Not Today, Creative Rut . . . Not Today!
Feeling a bit like Belle from Beauty and the Beast? “... every day, like the one before...” Or perhaps it’s more of a Bill Murray from Groundhog Day kind of routine. What once fueled your desire to pick up that paintbrush or camera just isn’t doing it for you, and so you decide to skip studio time and opt instead to make a coffee and catch up on a show you like.
Just an episode or two, which turns into a whole season and then before you know it, a full on binge. You’ll work tomorrow, you tell yourself until tomorrow comes and once again the motivation to create feels forced and you feel in no way creative. Either way, your creative spark has fizzled and you are in a serious rut. We’ve all been there.
A creative rut is your inner voice telling you it’s time to try something new, to go in a different direction and shake things up. Many times we don’t hear it; we ignore it, or argue with it, and tell ourselves it will pass and then everything will be fine and things will get back to normal. Change can be a scary thing, especially if what you’ve been doing has been successful. The problem is, ignoring it won’t make it magically disappear; and fear of change is what will keep you in that rut.
Therefore the first step to breaking out of a rut is recognizing and acknowledging you are in one. It can take time to come to this realization, but, when you do, a more powerful you emerges. The you that is ready to take control of this rut and do something about it. That’s all well and good, but how?
Sign up for a workshop or class. Pretty basic suggestion. The catch is, take a class in something completely different and not at all what you normally do. If you paint in acrylics, take a class in collage; if you focus on still life, take a class on drawing nudes. The point is to shift your mind into a different mode of thinking and creating. It’s not about starting to draw nudes, or changing your media, although you might actually incorporate what you’ve learned into what you are currently doing. It’s about distracting yourself from ruminating on the rut you’re in. Often a rut is a self-fulfilling prophecy because we can’t break out of the rut mindset. Art supply stores are a great place to find notices for local classes, as well as right here on Living An Artful Life. Click on our Creative Arts Resource Guide, or go directly to https://creativeartssourceguide.com. Check out all of the incredible offerings and pick something wild and unexpected. You might actually discover a new passion or at the very least you will force yourself into using different modes of creating.
Another way to snap out of a creative rut is to not create for a while. Take an actual deliberate break, which is completely different from the funk-induced avoidance when you’re experiencing being in a slump. Decide how long your vacation from your artwork will be...a few days, a week, even a couple of weeks, just don’t make it too long or too open-ended. During your break, take the time to do other things; lunch with friends, walks at a time of day that are out of your routine if you have a job outside of your home drive to/from work another route. Changing up your routine is key. A block in creativity can often be broken through by taking your mind off the fact that you’re experiencing a block and focusing on non-related actives for awhile. If you have a break-through, jot it down or even better seize on it and get back to work.
Plan a visit to a local gallery or art museum; go with a friend or partner, and make a real outing of it. Actually get the audio guide and listen to the information, or sign up for a docent tour. Learning about the artist, their style, techniques, and meaning in their work can be very inspiring. Along this line, attend an opening. Art openings are perfect for seeing some great works, meeting new artists and soaking up all of that wonderful creative energy, not to mention they usually have nibbles and things to sip. Many communities host monthly art walks, in which the art galleries stay open late once a month and feature artists, new works, sales and socializing. I always come away from these events ready to get back in my studio and get busy.
And as the song goes...”I get by with a little help from my friends”. Artists are often isolated while working, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing until it is. Years ago, when I lived in Texas I had my “art buddies”. I was an art teacher at the time, and a group of 5 or 6 of us started going on an art retreat each spring at a university-led weekend-long event. We signed up for workshops, brought something of our own to work on and basically bonded over long days of creating and nights under the Texas stars sitting by a bonfire. When the official retreat began to lack in quality offerings we decided to continue on our own. We found our own place to meet, and we each brought ideas to share. Sometimes we barely made art, and sometimes we left with loads of ideas but we always left recharged and better friends than ever. As our lives got busier our weekend retreats morphed into simply a Saturday, but it was still enough to keep us connected and wanting to try new things. It’s been 20 years since that first trip together but I know I can call any one of them for anything and I can always count on one of them to have the art related answer I’m looking for or inspire me with what they’re doing now. Form a group of art buddies and meet regularly, or at least as often as you can and you’ll be amazed at the reinvigoration you’ll feel afterward.
Most importantly, don’t allow a creative rut to take over. Not today, not today. Until next time-
To view Amy Hutto's artwork please go to her website here.
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