For many years I have been “making art” – writing, music and now, visual art – and I am lucky in that it is rare for my creative inspiration to run dry. When it does, I have strategies that I use to push on. Here are a few of the ways that I stay motivated and creatively inspired. They don’t always work, but they usually do, perhaps they will help you to get back into the creative flow if you are ever feeling stuck and down in the dumps about your own creative expression.
1 – Remember Your Why
OK … yuck… but if you can forgive the tired n’ tacky cliche, then honestly, one of the best ways to remain motivated to create is to remember who you are and why you need to express yourself creatively.
Here’s my why: I make art because I know it makes me feel better about life and I hope that my art will make someone else feel better too. I know I feel better when I witness other people’s artistic expression. When I see/hear/read something that resonates with me, it just makes me feel better. Like a headache tablet for the soul, it soothes the existential pain. It re-connects me to my higher power, to the energy that connects us all.
It’s kind of like taking a drink.
Some of us like to drink because it moves us away from feeling like we live in separate plastic bubbles, able to talk to and see each other, but never able to truly connect. One drink (maybe two!) and we’re there: we’re connected.
We drink to re-establish the connection that we crave … but it is a false sort of connection, and it has a terrible trade off. Not just the hangovers, which do suck, but also the slow, dismal slide into increased separation. (That’s what booze does to us, if left unchecked, it actually makes the sense of separation get worse over time. Same for our other addictions: sugar, social media, cigarettes, sex, whatever – all feeding back into themselves, fueling the need for more drinks, more sugar, more “Likes”).
Creativity, however, connects us together in a healthy way, a real way, a genuine, healing way. It is not a band-aid; it is the actual skin cells regrowing and reconnecting and unifying the planet. If we could only get everyone, every single living person, all making art and/or witnessing other people’s art, then we would collectively heal and change the world.
I am an artist and an artist is a doctor for the soul.
That is my purpose.
My aim is that someone hears my song and is, even if only for a few minutes, healed.
My aim is that someone buys my art, hangs it on the wall and just before speaking to their children for the first time that day, they see it, and they feel more connected to the Great Thing That Prefers To Remain Mysterious, and because they use my art as a conduit for connection, for soul-healing, they feel better and in turn, treat their kids better and the world is a nicer place for those little ones that day.
Perhaps someone reads my words and they take a hit of Love and are encouraged to know that even if they do feel like a big old weirdo, they are not alone. Just the opposite: they are connected, loved and respected, and so they step into the world happier in themselves and able to help others to feel better too. And the world is nicer place that day. A happier, kinder, healthier place.
That is why I create. This is what the Muse is trying to do through me. This is why I must insist on making my art.
2- Screw Self-Imposed Constraints, Allow Your Pure Expression To Flow Unhindered
There is a saying: “creativity needs constraints”. Maybe this philosophy is useful for creative professionals who need to address certain business realities, but for the rest of us mere mortals who just want to get a creative flow happening, I think it is unhelpful.
If you’re feeling creatively stuck, then better to give yourself permission to tap into your pure creative expression and just let your Muse take you wherever it wants to go.
For example, I have wanted to make visual art for many years. As I explained in a recent post, I used to draw but when I was rejected from the only two art schools in town, I gave up on visual art altogether … for 25 years!
However, the itch to make visual art returned and grew stronger and stronger every year. But I did not allow myself to act on it. Why? I believed that this was “not my thing” so I just didn’t give myself permission to do it…
Until, about two and a half years ago, I had a particularly amazing bath…
I had the house to myself, was in an introspective mood and had just read a quote that day by Rumi, (whom I know little to nothing about):
“When I run after what I think I want,
My days are a furnace of distress and anxiety;
If I sit in my own place of patience,
What I need flows to me,
And without any pain.
From this I understand that
What I want also wants me,
There is a great secret
In this for anyone
Who can grasp it.”
For some reason this moved me a lot, so I ran a bath and sat with it and asked myself:
So … if what I ACTUALLY want also wants me, the only question is what do I REALLY want?
I wasn’t sure about this, so being in a meditative space, I asked my Higher Self and the answer came in a flash:
“My Pure Expression”
And in this moment – I just knew.
I just knew that what I have wanted, truly, all along: simply to authentically express myself through my art – be it music, visual art, writing.
“That’s it,” I thought as I sat there soaking, “My pure expression. It’s about the art, the self expression, the soul expression of my life!”
But … but …
It still took me a long time to tap into what that actually meant…
I got there eventually. That’s a story for another day perhaps but the short version is this:
Just allow yourself to be a conduit, to just create whatever the hell comes through you without self-censorship, without judgement.
For ages I would not make the music I wanted to make nor indeed any visual art at all because I was not allowing myself to be free. I was self-imposing restraints (“I make music in style X”, “I can’t really draw properly”).
It’s all bullshit. When I realised this and let it go, the music and the visual art just started to flow and doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
3 – Just Start: Inspiration Comes To Those Who Rock Up
This is something I bang on about a bit:
If you’re feeling frustrated about your lack creative productivity, you can’t sit around waiting for conditions to be perfect and for inspiration to strike. You just have to scratch-out some time and start…
No matter how busy you are,
No matter how tired you are,
No matter how less than perfect your working space,
No matter how noisy/hot/cold/damp/whatever,
No matter that you have a sniffle,
No matter that you can’t afford the perfect art supplies,
No matter that you don’t feel like leaving the house tonight,
No matter that you have to get up early tomorrow,
No matter that you haven’t got any creative ideas,
No matter if you feel that everything you make is shit,
No matter if you feel like it’s self-indulgent,
No matter what other people want you to do,
No matter if other people are discouraging,
No matter if you feel lazy and unmotivated,
No matter what.
And if you do, eventually…
…your Muse will show up.
It may take days, weeks, even months, but if you grind it out, eventually…
…inspiration will arrive.
You have two choices:
- Get off your arse and start making something
- Ignore the creative itch and fester and be miserable, resentful and depressed
Here’s the thing: whatever your chosen medium, you are a creative type, an artiste.
It’s somewhat like being an alcoholic: you can’t just stop being an alcoholic because it’s inconvenient. You can only do what needs to be done to treat the condition. Except unlike an addict, you need to KEEP doing stuff, not stop!
You NEED to create, and if you don’t … if you let the Monkey Mind talk out of it, day in day out, with the myriad excuses that pop into your head, you will only get more miserable, resentful and depressed.
So stop making excuses (and they ARE just excuses) and start making your art.
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