Advice for Overcoming Creative Drought

Hello April!

Just wanted to put my 2 cents in bout your art. Flawless and very beautiful.

It’s been awhile since I lost my ability to allow my creative side show. Seeing your creations gave me a little warmth under my ass. Not a fire but a smile on my face. Curious about, and I hope you don’t mind me asking, like I mentioned I lost my creativity years ago –

Have you ever had this issue and if so, what sparked it to be an aspect of your life again?

I know we don’t know each other, and it’s just I hope I’m not being a pain. Could you maybe give me a lil advise??

Random person on the internet (mostly unedited)

This message took me by surprise early this morning, so I made what I have to say into this blog post, because if one person is asking, there’s another that might need to read this too. 

My guiding philosophy: all art is good art.

Any creative act changes the world in radical ways, even if they feel minimal, inner and personal. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking work to be fulfilling, necessary and beneficial. 

I stopped making art for about five years. 

Or, to be more specific – I stopped painting to focus on doing the unseen work of early motherhood. For the first two years after my son was born, I existed in full-on survival mode. To be honest, I massively underestimated the amount of sheer challenge it was to keep a tiny human alive with nearly zero for a support system. I worked full-time and had an infant who didn’t sleep for more than 4 hours at a time, so my full life force went into the bare essentials. (The good thing about this? I can now do a LOT on a little sleep, with very little time or energy to spare, and be pretty blissful doing it. I learned *just* how capable I am – but that’s a story for a different day.)

Just after he turned four, the chaos of survival mode had died down, he’d started sleeping enough and my energy was near normal-ish again. I started painting with him when he was still really tiny with kids’ tempera paints, and, last November, I pulled a decent sized canvas from my basement stash of half-finished artworks for him to paint on. 

My intentions to cultivate the littlest Picasso were dashed when I actually started painting. 

Painting again was like coming home. 

I kept going, and something else happened.

I remembered a little piece of who I am and why I’m here.

I kept going, and it’s only been a year. I hadn’t done anything creative for the sake of creating, or really anything just for me in so long, I’d almost forgotten how necessary it is to feel that drive, the radical innate power of creative acts. The act of being selfish and losing myself in the process, instead of martyring myself on the altar of motherhood, was a huge shift that became catalyst for so much upheaval and many huge changes in my life this year. All for the better and maybe for the best.

Picking up that brush again is truly one of the best decisions I ever made. 

Fast forward one year: In a few short weeks, I have the pleasure of putting forward my first year of work in a mini solo show at a local boutique, and I’m immensely proud of everything it took to get to this point to show my work.

Okay, to address the questions: there are a couple of distinct pieces of advice that might be helpful.  

The first? We don’t lose our creativity, we just lose access to it – I think when we stop tapping in, the well runs a little drier. But once you start again, it does become like a wellspring. 

THE THING ABOUT CREATIVITY? The more you use, the more you have.

There’s the notion that there are random unattached creative ideas out there, that come to us – and if we are ready, we bring them to fruition – and, if not, they move along to the next person. Let yourself be that person as much as you can. More ideas will come, and they’ll get better and better.

But you have to be actively making to be open to them, I think. And, by making, you’ll hone your craft and build your confidence at the same time. 

The second thing?

Losing the creative urge and losing the ability to let your creative side show are two wholly different things. 

It’s really a two-part thing: making the work & being vulnerable enough to share the work. 

You can check in here to see how I make it a little easier on myself to drop into the flow of art-making, and this really works for me. Using ritual can help train your mind to drop right into the process of making without hemming and hawing over what you should be doing. 

Just start somewhere. 

I think it’s super important to start again with zero expectations. 

And give yourself the grace to be unsuccessful, to be creaky and rusty and unsure. 

It’s fine. 

You don’t have to make the best work ever, or even good work, on every single attempt, and what’s successful and what feels blissful to make can be two different things.

Be okay with that

Honor the process, don’t get hung up on the results. 

Let your plans shift midway if they need to – don’t get hung up on the results. 

When you’re done, start the next thing – don’t get hung up on the results. 

See a pattern here?

Don’t get hung up on the results, look into the process for the satisfaction of making for the sake of making. 

BEST ADVICE I HAVE on putting your work out there:

  • You don’t have to be blissfully, unabashedly enamored everything that you make. 
  • You don’t even have to like it. 
  • That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share it, or that it should remain unseen. 
  • It also doesn’t mean that someone else won’t like it or be moved by it. 

Here are the final thoughts I have to share with anyone who is struggling with the muse: 

  • Trust yourself, trust the innate human instinct to make the world beautiful. We ALL have it in some way, and the expression is different for everyone. We are all living, breathing artworks. We heal ourselves through creating, and all artists are healers.
  • Trust the people around you to be supportive (and if they’re not, find new people). 
  • There is a person for each work, whether or not they’re in the same time & place as you and your work is another story. Trust that the work will make its way to the person who needs it. 
  • Take the time to learn how to work with your materials, explore the foundations and dive into it. Build your confidence in yourself by doing the work & growing your skills.  
  • Invest in yourself, your materials & your network. Spend time with other artists and build your community.  
  • Use your time well. Schedule it, plan it, strategize how you’ll use that time before you sit down with your creative work. And then honor yourself by following the plan. 
  • Don’t second guess yourself, just keep going. 

And be okay with feeling unsuccessful sometimes, just keep going. 

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