Things to do when you're just not feeling it

Everyone who has ever created has experienced this: You wake up and your creative juices aren't flowing like they did a week ago. What to do?

First, realize that it happens to everyone. It just does. Life happens. We're human. 



Don't let an off day

get you down



I asked a few artists* what they do when they have an off day. Here are some great tips:

Freya: "If it is while I'm working on a piece, I might paint some background colours on some new canvas - so when I'm inspired to do my next one they are ready. So then I'm still painting, and may get inspired again."

Maria: "Prep canvases and panels."

Lynley: "Change the atmosphere, some good music and muscle through it."

April: "Releasing all expectations and being automated about the schedule time helps induce super productive sessions for me without slumps."

TJ: "Switch gears. Do a different medium."

Karen: "It's ok to give yourself a (limited) break or creative downtime without beating yourself up. After the limited break is over, do accomplish something small. Set a manageable task in a reasonable time frame. (Easier said than done.)"

The common denominator that I see in these answers is that these artists know that off days happen, but it doesn't deter them from working. Instead they've found ways to get over it.

Here are different reasons why I get into the creative cul-de-sac and how I get over them (in parantheses):

  • I've hit a tough spot in my painting and I don't want to deal with it.
    (Analyze what's making it tough for me and then break it down to bite-size action pieces.)
  • Life happens and my mind is not on painting - my kids need a ride, family drama, friend drama, world news!
    (I just need to put a brush in my hand and do some mundane thing like background or sides of the canvas.)
  • I haven't tried something new with my painting in a while.
    (Try a new color palette or experiment with composition.)
  • My last painting sucked the life out of me.
    (Choose a simpler composition that's more relaxing.)

There are more reasons out there, but one thing is for sure: I never want to be far away from creating. 


- Pablo Picasso

big picture summary

Off days are totally normal. If you want to create consistently, embrace this fact. And when that off day comes, you won't be surprised and be caught off guard. You'll know what to do and you'll pick that thing that works for you: change atmosphere, change medium, pump up your favorite music, work on mundane things that don't require so much brain power but still keep you connected with creating, take limited breaks or tackle itty bitty pieces at a time. Soon you'll gain momentum and your creative juices will be flowing in no time.

your one action step

How do you tackle creative slumps? Post in the comments below.

*Big thank you to artists:
Freya Croft
Maria Gilkerson
Lynley Gumaer
April Demarco
Thaddeus Erdahl
Karen Stolper