How I Deal With Creative Ruts


For as long as I can remember, I've loved being able to create things. Whether it's shooting an image or styling an outfit or writing about skincare, being able to create is something I'm passionate about, get excited about doing, and get satisfaction from putting bits of me out there in the world. And sometimes I'm really on fire - full of ideas and energy to make things I love and am super proud of. And sometimes I'm unmotivated and out of steam and the only ideas I have are the same one's I've always had - this is my creative rut.

I get into ruts more often than I'd like to admit. Usually they come out of nowhere - all of a sudden I'm not happy with anything I'm coming up with or no new ideas come to mind, and my biggest sore spot is being able to keep pushing out of my comfort zone. I want to always challenge myself to try new things when it comes to creating, but sometimes when I push myself, I hit a wall.

Other times, I can put myself into a rut. And it's unproductive and sometimes includes a bit of self-loathing, but it happens. One way I put myself into a rut is by burning myself out. I'm guilty of falsely thinking "busy means productive," and I'll run myself into the ground, constantly going until there's nothing left but mushy peas for brains. My least favorite way of ending up in a rut? That terrible spiral called "comparison." It's disappointing because I know that I shouldn't compare myself to others, and often remind myself (thanks to Pinterest) that "Comparison is the thief of joy," yet, human nature stands, and this is where self-loathing comes in. The "why am I not as good as x?" or "ugh, they're so talented, I'll never get there," rears its ugly head, and can render me immobile within the rut universe. It's a horrible feeling that not only drains me emotionally, but creatively, and I'm constantly working on lessening its hold on me.

But how do I get out of it? Well, I have an entire arsenal of ways because it all depends. It depends on how I got into the rut, it depends on what I'm specifically stuck on, it depends on if I'm just feeling unmotivated or maybe uninspired, and that's where I try and pick a way to ease myself out of it. Here's my top 5 in no particular order:

1. Step away from the screens: shockingly, sometimes the answers aren't on the internet. I find that if I dig into a hole of finding inspiration from other photos or Pinterest or websites, I lose a sense of what my creative intentions are, and focus on other people's aesthetics, which is not what I want. So if I can just find time to sit quietly on the couch, or take a few minutes to do mindless chores, once I let my mind drift away from the task, I can come back with a fresher pair of eyes.
2. Go to a museum: I love museums in general, but being able to get out of my of my own space and maybe not necessarily find aesthetic inspiration, but inspiration in the fact that these people made what they wanted without compromise and probably on a way more complex scale is usually enough to take my own head out of my ass.
3. Listen to podcasts: To stop the self-criticism or self-doubt going on in my head, I find that listening to other people tell stories or just listening to someone else's voice that isn't my own is an absolute relief. "Terrible, Thanks for Asking," is amazing and sad, but cathartic, and can put into perspective a bigger picture beyond the fact that I didn't get the right light that day. Another favorite is "How I Built This," there's something about hearing stories of struggle and success that lights a little fire in me.
4. Walk away: Just step away from what I'm working on and get a grip. Go for a walk, grab a coffee, text a friend and come back with a clearer mind. It's amazing what even 5 minutes of taking deep breaths or getting some air will do.
5. Ask for someone else's opinion: Usually this ends up being my husband's opinion since he's so readily available, but being able to get an outside point of view can be SO incredibly helpful. I'll run myself in circles trying to decide if a photo crop is positioned right, but if a single person said "I don't even notice it," it would probably save me 4 hours of mindless worry.

Everyone's creative ruts are different, and everyone's solutions are different, but I thought I'd share my thoughts on my own. How do you deal with creative ruts? Are they something that comes out of no where, or do you find that there's something that sets it off?