Creative juice: what to do when creativity is low


Anyone who is a ‘creative’ knows how unbearable that title can be to carry sometimes, especially when it feels like your creativity has ran out of juice.

This happened to me last year. I spent so many years taking photos every single day, until one day last year I realised I hadn’t picked up my camera in months. It was a sad realization, more so when I realised there was still a memory card in it with photos I hadn’t even looked at yet. What happened? Where did my creative flow go?

Do you ever sit staring at an empty page? Or look at scene and wonder what to photograph? Or pick up a paintbrush but don’t actually paint? If you’re a creative, the answer is probably (definitely) yes. It’s OK. We can’t be full of creativity all of the time – a lot of it depends on whether we are actually being inspired - and I later realised that in those months of camera neglect, I just wasn’t inspired. Sometimes our creative juice runs out, our muse takes a vacation, our flair can’t be arsed. Whatever the analogy, it’s normal for every one of us to get a little low on creativity. Over the past year, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to not be neglectful of my photography again. I try to stay inspired, but sometimes the mediocrity of life is just… uninspiring.

In today’s world it can be hard to stay inspired, and I started to wonder whether a true work-life balance was even possible. Modern workplaces shout about their dedication to flexibility and family/social life, but the reality remains different - we’re still judged on when we arrive and leave the office. Quite often I was seeing friends, family, and coworkers working way longer than their standard working day, because they feel they needed to. Then I started noticing that I was doing that too, and I started to ask myself who was winning with that setup? I was uninspired, over-worked, and demotivated – which, as much as we never like to admit, does have a negative impact on our work. It sometimes feels like work becomes this dystopia where we’re battling each other to see who can survive the longest hours or climb the career ladder quickest – a bit like Survival of the Fittest or workplace Hunger Games. There’s an absurd belief that once we hit adulthood we must prioritse our education over our happiness and our careers over people. When our creativity takes a dip, I think it’s because we have that all wrong – people, moments, and experiences are what make our lives matter and give us some kind of purpose. With that thought-process, maybe we need to start being OK with walking away from our desks, switching off our computers, and realising that it really is OK to not read work emails at midnight.

I know it’s hard to imagine a world where we switch off at 5pm and don’t think about work… I’m far from there yet, but it’s so important for us to try and find a sustainable work-life balance – especially for us creatives who need time to be… well, creative.

It’s not productive to overdo it. You don’t want to get years down the line and realise you missed out. If work is that thing that keeps you inspired, then fill your boots. Just be sure.

After my creativity hit a low last year, I started doing these six things to make sure my creative juice tank doesn’t get critically low again:

1.     Analogue for the win: I once wrote a blog about digital vs. analogue and still think it’s so important for us to go back to good old-fashioned analogue from time to time. I spend one day every week where I replace tech with something… not tech. I read a book instead of a Kindle, I write in a journal instead of on a digital screen, I use a film camera instead of a digital one. You get my point. If your hands are moving, your brain is roaming, and I’ll bet you anything that you’ll enjoy the art of creating over the strain of consuming.

2.     Hone that hobby: This is a weird one for me because my hobby has always been so closely linked to the industry I work in (photography), but I’ve always managed to treat the two separately because nothing beats being in the mountains with a camera. It keeps me sane and let’s my mind refresh, so this is a good one for my mental wellbeing as well as my creative one.

3.     Learn then learn some more: I read a ton of non-fiction books and love to think about what I’ve learnt after I’ve read them. I always have all this newfound knowledge about something. I probably forget a lot of what they’ve taught me within a few months, but there’s certain parts of them that stick with me. A lot of the blog posts I write are inspired through parts of books I’ve read.

4.     Ditch the computer: Go a walk, read a book, draw a picture, take a photo, drive in your car. The computer is a wonderful source of inspiration but sometimes it just gets a little bit too clingy and I need a breather.

5.     Ask a kid: Truly, this one is great. Remember how vibrant your imagination was as a kid? We were dreamers! Just listen to a kid talk for an hour about random things with not a care for the finer details, and I guarantee your mind will wander into the creative realm. Just because you’re an adult, doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming big.

6.     Visit a bookstore: I do this weekly, sometimes you just need to be surrounded by the smell of books, right?

If what you’re doing isn’t working for you creatively, do the opposite. It’s so easy to get caught up and stuck in a rut. Break free from the cycle and ditch the structure for a while.