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How Can I Conjure Up Creativity?
Feb 17, 2023

Reading time 4 min.

Q: One of the worst things I struggle with as an artist is creative slumps. Like any artist, without rhyme or reason, I will go through phases where my juices just aren't flowing and new ideas are impossible to come by. There's no inspiration even if my mood is generally good. It comes with the territory and I don't expect it to change, but what would you say to someone who wants to make the most of those lulls?

A: This is a good and important question that definitely affects us all in ways we don't realize, and that's because creativity itself is everywhere. I find that I never quite know how to define it or even gauge it in people because it's just so incredibly boundless. Maybe part of me hoped I'd never receive a question about it for that reason - because it's so hard to put structure around. But I think this very idea is something we should all be embracing more, so let's roll with it.
As an artist who has creativity at the forefront of their mind more regularly than most, I'm sure you've crafted your own thorough definition of what it is or what it means to be creative. But I think that if there's one thing that does link everyone's definitions of creativity together - something we don't often realize - it would be that creativity is not as mystical as it often appears to be (or that it's just mystical in a different way).

What I mean is that whatever flame it is that constructs a creative idea, its components are already inside of us. Our creativity - or our basis for new ideas - has to come from ideas and experiences we've already been exposed to. It's the gathering of what we already know and fashioning it together in a new way, with a new appearance. It has to inevitably boil down to the repurposing of something that already exists, rather than something new appearing out of thin air.

And remember that you're not alone in this. Artists are not alone in this; not during a time in which new work is coming easily or new work is seemingly nowhere to be found. This applies to any kind of work or activity we might create. What's often misconstrued as something new really isn't.

Think about it: How do we develop new skills and hobbies? Usually, because we're already doing some version of them and we find ourselves scrambling for connections to abilities we've already honed.

Say you're kicking a soccer ball for the first time - creating something new. Well, you're still going to rely on the kicking motion you'd use to defend yourself when your brother picked on you growing up. You're going to lunge your weight forward because you know that creates force. You're instinctually going to throw your hand out because you know that's how to keep balance when you're moving off-center. It's the culmination of so much that we already know, and it's you choosing to do it rather than this new gift being bestowed upon you out of nowhere.

So whether or not you're an artist in the typical sense, your ability to create still lies within you at all times. And the real conflict during those times when you feel the magic isn't there is that you fall into the trap that many do - the trap of not realizing that the stage is already set and is always set for creation. Your slumps aren't about creativity being impossible versus possible, they're about how efficiently you're recognizing, cultivating, and using your many tools.

And ironically enough, included in those tools are the draining feelings you have during these dark days. How can you fashion those brief moments of anxiety or bleakness? You're exposed to all kinds of new stimuli in these times; new conversations, new objects, and new places, in addition to those feelings of artistic confusion. Of course, all of this is only helpful to you should you recognize it as such. You're still taking in new information which you're able to blend with other information you have stored.

If you want to be more welcoming of these creative slumps (or day I say get out of them quicker, even though you said you don't expect it to change), then you must start realizing that you're still at an artistic advantage, even if it goes against the grain of when you've felt advantaged or how you've defined advantage in the past. And you maximize this advantage by being aware of all that's entering your experience, what it consists of, and how to create more new experiences either by your own hand or simply by seeing what's out there in the world.

A creative slump is not a dark cloak preventing you from acting until it decides to free you. It's you not choosing to engage in the process of creation. And there's nothing wrong with that. No one's saying you can't take breaks or have to feel like indulging in creation all the time. But it is an option all the time.

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