How To Rise And Recover From A Crash In Creativity

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

Whatever and however we create, all of us at times experience a lull in our creative inspiration and output. It’s a natural and inevitable part of our creative cycles.

But when a fleeting dip starts to feel like a bottomless, endless trough, and you start to think of yourself only as a person who used to be an artist, it’s time to find a way out.

Here are three simple and usable techniques to recover from such a crash in creativity –

1. Keep showing up.

There’s only one core rule to being an artist that no creative man or woman in history has been immune from.

You’ve got to show up.

If you don’t even attempt to give your creative urges time, space and energy in your life, then you’ll never be able to create a thing.

Now, what we define as creative urges might not only be the desire to create art in classic forms such as paintings, photographs, sketches or songs.

Creative urges – and projects – can include relationships and family, your personal style or dress, the rooms of your home, your daily diet, and more.

Any project you give your creativity, time and energy to, will grow.

But, whatever the project is, the common factor is you need to show up and give it your honest best to give it a chance.

For some, showing up works best when they have a strong, regular habit.

For example going to their desk and writing for an hour at 7am every morning, or going out with their camera every Sunday morning.

Others enjoy a little less rigidity, but still need the regularity.

Four art sessions a month might be the ideal amount for you, but you still have to fit them in somewhere. You still have to show up.

You’ve probably noticed a repetitive pattern in what I’m saying by now!

Think about what’s worked for you before, and what elements you can build on, to create a simple system for showing up regularly that is fun and productive. Then start using it.

2. Make plans. (Then break plans).

You might be someone who likes to feel complete freedom in their creativity.

Someone who wants to spontaneously show up whenever the mood and inspiration takes them, and without any rules or structure to stifle them.

For the longest time I thought I was like that too.

Until I slowly realised that the only time I felt focused, immersed, productive and most enjoyed my creative work, was when I had begun with a plan or project to sink my teeth into.

A crucial point about plans is to see them as a starting point, not an end point.

By making a plan, you commit to showing up.

Yep, that again.

Even if once you get going you find that your original plan isn’t exactly what you want to pursue (which virtually always happens, in my experience), you can adjust as you go.

That’s part of the fun, and part of the whole deal with being creative. It’s what we do – create, experiment, evolve, adapt.

The key is to make a plan relatively quickly, then start putting it into action.

How many art projects in the past have you and I killed by over-planning before we’ve even lifted a finger to create? Let’s not even try to count them.

Instead, plan, act, adjust.

3. Involve others.

Creating in isolation is often necessary up to a point. Art forms like writing, photography, painting and so on don’t usually require anyone else to be directly involved.

But you can still engage with other artists before and after the creative work.

When you make those plans we talked about before, if you then share them with a small group of other artists who are also making their own plans, it makes you more accountable.

You’re still creating for yourself, but a part of you wants to show up so you don’t let your friends and fellow artists down.

Even when you’re in the depths of a creative crash, by reaching out and saying “today I’m going to show up and create”, others will help and encourage you more than if you told no-one.

At the opposite end of creating, by sharing what and how you have created after you’ve done it, you also build momentum.

Again, if you’re in a rut you’re not going to be creating for eight hours a day, maybe not even for eight minutes.

But by sharing with others even simple statements like “I opened my sketchbook for the first time in a month today” or “I dusted off and switched on my camera this morning”, people will respond and rally. You’ll feel their energy and enthusiasm.

In short, involving others gives you more inspiration, encouragement and gumption than retreating into complete isolation ever could. So reach out, even just a little.

Earlier I said I’d show you three techniques to help you recover from a creative crash. I’m sure you can see by now that actually all three form part of the same overall plan.

In short –

Make creative plans.

Tell people what you’re going to do.

Show up and do it, as best you can, as often as you can.

Tell people what you did.


This essential formula can be the basis not only for a creative recovery, but for an ongoing, thriving, creative life too.

So, let’s begin your recovery. What plans are you going to make first?

Join the conversation to let us know. That’d be part of that “involving others” thing we talked about above.


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