Let me start by making two things clear: first, no matter how much experience or talent you have there WILL be days when it seems as though there is not an ounce of creativity left in your body. Second, I do not have a "get inspired quick" scheme to share with you—if you're looking for that, this isn't going to help you. What I will share with you are three practices and philosophies that will help you keep moving forward when you feel like giving up: 1) make a protected time to create every single day, 2) always remember why you're here, and 3) rest often.
Contrary to popular belief, some of the most successful creatives I know are the most disciplined people I know. The creativity myth has perpetuated the belief that making things is all about emotion, inspiration, and living a rock 'n' roll lifestyle of "sticking it to the man." Sure there is always an exception to the rule, but most of the creatives I know work forty-plus hours a week, wake up at 6am, go to bed at 1am and are running in six different directions at once most of which are for their families. Discipline is required.
1. Create Every Single Day
You're not a creative person because you have ideas, everyone has ideas, you're a creative person because you execute those ideas. A lot of us like to think about writing books, starting new businesses, or following our passions, but frankly we don't follow through. Life gets in the way and it will continue to—the most important thing is to set small, attainable goals and actions that we can do every day which in turn help us move closer and closer to carrying out our dreams.
The best way I have found to do this is to set aside a time every day when I can just sit down and draw without limits. I'm not worried about what I draw, I'm not concerned if it looks good or bad, it is simply practice and I do it almost every day.
Make time and protect it.
Just like there are certain meals you cannot or should not miss, your dedicated creative time is important and should not be sacrificed. It doesn't have to be long, but in order to be effective it has to become a priority.
2. Remember Why You're Here
When work becomes overwhelming it is important to remember why you are doing it in the first place. At one point in time you decided to start on a mission to help others, to make the world a better place, or to create beautiful art. If you're in over your head and you realize that the projects your buried under have nothing to do with that original mission—it's time to reevaluate and take immediate action to get back on track.
First step is to have a vision and roadmap for the future ahead—if you don't have that in place, you're likely to get involved in many projects that pull you in all sorts of directions that lead you to get lost. Know why you do what you do and that will become your gauge for the work you accept and the things you create.
3. Rest often
Work hard, work hard, work hard, work hard, and then take a break. My favorite thing about work is that it will always be there tomorrow and if I do it all today, what will I do tomorrow? Don't get me wrong, there are deadlines we all must adhere to, but too often I think we set unrealistic timelines based on getting things done now instead of being realistic about what can be done, will be done, and should be done.
I often joke that napping is the most important part of my creative process, since I work at home now, it's become less of a joke and more of a reality. My creative output can only go so far before I need a recharge. For me it's napping, going for walks, or listening to audiobooks—for you it could be something different, but whatever it is make sure when you break it's clean and serious.
Do something that gets you away from your work even if it's for fifteen minutes. Make a sandwich, walk, read a book, call a friend—whatever it is do it away from your workspace.
You're going to hit a wall and not just once. The nerves, anxiety, and butterflies never go away, but they do become easier to manage over time. Make sure you continue to create every single day, remember why you're doing it, and rest often.
If you have questions about creative disciplines, what to do when you don't feel creative, or any other related thoughts—email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!