I’m the first to admit that self-doubt and fear of burning through my ideas, or letting my ‘creative well’ get dangerously low is something that has stopped me from pursuing things in the past, so i’m not an outstanding example of creative persistence. But I did promise to start this year with a fresh perspective, and in doing so I have found a determination that wasn’t there before. So here’s my game plan to stop the creative well from drying up or stagnating, no matter what projects you’re working on:
1. Set big goals
What are your creative objectives for this year? Consider what would be your ultimate year in terms of accomplishments and get them down on paper or in a word document. For example, for my writing my goal is to post a blog post every week, and write in my journal everyday. For pottery my goal is to create an entire dinner set for myself. Set up a spreadsheet or track it in your journal and make small steps towards the end goal that you can cross off the list so there’s always that sense of moving forward.
2. Do other things
This one sounds a bit backwards, but for me, when i’m digging at the bottom of my seemingly dry, dusty well with a plastic McFlurry spoon, stepping away and working on other things is exactly what I need to recharge. It can be something i’ve had on my list of things to do like walk the dog or do some laundry, or something I consider fun such as working on my sculptures or going to the pottery studio to get on the throwing wheel. Often when i’m doing these other things that I can come up with more ideas or find a new way to approach an in-progress piece of writing
3. Know when your most productive time of day is and plan accordingly
Are you most alert at 5am, or are you up at midnight smashing out projects? Recognise when you’re generally most on your game and make plans to dedicate it to the work. Personally, I work best when I sleep at 10 or 11pm and wake up at 5am. Mornings are the quietest time of day in my house and I love the feeling of getting my writing practice done before i’ve even really started the day. But whatever works, pick that time slot and plan your day around it.
4. Keep a log/journal
Log your day to keep the ball rolling. Before I start anything i’ll first consult my journal, my catch-all second brain as detailed in this blog post. I use the journal to see what I have to do for the day, and to write down a few pages of whatever is bothering me/comes to mind to clear out the muck that bogs down my writing.
If you have different projects to do throughout the day, map them out. If you’re worrying about what groceries you need to get later, sort out the list now and get it out of your head so you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to buy avocados and tampons. Also damn, avocados are expensive right now, are you rich or something?
It’s pretty hard to concentrate, much less keep the creativity flowing when your laptop is precariously balanced on a stack of old receipts, books, and last night’s dishes. Sort out your workspace before you even sit down.
If you have stuff to do and it’s not going to take too long, try and get your chores out of the way or at least write them down for later so you’re not doing the mental recital of “dishes, laundry, clean the fungus out of the fridge before they grow legs and eats me in my sleep” etc. If it’s going to distract you, smash it out and triumphantly cross it off your list for the day.
6. Give yourself permission to give up the hunt temporarily
Your plastic spoon broke, your fingernails are worn to stubs and you’re feeling pretty damn shattered. It’s ok, maybe your well is tidal? Sometimes sitting there willing the well to do it’s damn job and deliver the goods isn’t enough. Sometimes it’s important to look after yourself and trust that tomorrow will be different. Walk the dog, watch a movie you’ve wanted to see for ages, recharge. You’re not being abandoned. Don’t beat yourself up about it.