Have you ever found yourself in a creative rut? After concluding a few projects, you feel completely burnt out or gradually over time you’ve lost your motivation/drive and so you’re not getting as much done anymore.
At this point, you’re not sure where to go next. You may be thinking, “If I can just find a project to work on then I’ll get myself out of this rut,” but the only problem is, you then realize finding that project is more difficult than you anticipated. There are two reasons for why it’s so difficult to choose:
- When you’re not working on a project at the moment, the list of potential projects to work on is endless.
- When you’re burnt out, it’s extremely difficult to get things off the ground because you don’t have any momentum.
So what’s the next step? How do you choose a project, and how do you start to gain momentum? The key, for both, is to focus on taking action.
When you have too many choices to choose from, you’re more likely to not choose anything at all, which is commonly referred to as the paradox of choice or decision paralysis. The same problem tends to occur when you’ve finished all of your work, the list of potential projects to pursue is seemingly limitless and so you’re overwhelmed by choice. There is so much you can work on, there is so much you want to work on, there is so much you should work on, and so the typical response is to just not do anything at all. However, making this decision doesn’t have to be scary, difficult or paralyzing.
It’s now or never
The first thing you need to do to ease this decision-making process is to stop focusing on the big picture. For most people, even myself, this doesn’t seem right. Isn’t thinking long term good? Shouldn’t we be focusing on long term gain versus incremental progress? In most cases, I would argue yes, focusing on long term goals is the way to go; however, in the case of being in a creative rut, that long-term mindset is what’s paralyzing you. It’s easy to think of the big picture, but it’s hard to act on it because you can’t conquer an entire project at once; instead it’s a process of smaller tasks which need to be completed over time. The other issue may be, you’re afraid to take on one project because that means you can’t be taking on another project, when in reality it doesn’t matter which project you start on first because the point is to gain momentum and to get back in the groove of creating. Once you have that momentum you can go in any direction you choose.
Just choose one
You may still be asking, “How do I to choose what project to initially start on?” The simple answer is, it doesn’t matter. Just choose one and get going. Focus on the actions you can take right now rather than obsessing over the potential outcomes of those actions. When you envision too much of the project then you become infatuated with results, forcing you to look past the process of getting there. Process is everything. Start by building moment, and then make decisions. It’s not about meticulously planning out all of your decisions before experiencing any of them in an attempt to ensure certain results because fixed results are not guaranteed.
Failure is bound to happen—experience is sooner than later
There’s not as much pressure to get things right at you may think because doing something wrong is inevitable—the painful truth is that you will experience some type of failure—so you may as well jump in and start learning as you go rather than being the perfectionist who doesn’t get anything off the ground. Many people flop when they put something out there because they’ve spent too much time obsessing over the results and not enough time actually seeing if anyone cares for it. You can do everything “right,” and then it not go as you planned because a lot more factors exist than you could ever anticipate or account for. The point being, just start now and learn as you go, so that you can further increase your chance of success down the road.
Gaining some momentum before you start
You may be inspired and eager to start, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get things going. Attempting to jump straight into a project after being in a creative rut can be extremely taxing and overwhelming, which leaves you more likely to give up on that project all together. To ensure that you’re able to follow through with a project and have it be successful you need to first build some momentum before your initial start. The point of gaining this momentum is to keep you inspired as well as to build consistency and discipline. Establishing some healthy habits now can help save you from burning out later down the road.
Unrelated tasks/habits that’ll keep you inspired and motivated
The common perception is that, in order to gain momentum for creating you need to create. Although that may work, it’s certainly the most difficult to get things going. It’s called a creative rut for a reason—because you’re experiencing difficulty creating. However, getting around this is easier than you may think, but very few people actually take it into consideration. Doing unrelated tasks that you’re able to easily complete are sufficient enough in reminding you what it’s like to successfully finish something. When you determine what these tasks are, you can turn them into habits and constantly keep your momentum going. The hardest part is starting to gain momentum, but once you have it going it’s easy to sustain.
I have three things that keep me inspired and motivate me to work:
- Back in November, I published a post titled Running To Be Creative which touches the surface of how running benefits creativity, but I also run because of how much enjoyment I get out of it and the fact that it keeps me healthy and fit.
- Every morning before my run, I spend time writing. This is a form of creating, but it’s radically different than what I’m used to. Most everything I create is visual, and writing has been a great contrast in the sense that it allows me to document my thoughts as they develop, my ideas as they form, and my problems as they occur.
- I have difficulty read fiction, and so all of the books I read are non-fiction design and/or business books because it’s a subject I’m thoroughly interested in and want to continue learning about. I’ve recently just gotten back into the habit of reading and it has played the most significant role thus far. The more I learn, the more inspired and eager I get to put what I’ve learned into practice.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” — Lao-tzu
The point of all of this is to just start doing stuff. The only way to get things going is to just get going. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now because there will be plenty of time to figure it out. You don’t have to choose the right thing right now because there will be plenty of opportunities to change direction. Focus on taking action and simply moving yourself forward.