Cake
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    • Lauren

      Anyone who is a ‘creative’ knows how unbearable that title can be to carry sometimes, especially when it feels like your creativity has ran out of juice.

      This happened to me last year. I spent so many years taking photos every single day, until one day last year I realised I hadn’t picked up my camera in months. It was a sad realization, more so when I realised there was still a memory card in it with photos I hadn’t even looked at yet. What happened? Where did my creative flow go?

      Do you ever sit staring at an empty page? Or look at scene and wonder what to photograph? Or pick up a paintbrush but don’t actually paint? If you’re a creative, the answer is probably (definitely) yes. It’s OK.
      We can’t be full of creativity all of the time – a lot of it depends on whether we are actually being inspired - and I later realised that in those months of camera neglect, I just wasn’t inspired. Sometimes our creative juice runs out, our muse takes a vacation, our flair can’t be arsed. Whatever the analogy, it’s normal for every one of us to get a little low on creativity. Over the past year, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to not be neglectful of my photography again. I try to stay inspired, but sometimes the mediocrity of life is just… uninspiring.

      In today’s world it can be hard to stay inspired, and I started to wonder whether a true work-life balance was even possible. Modern workplaces shout about their dedication to flexibility and family/social life, but the reality remains different - we’re still judged on when we arrive and
      leave the office. Quite often I was seeing friends, family, and coworkers working way longer than their standard working day, because they feel they needed to. Then I started noticing that I was doing that too, and I started to ask myself who was winning with that setup? I was uninspired, over-worked, and demotivated – which, as much as we never like to admit, does have a negative impact on our work. It sometimes feels like work becomes this dystopia where we’re battling each other to see who can survive the longest hours or climb the career ladder quickest – a bit like Survival of the Fittest or workplace Hunger Games. There’s an absurd belief that once we hit adulthood we must prioritse our education over our happiness and our careers over people. When our creativity takes a dip, I think it’s because we have that all wrong – people, moments, and experiences are what make our lives matter and give us some kind of purpose. With that thought-process, maybe we need to start being OK with walking away from our desks, switching off our computers, and realising that it really is OK to not read work emails at midnight.

      I know it’s hard to imagine a world where we switch off at 5pm and don’t think about work… I’m far from there yet, but it’s so important for us to try and find a sustainable work-life balance – especially for us creatives who need time to be… well, creative.

      It’s not productive to overdo it. You don’t want to get years down the line and realise you missed out.

      After my creativity hit a low last year, I started doing these six things to make sure my creative juice tank doesn’t get critically low again:

      1.     Analogue for the win: I once wrote a blog about digital vs. analogue and still think it’s so important for us to go back to good old-fashioned analogue from time to time. I spend one day every week where I replace tech with something… not tech. I read a book instead of a Kindle, I write in a journal instead of on a digital screen, I use a film camera instead of a digital one. You get my point. If your hands are moving, your brain is roaming, and I’ll bet you anything that you’ll enjoy the art of creating over the strain of consuming.

      2.     Hone that hobby: This is a weird one for me because my hobby has always been so closely linked to the industry I work in (photography), but I’ve always managed to treat the two separately because nothing beats being in the mountains with a camera. It keeps me sane and let’s my mind refresh, so this is a good one for my mental wellbeing as well as my creative one.

      3.     Learn then learn some more: I read a ton of non-fiction books and love to think about what I’ve learnt after I’ve read them. I always have all this newfound knowledge about something. I probably forget a lot of what they’ve taught me within a few months, but there’s certain parts of them that stick with me. A lot of the blog posts I write are inspired through parts of books I’ve read.

      4.     Ditch the computer: Go a walk, read a book, draw a picture, take a photo, drive in your car. The computer is a wonderful source of inspiration but sometimes it just gets a little bit too clingy and I need a breather.

      5.     Ask a kid: Truly, this one is great. Remember how vibrant your imagination was as a kid? We were dreamers! Just listen to a kid talk for an hour about random things with not a care for the finer details, and I guarantee your mind will wander into the creative realm. Just because you’re an adult, doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming big.

      6.     Visit a bookstore: I do this weekly, sometimes you just need to be surrounded by the smell of books, right?

      If what you’re doing isn’t working for you creatively, do the opposite. It’s so easy to get caught up and stuck in a rut. Break free from the cycle and ditch the structure for a while.

      What do you do to stay creative?

    • yaypie

      If what you’re doing isn’t working for you creatively, do the opposite. It’s so easy to get caught up and stuck in a rut. Break free from the cycle and ditch the structure for a while.

      Couldn't agree more!

      After a long stretch of working nonstop on Cake, I was feeling pretty burned out recently. For me, programming is a very creative endeavor and when I'm burnt out, it's like trying to squeeze water out of a dry sponge.

      The best way I've found to recover from burnout is to just do something completely different that requires my full attention, for as long as possible. For me that's usually travel. So I took a two week road trip, visited family, cleared my head, and came back feeling recharged. 🙂

    • Lauren

      Really enjoyed reading your post on your road trip. I get a little envious of the epic road trips you can take in America - so much land! (And very envious of the Tesla!)

      Programming is something I really wish I had the patience to learn, so I can only imagine how straining it can be at times. Sounds like the road trip was a great recharge though :-).

    • bubbla

      for me with writing and performing music, I’ve learned to go with the flow so to speak. If I’m not feeling ceative and ideas aren’t readily flowing don’t push it. Wait until they do. For me anything can spark a creativity binge that can last from 10 minutes to 10 months..or more.

      I know. Not very organized or scientific. And not an approach that could be usedd if I were trying to put dinner on the table as a result. However, if I push or “try” to be creative and it’s not flowing I end up with something I’m eventually unhappy with.

    • Vilen

      When I feel burnt out creatively the best thing is to completely unplug from a task at hand. Usually a task at hand involves staring at the monitor and designing, researching, looking for inspiration and sometimes overly obsessing over stats and graphs. The best solution I've found is to get up and walk away from the computer.

      For a long time I used to live in apartments in cities big and small, where the only way to reconnect with the nature was to go to a park. These days I'm lucky enough to live in a house with a back yard and plants. So I go to the back yard to water the plants. I'm sure if they could talk they would tell me how much they love watering and looking after them, but I get a hint of that whenever a new flower starts blooming. It puts a smile on my face and reminds of beauty of nature and small wins. I then go back to a computer and take another crack at the creative puzzle 😉

    • Lauren

      I think nature is the trick, for sure.

      For what it's worth, I had a teacher at school who spoke to his plants and swore that it made them 'happy'. They always looked wonderful, so maybe he was on to something... 🌼

    • Keenan

      Really enjoy this conversaiton and reading everyone's responses. I'd like to echo everyone's thoughts with regards to "taking a break" or "doing something else." It seems similar to physical activity in certain ways. If you work out too hard or too long, you have to build in recovery time or you could get burnt out or injured. For me, creativity feels like a finite resource in the same way, and when exhausted, it needs time to regroup.

      I sometimes use video games, binge watch a show, or listen to music when I'm feeling out of creative juice. Eventually, I start to feel the creative fuel tank refill.

      Sometimes though, and this might seem counter to what was said already, I think it's ok to just push through or force yourself to work on something even when you don't want to. I find that creative roadblocks can sometimes be pushed aside if I just force myself to work through them. I might spin my wheels for a little bit, but usually once I get going, it starts to come back.

      I suppose to keep the working out analogy going, sometimes you just really don't want to go on that 6am run, but once you're out there, you start to feel better. And when you're done, you're really glad you went.

    You've been invited!