Being a creative is a tricky thing. One moment, you have a surge of energy from all the ideas bouncing in your head, and the next, it’s just a blank grey slate. No flicker of light. No interesting thought to engage your mind. Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic. In fact, most people are at a reasonable in-between. But at least we can agree that one thing that is universal among people whose work thrive from conceptualizing ideas is this: Sometimes there are just no ideas. #Sigh.
Having a mental block can lead to all sorts of anxieties. It can even give you existential angst. For one, you can’t focus on the project at hand because there are no new ideas. But also, you begin to doubt your general sense of worth. Kai. That’s how I recently came out of a mental rut myself, a season of the proverbial dry spell. I was trying to do what I think I do best, create content. But, the words weren’t lining up the way I wanted it to.
However, this time, instead of panicking and feeling sorry for myself, I did what I had always read about when stuff like this happen, I took a break. Even so, the panic and doubt still simmered and threatened to bubble over as days passed, and inspiration refused to show face. I began to fear that I had used up all my ideas. I would get up each day worried, going through previous work, reminding myself that I was the same person that did it—this provided a tiny bit of comfort which I grasped on to tightly, although it wasn’t enough to keep me from freaking out.
The period where it felt like I had run out of ideas was also a reflective one, I had hardly any choice in the matter. It was when I stayed still, that I began to see a pattern. I had been going all out for work, doing jobs that stressed me mentally as long as the pay was good. Even though I loved a good challenge, those decisions to invite whatever in my mental space was killing my drive and my productivity was at an all-time low. Figuring that out though, was the easy part, reconnecting to the drive I had before was not so simple and I don’t think I’m fully there yet however here are a few things I did to move past it.
Tackle it like a real issue
All the “it’s all in your mind” talk didn’t work for me, I was already losing opportunities and that was as real as it got and while light bulb moments when inspiration hits were wonderful, it wasn’t a sustainable way to work. So, during the period of the well needed break, I refueled with works (books, movies, documentaries) of people that motivated me. It took me back to the time when there was no pressure and helped me remember why I started to create content in the first place.
Protect your space
While the hustle was good and all, there were projects that I carried out and after I was done, I would be flat out drained, wrung out like a piece of cloth and left out to dry. Bills had to be paid though so I kept these “stress inducing projects” on a minimum level while I actively sought out work that I enjoyed.
Don’t stay in the past
I also found that obsessing over previous achievements was limiting. The fact that you did amazing work done before should be a steppingstone to accomplish more things and not a final stop to continue to wallow in. Like Maya Angelou said “you can’t use up creativity. the more you use, the more you have”. But for that to happen, I think you must resist being comfortable with past glories and focus on the future ahead.
Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. Also, rest is a huge part of the process. If you can’t take a vacation, how about a nap? A lazy weekend, a morning watching young boys kick ball on wet Lagos streets? Give yourself time. Ideas may wander, but eventually, they will come home.