your partners might be on a roll, and this tends to re-invigorate and inspire you. And vice versa.
I firmly believe that healthy people are creative people. When I have ignored my health in the past, drinking too much, failing to exercise, eating junk food all the time, my creativity got blocked, big time. To me this is an energy thing. Being healthy means that your body and mind work well, like a car that’s been serviced and is just purring like the proverbial well-oiled machine. But when we smoke too much, drink too much, and sit around on our bums all day, things start to rust up, we may start to feel depressed or lethargic, we feel foggy in the mind, unsure what it was we wanted to do and so instead of getting up and making something, we reach for the remote, or the ice-cream or whatever and nothing gets made. This can lead to feelings of self-loathing. It’s demotivating.
But the cure to this is so, so easy. Refer to point one above and, no matter how unfit you may feel, get out there and start walking. Outside, in the fresh air if you can, but if it has to be at a gym then fine, whatever just get up and start moving. Do some yoga. Pump some weights. Do some push-ups and sit-ups. And try to make healthy decisions with regards to food, as often as you can.
Without a doubt: healthy people are creative people. If you’re creatively blocked and you’re also not looking after your health, the best way to fix the first problem is to address the latter.
Meditation Promotes Creativity
I don’t even know how it works, I’ve always gotten kind of bored reading about the science of meditation, but I am pretty sure there are studies to support what I have personally experienced to be a fact: meditation promotes waves and waves of creative ideas.
Often, I will sit down to meditate, and at first it takes time to settle the mind down, but eventually, with a little technique and a lot of patience and self-kindness, eventually my crazy busy mind settles down and my inner world changes vibration. It becomes expansive and it feels freaking amazing. And suddenly I can see all kinds of cool things, I can think all kinds of cool things and in a really penetratingly clear way. And then ideas often start to swirl and eddy in mind, combining in new combinations and then recombining into even more original combinations until BOOM! I get something really, really good. Or even a whole serious or really awesome related ideas.
So if you’re blocked, try meditating to kick start your creativity. Do something simple, without a guided voice if possible, because you want to be in a wordless state where visions, music or your own words have the space and freedom to dance inside the wide open vistas of your mind.
Just be patient though if it isn’t as easy to get to these elevated states as quickly as you’d like. I don;t really know why, but some people seem to need a really long time to get results in this way. You might like to read mu book on getting high with meditation, which basically is a manual on how to reach the creative states I just described above. And also, be sure to place a pencil and paper within arm’s reach for when those amazing creative visions start to flow!
Set A Creative Work Schedule and Stick To It
Right now my schedule is that I do my creative work after the kids go to bed during the week. It isn’t always sexy to set a schedule, but the pros swear by it and for good reason. The truth is that the thing that separates the highly productive creative people from the rest is the ability to decide when you are going to do creative work and then just start at that time, whether you feel like it or not.
For example, tonight I did not really feel like coming back out to my office after dinner and writing this blog post. I very often don’t. I just didn’t feel any inspiration at all. But the Muse rewards those of us who get up off our butts and get to work, regardless of how we feel, and after a few minutes of dithering, he came today and I have really enjoyed writing this post, and I am sure the same would have happened whether tonight had been time to write music, fiction or work on creating my Rebel Zen business in some other way.
If you have a job (bummer dude, I feel for you) then you need to find time to be creative before or after work. At the edges of the day. There is no other way for it. What else are you going to do with your life anyway? Rot away in suburbia until you die not having felt the joy and satisfaction of allowing the Great Muse to express through you in some way that is unique only to you?
Because my work is now so overwhelmingly creative, I am in the joyful position of getting to structure my perfect day a little differently. My perfect day goes like this: I exercise before work, have breakfast with the kids, do “creative business” all day, which does of course still include plenty of things I could live without, like emails, meetings and grinding through the hard slog that remains after the 1% inspiration has been and gone. Then in the evening after the kids go to bed, I get to play. I get to write something new: a song, a chapter of a book or a blog post like this. That’s like the dessert after eating my vegetables and I love it.
I have taken to calling this perfect day structure my “Creative Power Cycle”. Of course, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes I get too tired, sick, or busy with family stuff. Sometimes, because I am far from being some kind of perfect robo-creative, I stay out too late and can’t get my lazy butt out of bed in time, but as long as I get back on the horse as soon as possible and don’t let the momentum completely die, the positive creative cycle continues and eventually, voila! Stuff gets created!
Let me know in the comments what you’re working and what challenges you are experiencing in your creative life, I’d love to help if I can!