Creativity Zapped
February 19, 2012 4:52 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my artistic inspiration/mojo back? I have 3 primary artistic outlets: pottery, photography/videography and writing (primarily about my travels and linked to the photography. I seem to be crap at all of them and can't get back in the zone.

I am employed full time so I have always had to fit in my artistic endeavours around my work. It has never been a problem until now. I always loved turning to my artistic side to help relieve stress and secretly fantasize that one day I'd make enough at my artistic work that I could quit my day job (pipe dream - remember I did use the word fantasize). Anyway, I was finding that my wrists were suffering as the wedging and keyboarding were leading to repetitive strain. I took a bit of a break from pottery and turned more to photography but even my pictures just weren't that great anymore - they were ok but they just didn't have the sparkle that they used to. It's now been about 6 months since I've produced anything that I've liked and I haven't been able to even work at the wheel since July. Should I try a new medium?? Sketching and painting are out of the question - I do like to create with my hands in a more tactile way.
posted by YukonQuirm to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I go through this once in awhile. I'm in the midst of a similar funk right now with my photography. It sucks. I suck. I can't figure out what went wrong.

Try changing your approach to a medium. Do you shoot film at all? You should! Restrict yourself to just 35mm black & white film and a single camera & lens for three months. You'll see the world differently, and maybe it will inspire you. Place limitations on how you can create, and find ways to express yourself despite those limitations. We used to thrive on our limitations! That they're a thing of the past in most ways isn't always a positive.

I... can't think of an analogue of this for pottery. Sorry. I can keep talking about photography if y'wanna, though.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 5:18 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't speak to anything beside photography, but the thing that gets my photographic juices flowing is to just try something different. Different camera, different process, etc. If you usually shoot landscapes, shoot nothing but close up for a while. If you usually shoot with a DSLR, use a point and shoot or just your camera phone.

Personally, I've been shooting a lot with my iPhone with the Hipstamatic app. It really has renewed my ability to see photographic potential in every day life. Whether or not the actual photos are great or not is beside the point; I'm seeing the world with fresh eyes again.

This is a cycle, though, so don't think it's the end of your creativity.
posted by The Deej at 5:28 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can relate to the feeling of leaving an artistic pursuit for a while and coming back to it thinking, "Damn, I used to be better at this, didn't I?" For me, it's writing. I end up getting into little shame cycles which would stunt my productivity. I try to short-circuit this by deciding to produce a LOT for a while, not stopping to stress over the quality or lack thereof. Sometimes just making mass quantities was enough to get me back into a groove where I wasn't questioning the work and was closer to my ideal aesthetic. Doing SOMETHING every day to get back into the habit. That might help for you if it's more of a confidence thing.

Also, about the wrist pain - I learned a yoga technique that has helped me with repetitive strain called the "Begging Dog". I'll see if I can describe it:

- Put your arms at your sides. Keep your elbows along your side, and lift your forearms up parallel to your body
- Make loose fists with your hands
- Bend your wrists down. You'll look like a begging dog at this point, with your fists as the paws
- Hold that position for about 5 seconds. You should feel the stretch in your wrists.
- Release the stretch. Repeat for around 2 minutes.

Well... hopefully that makes sense. Apparently my writing abilities haven't improved enough to described body positions well, ha ha.
posted by Paper rabies at 5:29 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

For me, what works is either giving myself a few days off not not think about it or do anything related to it--basically I do all those things I don't get to do ordinarily like watching trashy TV shows or action movies--and sort of recharge the ol' batteries. It seems to help.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:35 PM on February 19, 2012

Time is always the issue, but if you could find a group or class that's a little bit out of your comfort zone in one of your areas of interest, that might be a nice diversion from your usual groove, enough to shake up your thinking. Good luck, it's hard to keep it dynamic, I know.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:49 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always figured it's hard to create anything if you don't feed the muse. I go off and do other things that fuel the imagination and somewhere in there the urge to make something of my own comes back.
posted by squeak at 9:16 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

In order for art to be fun, you've got to keep increasing the challenge to keep the same "high".

Here's how you do that: get a serious deadline, like an exhibition. This can be anywhere. For people starting off, have a show at a friends house or a coffee joint or something easy like that. Just having a deadline--and knowing that you're making work for an audience will kick up those creative juices fast.
posted by Murray M at 9:19 PM on February 19, 2012

Well, firstly you're out of practice. Producing good work takes time, energy and skill. If you don't practice, your skill will go down somewhat. The good news is that it's easy to recover with a bit of time investment, so keep at it.

Look at lots of work by people you admire. Find good exhibitions and books. I personally find a good exhibition especially quite energising. I'm lucky to live in a city with lots of them, and I understand that it's not going to be this convenient for everyone. But there are lots of great photographers out there who don't take macro pictures of flowers, or of their corgi, or whatever, and finding and enjoying the energy from their work is a great start.
posted by Magnakai at 1:07 AM on February 20, 2012

The things I do when I feel like I'm producing blah (I'm a writer) is to either change the parameters of what I'm doing so that I'm trying to do something I've never done before, and I'm not entirely comfortable doing, or simply change the tools. If I'm having a hard time writing with pen and paper, I'll switch to typing, or change the kind of pen I'm using, or start using a notebook instead of loose sheets.

That said, when I've had serious blocks, they've been solved when I'm not thinking about it. For instance, once I hadn't been able to write anything for three months, and I was reading a book when suddenly I knew exactly what the next chapter was supposed to be like and I just started writing and finished it in one day.

If you're not happy with what you're doing, don't keep doing it.
posted by Kattullus at 5:28 AM on February 20, 2012

Start a blog. No, really. Many bloggers are either crap photographers or crap writers or don't have a subject they are passionate about. You appear to have all three in the bag. Sometimes stepping away from something and presenting it to others can help you re-discover what it was that you were interested in in the first place.
posted by john.c.herman at 6:16 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just work. You've got to recognize that you really have no idea how good you are. Personally, my favorite work of mine is largely ignored y everyone and some of my least favorites are very popular. Do you ever go back to an old sketchbook or photograph or poem that you thought was shit at the time, but is actually amazing? I'd wager so. So just keep doing stuff. You don't need creativity to work, creativity is what happens when you do your work.
posted by cmoj at 11:15 AM on February 20, 2012

Try not to give yourself a hard time about. All creative people have unproductive periods - it's stressful and demoralising when you still feel the need to create but it just won't come. Don't try to force it; give yourself some time off. Say to yourself, 'I'm not going to think about this for the next few days / weeks,' and go and do something completely different. Or you could use the time to look at what other people are doing for inspiration and new ideas - look at what's out there on the net, go to galleries, read artists' biographies, watch documentaries about artists.

Have you got any friends who also make art? Why not get together as a group and talk about your work and bounce ideas around? Or see if there's something similar at a local art centre. Working in isolation can be tough so maybe getting some feedback on previous projects from other creative people would help to kickstart you again. Good luck!
posted by Intaglio a go-go at 11:18 PM on February 20, 2012

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