In recent weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the way that creativity and inspiration come – and go – in waves. I suppose in some ways, this has been on my mind because I’m going through quite a busy period; I’ve lacked the headspace for anything other than the most mediocre of posts on the blog, and at times it’s left me wondering if actually I’m just rubbish and I’ll never have a good idea again.
It’s not something that’s isolated to my current situation though; these ups and down of creativity seem to a degree to happen regardless of what I’m doing or not doing. Do you find that, too? Some days ideas and words and passion flow naturally and easily, and other days it’s an uphill struggle to cobble together a single line of text or come up with just one idea that excites you. When it’s the latter, it’s easy to get frustrated.
When it’s the former, it feels like you’re physically buzzing with ideas and drive, compelled to create, write, or make something. If only that feeling had lasted forever!, I always think afterwards, wildly imagining about how much I could do if only that inspiration was a constant and I didn’t have other boring things to contend with.
That intensity isn’t sustainable in day to day life for most people though, and what I’m starting to realise is that that’s okay. It will be back.
Sometimes new inspiration hits when you least expect it, or at a time which seems incredibly random and inconvenient. For me this is nearly always in the shower, on the treadmill, as I tune out of some boring business speak or when I’m falling asleep (but I’d love to know if anyone’s been struck by a burst of inspiration in some kind of hilarious, totally inappropriate or noteworthy setting). These moments are nearly always during a week or month where I’m otherwise trying to do a million things at once; in other words, times when creativity doesn’t seem forthcoming when I try to fit in amongst the madness, and finally, just as my brain starts to switch off…there it is again.
On Sunday I had a slowish day for the first time in a long time. I scheduled some tweets, I edited some photos, I tidied and ironed and went out for lunch, but I wasn’t required to produce anything creative and I didn’t try to either. Yet when I arrived back home that evening, I couldn’t help but write down ideas and some notes for 3 new blog post ideas that demanded I record them while they were fresh, and then some notes for this one.
I have a massive list of blog posts that I want to write – a bank, if you will. Lately, however, I’d noticed that I hadn’t been coming up with any new ideas to add to the bank. If I decided not to write about something that was in there already, I was struggling to come up with an alternative. This wasn’t something that had ever really been a problem for me before, so like all great worriers do, I’d started to worry about it. Where had my inspiration gone? Was I a robot now? What would happen when I finally exhausted the bank of ideas in a year’s time (seriously there’s a lot in there) and hadn’t restocked it?
Writing down those three new ideas made me realise that my creativity never actually went anywhere. It was just having a rest, while I most certainly was not, and the minute I was, out it popped. Not constantly being creative doesn’t mean that you aren’t, or can’t be, and just because one day you feel uninspired doesn’t mean that you won’t have a burst of OMG I MUST WRITE THIS DOWN IMMEDIATELY the next day, however much it feels like it at the time.
I’ve seen creativity described as an ebb and flow before, and I think that’s spot on. The ebb is in the days where you feel like you’re running on nothing, inspiration is nowhere to be seen and everything you try to create goes terribly, and the flow is inspiration washing wonderfully over you once more. It’s a pattern that perhaps you have to make peace with, rather than allowing it to stress you out.
The ironic thing is that the day I scheduled myself in to sit down and write this up properly from some notes I had made, I wasn’t feeling very creative at all. While it kind of goes against my point to have forced myself to try anyway, I did decide to plough on and write, because I guess it plays in to what I’m trying to say; I know that part of me is still there, glimmering away in a dark corner of my currently quite full mind, and if I allow it space, it’s only a matter of time until it comes rushing back to greet me.
It can be hard not to feel rubbish when you’re trying to be productive on a creative project and nothing comes out, so if you do; you got this. It’s a process, it’s a cycle, it’s an ebb and flow. Just because you don’t feel creative at all times doesn’t mean you aren’t. Your creativity can’t go anywhere, because it’s within you; so don’t panic that it’s gone, accept the ebb, and before long it will flow back to you once more.
Photos: Rob Poor