Those who have been following my blog know that I’ve struggled to rediscover my own creative energy and really battled with finding motivation. For an artist that’s a huge problem. Advice from others wasn’t always helpful. For example, one person told me to just be persistent, that was the key. But that isn’t really useful to an artist. When you can’t find the creative ideas to draw new things, what are you supposed to do, persistently stare at a blank canvas? But that advice came from someone who isn’t in a creative business. Persistence can be enough when your job involves doing a repetitive task or skill, in that type of situation “going through the motions” can work. But for an artist or writer or poet, it just isn’t the case and people don’t always understand that.
So maybe you’re a creative person and you’re struggling, what do you do? That was essentially the question I asked myself and then I went about answering it. What follows are some of the things I learned and obstacles I over came. So if you’re one of those who is struggling as well, I hope you find something that helps you.
This is a big killer of creative energy. It is really hard to be creative when you’re in the dumps. Depression also has a nasty way of becoming a downward spiral for creative people. You can’t create because you are depressed which magnifies the drepression and frustration you feel which further strangles your creative energy. If you don’t break the cycle it can destroy a creative business. You’re depressed because there are things in your life that have hurt you, make you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, blocked, cheated, or any of a list of other possible emotions. But mostly you’re depressed because whatever events and circumstances caused those feelings has overwhelmed you and you’re thinking about it too much. It can be easy to let happen, you get so busy looking back at what has happened you forget or it seems impossible to look forward.
I’m not saying its easy, but you’ve got to snap yourself out of it. Stop looking at what has gone wrong, what you can’t do, what you’ve lost, etc.; and start looking and moving forward again. Believe me when I say I know its not easy. Long story short, over about a 10 yr period I lost pretty much everything in my life I cared about, including a woman I loved more than life, a company I had spent years of time building, I lost friends and even family and it all ended in a nasty total bankruptcy. It put me into a deep depression that took several years to climb out of. But the moment I began that climb out was the moment I stopped looking at everything I had lost and started looking forward again. Once I did that, the climb out of depression took a lot less time than the years I’d spent trapped in it.
I started winning my own battle with depression when I started focusing on my future again. When I shifted from looking back at past failures and everything I had lost and started looking towards the future and what I could still do. I started moving toward new things, new goals and challenges. I also took a lesson from distance runners. Long distance runners learn not to look at the horizon. When you look at the long road stretching ahead of you and see just how far you have to go it can be very daunting. So distance runners learn to focus on the next 10 or 20 feet ahead of them and constantly moving towards that. Instead of that far off finish line with a long run with no sense of accomplishment, they instead cross hundreds of short term goals that give them a constant sense of progress.
How do you break out of depression?
- Stop looking back at the past and past failures.
- You must move forward, and that means moving toward something.
- While we all need long term goals, you need to focus on the immediate goals right in front of you while you build momentum and confidence again.
Passion is an essential element to any creative person, its what gives your art, poety and writing life. Passion is the key to feeling energized and excited about what you do and what you create. Passion gives what you create that extra spark that takes if from being good to being amazing (it gives it emotional content and that’s essential to all art). For most people working a regular 8 to 5 job, passion is an option; not so for creative businesses and people. For us, passion is an absolute necessity, a job requirement. So what do you do if you’ve lost your passion? What if you never really had any or you feel it declining.
Its extremely hard to be passionate if you’re depressed, if you’re battling with that then job one for you is getting past the depression and moving forward again. Once you are ready to move forward, you need to create and build passion in what you do. Here’s the key, to find passion in anything you have to love something. Your passion will always come from the things you love. When you love something you’re energized, excited, you are drawn towards it and it becomes easier to move towards that something; that’s what creates your passion. As I mentioned above, over about a 10 year period I lost a lot; I lost just about everything in my life I loved and without those things I had nothing left to create passion, nothing left to move towards. When I made that connection it was a life changing moment. Since then I’ve been rediscovering things I do love, including things I’d long forgotten. I love math, I enjoy science, space exploration, and the list is still growing. As I find things I love, I’m finding my passion again and that’s fueling my creativity and giving me new ideas for art and fiction. Rediscovering things I love has given me new things to move towards.
Where does your passion come from?
- Passion comes from the things you love.
- If you want to be passionate, you must love something.
- Passion fuels your creativity, gives you energy and excitement.
Remember, motivation is something that cause you to move; you find motivation in those things you want to move towards.
Every artist or writer or poet needs sources of inspiration, otherwise you’re just an empty well with nothing left to give. One of your biggest sources of inspiration will be the things you love of course. But beyond that inspiration can come from many places. It’s important to surround yourself with things that feed your creativity and minimize things that detract from it. Sometimes just learning to be consciously aware of things that distract you from your creative pursuits can be an important step. There comes a time when you need to turn the TV off, disconnect from social media and focus on your thoughts and your art
Things that feed your creativity can take many forms. As I rediscover my interest in the sciences and space exploration I’m finding inspiration for sci-fi themed art and stories. But I’ve also found myself inspired by pictures tweeted out of Scotland, images of aurora’s, and other amazing locations. One 3D image and model I’m working on as I write this was inspired by one photo in particular (what that is I’ll leave a surprise for later). Just as its important to know when to turn the TV off, sometimes TV shows can feed your creativity. One of my favorite shows is Face Off on the Syfy channel; watching the various artist on the show and listening to the advice of the judges feeds my own creativity as well as being a source of useful tips. The real key is to just learn to recognize what kinds of things feed your own creativity. The better you feed your imagination and creativity, the more you’ll find that well of ideas full when you need it.
- Feed your creativity
- Minimize things that detract from it
- Know when to turn off the distractions like TV and social media.
Lastly, be patient with yourself. You’ve worked hard to build your motivation, nuture your creativity and discover your passions. Don’t make the mistake of strangling those things with impatience and unrealistic expectations of yourself. We all have to learn to crawl before we walk. We learn to draw by starting with simple sketches before we attempt a masterpiece. Before you write a novel, start with short stories. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes and rejection letters aren’t the end of the world, they’re the beginning of experience.
I remind myself regularly of this as I rediscover my own creative talents and passions. Every day is a learning experience, whether its learning to use new tools like graphic tablets or scripting in a game engine. I look at the things people with more experience do, but rather than be intimidated I watch and learn, I look at how they did what they did and learn. Just about everything is an opportunity to learn and improve myself, not an obstacle. It goes back to learning to move forward, to focus on the road right in front of you not the far off goal in the distance.
- Every day is another short sprint, not a marathon.
- Mistakes aren’t failure until you quit.
- Every mistake is a potential learning experience.
- Those more experienced and skilled are people to learn from, not to envy or be intimidated by.
To all those fellow creators who have found themselves struggling with a lack of motivation, passion and creativity; hang in there and I hope something you find here helped. Remember, you’re not licked until you give up, its always your choice.