How to Handle a Creative Drought

Handling Creative Drought by Natalie Parker

Back in 2014 I had the longest scrapbooking creativity drought I’ve ever experienced.  Months (yes, months plural) of not being able to put something together I liked.  It was really really frustrating.

I finish projects well before I blog them, so you wouldn’t have noticed the drought here.  When I balance that with being a grad student, working full time, and traveling and spending time with Mr. P, it means I keep several projects “in the chamber” so I always have something to write about.

Anyway, around April last year I got really focused on school and work.  I was chugging along with classes toward my degree and boom!  I stumbled upon a research topic that I really loved and dove in.  It wasn’t required, but I couldn’t help myself.  I went to a conference, got even more inspired, and I’m now working on a thesis that’s optional for graduation.

Soon after at work, I became a manager for the first time.  I put a lot of time not just into drafting welcome materials, but making sure they were aesthetically pleasing.  Because I’m that person.

All of this stuff left me time for scrapbooking but not much creativity.

What I learned from my creative drought

Understand your creative environment.  I wrote about this earlier, but I need to make sure I have the right space and mindset or else my projects will turn out like crap.  The right mindset also means that if I have a huge school project that is eating away at my mind and I’m on a roll with it, it’s okay to focus my energy there and come back to other projects later.

Try something else.  I started cross-stitching again.  I still had the itch to make stuff, I just couldn’t get any of my normal projects right.  It was therapeutic to work on something different.

Don’t force it.  I needed to listen to yourself and not work on something that wasn’t going well.  I learned to focus energy on what I wanted to work on.  I ended up doing better work that way.  So if my dive into the world of personal digital archiving and deciding to write a thesis captured my imagination, that’s great!

Case in point: I had set aside time to write this post last week.  My job was taking every last ounce of my creativity because I was working on the biggest project I’d ever worked on and it was all I could think about.  Even though I don’t like writing posts at the last minute, I decided to wait.  I sat down after my Sunday workout when it was still quiet in the house and yippee!  This thing wrote itself!

Handling Creative Drought by Natalie Parker


How to Stay Creative: Understand Your Environment


Creativity is precious.  While you can’t “use it up,” it’s important to understand how your environment can enhance it.

You can’t force being creative.  But you can give it the chance to breathe and grow by taking the time to do things that will help.  Everyone has different things that make them more creative.  I’ve listed some of mine below.  The key is to understand yours and start doing those things.

This can really help whether you are working on personal projects, school, or work.  I’ve realized anything that helps my at work helps just as much with school or craft projects and vice versa.

Things that Help Me Stay Creative

Windows.  I do a lot of blog and schoolwork at the dining room table.  I open all the blinds in the area so I can see out the window.  Sometimes I get distracted and stare out the window (squirrel!) but the natural light and openness really helps.

A Clean Workspace.  This is true for home, school, and work.  After every scrapbook layout or craft project, I clean my workspace so I can help focus on new ideas.  My dining table can sometimes become a scene of school papers but I find it really helps me refocus when I tidy things up.  Same goes for my desk at work.

Writing in Longhand. Again, something that rings true for home, school, and work.  I hand wrote index cards and the outline for my thesis proposal.  I sketch all of my scrapbook layouts by hand.  My blog posts are better when I jot out ideas on paper.  When I have to design a resource at work, you can find me hunched over my desk scribbling (no word yet on how posture affects my creativity).

The Right Pens and Pencils.  This goes with my longhand habit.  I use mechanical pencils with 0.5mm lead thickness, nothing thicker.  I only use extra fine gel pens.  Pilot G2 0.5mm to be exact.  My writing looks neater with fine pens and pencils and staying neat helps me stay creative.

Pretty Things.  This sounds a bit frivolous but it really does matter to me.  I cover all my notebooks for home, school, and work with pretty paper.  My new blog design helps me stay creative with my writing.  It’s why I design pretty calendars to keep on my desk.

Doing Other Creative Things.  Sometimes I get the best ideas for blog posts while I’m working on schoolwork.  Creativity begets creativity.  When something’s not working for me, I try to work on another project.  It’s why I took up cross-stitching again when I started having a hard time designing scrapbook layouts.

What about you?  What do you do to stay creative?  Have you thought about what influences you?

Image courtesy Love from Ginger via Creative Commons license. I need some sparkly pencils.  With fine tips of course.

Tips on Staying Creative

Make Time for Creative Time

Make time for creative time by Natalie ParkerMaking time in life for creative activities is a frequent topic I read about.  Over here in my little corner of the internet, here’s my take on it:

Make time for creative time.
If something is important to you, you will make time for it.

I hate waking up any earlier than I possibly need to.  I used to give myself only a 1-2 minute buffer in the morning when I was getting ready for work.

Then I started my Master’s Program.  I was concerned I would lose time for blogging and scrapbooking.  Then I did something that’s so unequivocally against my personality:  I started getting up earlier.

Not early early.  Just around 30 minutes early.  After I get ready for the day, for 30 minutes I sit and work on a creative project.  I don’t clean the house, I don’t start looking at work email.  Creative time only.

I found that creative time in the morning is calming.  I don’t have things piling up in the day yet to make me worry.  By the time I get to work, I’ve already done a little something for a project and I don’t stress out as much if there’s something that’s going to eat into my creative time in the evening.

How about you?  Does this make you think of how you prioritize creative time?