I use my morning pages as a conversation with myself pretty often, and this pep talk for creatives came out in pieces over days. It’s what I needed to tell myself; maybe you need someone to tell it to you, too.
First, can we just establish that this last the last almost two years has been hard for everyone. And even the most well-meaning, least-touched-by-crisis people are feeling the burden of just, like, everything. I mean it’s always true that we all have struggles but I feel like more of us — maybe most of us — are struggling right now.
And that kind of daily existence in survival mode is not conducive to creativity.
So if you are not feeling it right now, I give you permission to just not.
Creativity shouldn’t feel like a burden, like another thing on our to-do lists.
It’s supposed to light us up.
(And I know when creative work is your job it doesn’t always, but I hope there’s some part of your creative life that is your own that helps prevent the burnout that can often come when all your creative work is work.)
Yes, Creativity is Great
It feels like we are hearing so much lately about the benefits of a creative practice: the stress relief, creativity, self-expression, ability to control something when everything else seems (is) beyond your control.
All of that is important. Creativity is self-care.
But there are times when it feels like too much. Like you can’t possibly do another thing. Like the best possible use of the time and energy you have left at the end of the day really is sitting on the couch watching the latest episode of “Ted Lasso.”
There have been days lately where my knitting is right there next to me on the couch and I can’t even bear to pick it up. (I’m at that point where it doesn’t feel creative, just cranking out inches of sweater, which is in its own way kind of exhausting, or at least not that rewarding until you get to the end of it.)
And while we know that creativity can light us up, make us feel alive and energized and change a bad mood and all those things the scientific reports say it does, sometimes it’s just not like that.
It’s a burden, a strain, just another thing you feel like you have to do. And even when you want to do something creative it doesn’t always feel good to do so.
In those cases you definitely shouldn’t force it.
A Pep Talk for Creatives Ready to Get Back to It
The key thing is that any break from creative practice is temporary. You can’t let a week of being exhausted and overwhelmed turn into months of staying away from activities you love.
Because that’s always the danger of stopping: it’s hard to start again.
So if you’ve already been staying away from your creative loves for a while, allow me to gently nudge you to try.
Maybe this weekend you can set aside a little time for a little thing.
Don’t plan too much, announce it, maybe don’t even share it. Just make a little something and see how that feels.
My go-tos are doodles and collages made of stuff I find on my desk.
Maybe you can grab your kid’s crayons (and a coloring page if you’re feeling really low effort) and color something. Or go for a walk and take a picture of something you notice. Or bake a loaf of bread (I did this the other day for the first time in a long time and it was really nice).
Here’s a list of a bunch of little things you can try.
The point is maybe you don’t have to do the big thing right now. But leave yourself open to the idea of doing little things.
Make Creativity Something You Choose
I want to encourage people — and myself — to be gentle in this time (and all the time). I know creativity isn’t always easy, doesn’t always feel possible, and there are days, maybe even weeks, when that needs to be OK.
But at the same time, you probably know that making often makes you feel better. Right now that “having something you can control” thing is huge. It’s a hard line to walk between giving yourself room not to create and nudging yourself to do something when you know you’ll feel better if you do.
I think maybe the key is just to know why you are choosing to do nothing and making sure it’s an actual, conscious choice when you do, and not just because you are coasting through your days not thinking about it.
If in no other part of your life, in this one way right now you can be mindful.
Just think: am I going to make time to create today?
If the answer is no, that’s OK, but at least you hopefully put some thought into why it’s a no today.
And some days when you ask, the answer will be yes.
Remember the good feeling of those days. Here’s to many more of them.