How do you reclaim your inner fire when everything around you feels so bleh? When you feel creatively uninspired. How do you spark the flames of passion and get excited about what you do, about life again?
It is the question a lot of creatives, and people in general have to ask from time to time. Things are great when you are gripped in the firm pull of inspiration. When the words seem to pour out of you, and the ideas can’t stop flowing. It is all you can do, just to keep up with the flow.
But sometimes, the flow stops, the well runs dry. And for a while there is nothing there, and if it goes on long enough, you start to wonder if it would ever come back.
There are many reasons you can get here. You could end up here because you are just exhausted. You have been working, creating at a furious clip, putting stuff out there, and eventually it wears you down.
Or life happens, and there is a break in the routine, in the cycle that nourishes your creative space.
When you find yourself in that place, in the desert, how do you find the oasis? How do you find nourishment again, how do you reclaim your inner fire?
I don’t know. But I have some ideas. I have been in this space for the past few months to a year, feeling bored and uninspired. Sitting down to write, dipping down into the well, and coming up empty. Wrestling with this idea of how to reclaim passion. And coming to a place where I feel somewhat inspired or at least equipped with the tools to push forward, I have some theories on what to do.
So let’s examine some reasons the inner fire goes out.
This is self explanatory. It’s hard to create when you are tired. Especially if you have been working for a long extended period. We are creatures of cycles. We need to work, we also need to rest. If we are not taking the time to pull back and take care of ourselves, of letting the soils of ideas replenish. We will find ourselves empty and hollow and unable to be our best.
I have blogged at length about the need to rest, to create empty space. In our society and every connected lives, we are pressured to always be productive, always be plugged in. But oversubscription to that idea will only ensure that we burn out. And when we burn out, we must take the time to pull back, to heal.
Being creative can be very much tied to our neuroses and issues. As wonderful as the act and art of making things is, we are also plagued with our insecurities, our fears. And if we don’t do the work to address and push through those issues, they will eventually rise up to sabotage us.
I for one, cringe at almost everything I do. It is hard to fully embrace and promote my work or content, and that is something I am working on. Because if you cringe long enough, soon, you just stop making stuff.
One of those big issues that plague us on the inside is self-doubt and anxiety. We don’t think we are good enough, or we have what it takes. We second guess ourselves and overthink everything. We want everything to be perfect on the first try and don’t give ourselves the space to start by doing it badly. Or we worry about being able to execute the way we want to. We are not relaxed or confident enough to let ourselves be free in the learning and creation process.
But that is a big part of the creative process, getting into flow, letting go of the ego and being fully immersed in what you do. The more we work to a healthy inner space, the easier it is to give your best performance.
Not putting in the work
To remain creatively productive, you have to put in the work. You have to turn pro and stay pro as Steven Pressfield says in his book The War of Art.
No matter how fit you are, if you stopped working out for weeks or months, you will definitely feel and see the difference. If you stop working you stop getting results. It is important to take breaks and rest, to even lay fallow. But you must eventually get back to work, get back to routine, get back to a dedicated space and time for playing, experimenting, and creating.
That is why routine is so important to the life of the creative, or anyone trying to do or make anything. The routine gives you the framework, the conditions to sit down and get things done.
Doing the same work
If you are doing the same thing over and over again, you will probably eventually get bored. Unless you are taking deliberate action and practicing to become better, to go deeper in your craft, to explore the nuances of it.
Sometimes, we need to explore new things, new avenues of creativity. Pick up a new hobby, learn a new skill. It could be something completely different, or it could be something tangentially aligned to what you do already. Exposing yourself to new stimuli and situations will spark new thoughts and ideas in your mind, rekindling that flame and passion.
I love being alone. I often remark to myself, that I feel like my best self when I’m by myself. But we also need people, we need social interaction. If you spend all your time listening to yourself, you are only getting one point of view. In addition to all the benefits we get from connecting with others as social creatures, we also get exposure, to new ideas, points of views, collaboration and opportunities. No one of us is a completely self-sufficient island, we need each other and we need to work together.
That is also why people often recommend that you travel or go somewhere new when you are feeling uninspired. The break in routine, the new experiences and connections help to shake things up.
These are just some reasons why you might be feeling creatively uninspired. And as I write this, many more pop into mind. So maybe there’s a part 2 of this post to be written.
But knowing is half the battle. And whenever we find ourselves in the slump, we have the tools to peel the layers back, find out why and begin to claw our way out, to find our way back to passion, back to inspiration.