Surviving Your Creative Desert
I’m in the middle of a creative dessert — desperately clawing my way out of its sandy demise.
For months, I’ve left a short story of mine unfinished. Blog posts, my book, work, and family outrank regarding my focus. I can’t seem to allow myself to choose the unproductive over the productive.
I can’t seem to let myself be an artist.
Everything I do is calculated. Strategic. I’ve stopped making things for the sake of making things. I sought after a mirage. Now the mirage is gone, I’m stranded in the creative desert. I’m thirsty.
What is a creative desert?
A creative desert is a struggle to be creative. Typically it means struggling to create any kind of output. A lack of inspiration from your muse, for example.
Or it could be my case: struggling to be creative over practical.
One of my pillars in my Millennial Manifesto is CREATE. I penned these words little over a year ago and have allowed them to slip away in recent months:
The age of productivity is dead.
The age of cheap, unimaginitive, soulless things is over — it’s time to make beauty again.
I stopped making things for my own sake, or should I say, for my own pleasure. It sounds self-serving, but that’s art. Doing what you love, with love so the others may come to love it also.
It doesn’t matter what others may think or say, you do/make it anyway. That’s art.
I worry too much about what people will think or say and my work art suffered.
Where does the creative desert come from?
There are a few reasons we experience this desert. One is boredom. We grow tired of doing what we love, or once loved.
Another is life. Life gets in the way and can crowd out fun and ambitious projects.
A third reason is success (my greatest struggle).
Everything I’ve written for the past 13 months is intended to grow my audience, gain clout, and become successful. I followed the mirage of short-term success. Success smothers art.
Art doesn’t have to be successful to be art.
How to overcome?
If you struggle to create anything, if you fight to protect your art from self-sabotage, here are some tricks that have helped me in the past:
Find your core support
A small, close group of individuals who are not afraid to offer you honest feedback. That’s all you need.
I’m lucky to have a core group of guys who help me every week stick to my goals and keep me balanced. I’m also blessed to have a supportive wife.
Would there have been a Tolkien without a Lewis? Or a Garfunkel without a Simon?
Read, observe, copy, emulate.
But don’t steal, that’s not cool.
Seek out those ahead of you on the same creative path and do what they did to get there.
Find peace with boredom
Stop filling your life with frivolous activities. Boredom is like manure, it’s shitty but helps things grow.
Yup, I’m sticking with that analogy. There’s nothing more to say.
Unproductive art feels unrewarding at times. So, reward yourself.
It can be as small as allowing yourself to watch an episode on Netflix. But once you’ve reaped your reward, go back to work.
Throw “No” away
No idea is worth saying no to at first. Let it simmer.
Find a place to collect your ideas — Evernote, a journal, a shoe box — and revisit them after some time.
Did I say earlier that success smothers creativity? Well, saying no slaughters it.
Burnout is real. Some thought leaders recommend hustling, I don’t advocate that method.
Rest and rejuvenate. A rested mind is more suitable for creativity.
Thanks for reading! This post originally appeared on my blog, A Millennial Type on March 30, 2016.
If you enjoyed this piece, please consider joining my army of Millennials determined to make a difference in this world. I’d also appreciate it if you checked out my debut ebook: The Millennial Way, launching June 22nd!