Prescription for a Creative Funk

Sustenance for the Creative Spirit by Jann Alexander ©2015

Sustenance for the Creative Spirit by Jann Alexander ©2015


Find some time to tend to your creative soul.

When I find myself in a creative funk—that uncomfortable feeling that slowly drains my motivation and my desire to create, coupled with the sensation of time grinding on like a lumbering freight train—I resist it with my first impulse: despair. Not this again. It’s an imperfect response. So in my next impulse, I want to fight it. But I find I don’t have any strength.

As I turn over the sudden creative mood swing that takes me from wildly productive to sluggish and unmotivated, I’m perplexed and troubled. Until I finally recognize it for what it is.

It’s a creative funk, and to ignore it is to imperil my creative stamina. It comes on the way sniffles lead to a full-blown cold. It’s my note to self: Time Out. Tend to your creative soul.

“A creative funk is a note to self: Time Out. Tend to your creative soul.” Tweet:

Do you ever need a creative time out? Try the prescription that works for me:

  • Accept where you are. Don’t fight it. Give yourself permission to be right where you are, which is right where you belong now, and resist the little voices in your head murmuring, You should be doing more or You slacker, get to work on your project now.
  • Find your comfort space, and occupy it. Allow yourself to stay here as long as you need to. You’ll know when it’s time to leave.
  • Resistance is contra-indicated, if not futile. You can never will things to change; you can only accept things, and change your approach to them. When you reframe the negative picture you have of downtime to being restorative, you are embracing your true nature. It’s fine to give yourself slack for being human, and therefore fallible.

“Reframe your negative picture of downtime. Put it in a fancy new frame and call it restorative. That’s what it is.” Tweet:

  • Surround yourself with the tools of your craft that inspire you . . . the books on polishing your creative skills that you never have time to read, or the inspirational clips you’ve been accumulating, or your journal and favorite pen. Get comfy with them around you, your little darlings that are just waiting to provide you comfort. Let them.
  • Push away the nagging thoughts, the ones saying, You’ll never finish your novel while you’re reading about writing, or You’d better finish that painting instead of dreaming of the next one. Exhale deeply as you push them out of your mind and find some space for renewal.
  • Spend as much time here as you can, as you want, as you need. Believe that this is sustenance for your creative spirit, which needs as much nurturing as any tender young sprout in a spring garden.

Creative funks aren’t all bad. They’re just another part of the process. At the very least, they’re meant for us to preserve our most valuable resource: our creativity.

And they’re certainly not unproductive. My most recent one inspired this article as I worked my way through it. I’ve experienced plenty of creative lulls where I’ve emerged even more inspired. Haven’t you?

Soon enough, you’ll back. As I put the finishing edits to this article, I realize I’m already emerging. But if I don’t, I’ve got some inspiring reading to do, and I’m accepting of either path. Being creative is just like taking one long road trip . . . always on the journey, looking out the window, deciding where to stop. I hope you find my prescription to be as helpful to you as it was restorative for me. 

What works for you when you find yourself in a creative funk?

Jann Alexander's A Habit of Hiding_Book Cover

Want to learn more about my upcoming novel? 

Get a sneak peek at A Habit of Hiding here

For more on the art of writing, look HERE.

For more posts on finessing one’s creativity, look HERE. The Daily Post’s prompt unearthed many reactions to being cut off, as we all find ourselves sometimes, when we’re unable to access our creativity. But it’s always still there. As author Brenda Ueland noted HERE, “you are an inexhaustible fountain of ideas.”


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26 replies

    • Ah, pushing through our roadblocks is always our first, and most natural, instinct. After a bit of that, we realize we’re struggling too hard, and we can back off . . . which is when the magic happens. Appreciate your feedback, and your link to my post. Glad if this helped you, Julie.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree with your tips. When I’m in a writing funk, I read or write poetry. Good poetry is bleeding on the keyboard and when I’m in a funk there’s plenty of blood to go around. Creativity, like everything else in life comes in and goes out like the waves. I feel that same rhythm in everything – relationships, energy, etc. It’s a natural cycle that always feels UN-natural at low tide.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely tips. I especially like, “give yourself permission to be exactly where you are.” I think I am going to be deep in it tomorrow. I will most likely spend the day in bed, surrounded by some of my favorite books, colored pens and markers and my notebook/journal. Yes, that sounds good. A day in bed sounds like a perfect plan to me. Thanks Jann, great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When you acknowledge that a restorative day in bed is just what you need, you give courage to the rest of us who need it too, but who somehow feel guilt or shame about taking care of themselves. Thank you for that, Morgan. May it be a day of sustenance for you! Nurture your creative soul. If you don’t, no one else will. 👏

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think my biggest fear is that if I stop or give in to a dry spell – or the sense of overwhelm that precedes it – I will never be able to start up again. A body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest… won’t get her blog post published. This is a fear I need to get past, I know. But I’m sure that’s one of the things that drives me beyond what makes sense in terms of renewing my own creative energies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This gets to the real crux of it. Who’s driving us to publish our blog posts … Except ourselves? You’re not alone in feeling a (false?) commitment to publish, or create, on a schedule no one is holding you to … Except yourself. So then there’s the (false?) fear of failure. Thanks for your insights, as they bring me some realization about driving oneself to an unreasonable end. The creative spirit’s curse of perfectionism.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent post. This happens to me when I’ve said something I consider too revealing. There’s two day payback of flu symptoms and headaches. But they are often also the times when I do some of my best thinking. Few things are more immobilizing than a psychosomatic case of flu and a headache.

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  5. Ah, thank you so much for this wonderful, encouraging, and informative post. I always fear the period when I have “nothing to write about.” It’s a matter of me asking myself, “Okay, so what are you afraid is going to happen if you don’t go through with this on the day you planned to?”

    I’m often afraid of things I probably have no control over anyway, even if I complete the task I wanted to tackle.

    But you remind me of things to tend to when I can’t bring myself to produce anything. There’s a lot of material I have to read, and it’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched a movie from beginning to end. Thanks for reassuring us that downtime can provide a valuable opportunity to refuel, rather than hinder. I mean, getting burned out can certainly hinder.

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    • What a kind comment, Eileen, I’m so happy you visited. This little funk is long gone, and it makes me so happy to know it has helped others. It certainly helped me out–appreciate your nice words about my photos and words, hope your weekend is an equally inspiring one. Happy reading!

      Like

  6. Hi Jann

    Thank you so much for this brilliant post. It has come (as these things do) just at the right time for me.

    I shall quit beating myself up and feed myself some soul food – namely, a walk across the shore and read a great book with an un-rushed cup of hot chocolate.

    Creativity always comes back if we allow it the space to return. Thank you so much for this timely reminder. Now, let’s get the kettle on…

    Liked by 1 person

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