Posted on

Breaking Out of a Creative Slump

“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

The above quote is from one of my favorite artists of all time, let alone still living.  Chuck Close is the ultimate motivation for artists after becoming world renown for two different art styles all while dealing with physical limitations.  But this article isn’t a recap of Close’s life (though that would be a fun article to research and write).  The quote was merely a jumping off point.

Everyone has heard of “Writer’s Block”, the situation where you want to sit down and write something, but for whatever reason, you cannot think of words to put down.  This is not just something that happens to writers.  All creative types go through this from time to time.  Artists have trouble thinking of what to paint or draw, Photographers can’t decide what to photograph, sculptors have nothing to sculpt.  In fact, it is so common that many creative types will go to drastic measures to break out of a creative slump.

I tend to go through long stints of a creative slumps, and I really don’t know why.  I have tried to find a reason, even blaming anything and everything I could think of, but I never found a real reason for it.  I tend to believe that its just a perfect storm of a lot of things, which isn’t helpful at all.

You would think my day job as a High School Art Teacher would allow me ample opportunity to be creative and work through slumps faster, but I have found the opposite to be true.  I spend so much time coming up with new projects, concepts, etc. for the students on top of having to monitor my classes and keep everyone on task, that I don’t really get to take the time to just be creative for myself.

Now, I do have my own projects going while my students are working, and sometimes they are even related to the project the students are doing.  And I will admit that being in a classroom has it’s perks.  I have been able to experience all sorts of art materials that I would not have invested in myself.  But access to materials doesn’t directly lead to creative motivation.  Most of the time, I was working with materials so I could better help my students, not create art pieces.

So how do I get over a Creative Slump?  The easy answer is to just wait it out.  Not the answer you were hoping for was it?  Truth is, I can force myself to keep working and for the most part that helps, but if I am not motivated to work, then something creative will probably not come out.  It is times like these that I focus more on techniques.  I keep a small sketchbook filled with ideas of things I want to do or new techniques to try.  I visit local galleries and museums to see other people’s work.  I will even revisit old art pieces that I have laying around unfinished.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the key is to keep creating something.  If you cannot find inspiration in what you are doing, then actively try to improve your skill.  Do observational drawings of everyday things, learn a new feature for your camera, attend a workshop on how to be a better potter.  Whatever you do, though, don’t stop creating.

Create for yourself, because you want to, not because people think you should.  As long as you are creating for the right reasons and finding ways to get better, you will always get out of your slump.  A wise professor once told me (and I am pretty sure he got it from somewhere else) “Creativity is not a finite product, you cannot use it up.  Instead, creativity is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.”