Developing your Creative Toolkit for Battling the Blahs

This blog post was delayed by the winter creative blahs. My usual blog writing afternoon found me stretched out on a sunny built-in couch, staring up at bare branches waving in the wind.

Later, another linocut artist trapped in a cold, snowy studio asked on-line: “How do you get through the doldrums?” So whether you are trapped in the snowy northern hemisphere, or the overheated southern, here are my best suggestions for getting through times when you just don’t feel creative.

Doing nothing might be best

Like an athlete, sometimes creative people don’t need to push, but to rest. Perhaps your mind needs rest, in the form of a nap or time spent not thinking about your current creation.

Clouds watching
Clouds are perfect for contemplation and meditation.

Get out

Consider a change of venue. This may not be helpful if you are literally snowed or iced in. But if you are able, consider going somewhere else for a change of perspective. Some of my favorite places during the “blah” season are:

  • Coffee shops for some caffeine and journal brainstorming
  • Local galleries or museums to look at other creations
  • Indoor nurseries or greenhouses
  • Local library or bookstore
Winter is the perfect time for admiring and acquiring orchids.

Get moving

Use caution here. I’m not advocating vigorous snow shoveling unless you do it on a regular basis. Why not take a brisk walk in the woods or your neighborhood? If you must stay inside, put on the liveliest music you have and dance around (if you are bold) or at least clean vigorously.

Identify the problem

I have found a number of books to be tremendously helpful during times of blah:
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way series
Eric Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within and Creativity for Life

Take action

If your blahs are related to the current political situation in the United States and elsewhere, I recommend taking a small action. Putting your political official’s phone numbers into your phone allows you to quickly make a call about a pending issue. But after you take an action, consider unplugging from the news for a while.

Make anything

I have a collection of creations — some linocuts and others experiments — that I use as a transition between blah and some version of creative energy. These creations often do not have a place on my walls or in a show, but serve as encouragement of my creative self to keep practicing until the blah feeling goes away. This action does feel a little forced, but helps stem that “I’m not creating!” anxiety.

batik yellow scarf
Batik on silk scarves is like reduction printmaking in reverse.

Get some help

I should note that I am not a trained or licensed counselor. These are strategies I have employed over the years as a mostly self-taught printmaker who works by herself at home. If you feel continuously blue, and especially if your mood affects your overall functioning, call and seek help. Do it before you think you need to, as the wait for mental health related appointments can be inexplicably long.

A self-help toolkit like this is crucial for creative people. What do you do when you have the creative blahs?

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