How to keep running a business when you're fresh out of creative juice
As a creative entrepreneur and freelancer, I know (well) that awful feeling of turning on your laptop one morning and waiting for inspiration to strike and... nothing. There's no cogs turning, no ideas flowing, no creative juice left in the system.
How frustrating. Especially when you have clients booked in, blogs to write, and products to create. You've set aside the time, made yourself comfortable - you might've even made a cocktail - but your creativity won't come to the party. It wants to lie in the bath with cucumbers on its eyes.
This is something I struggle with myself. As a graphic designer with jobs usually booked back-to-back, I can't afford to have many days where I just can't come up with any good ideas.
Unfortunately, inspiration is a slippery muse, and refuses to arrive on demand.
Here's the thing: it's a lot easier to keep a little juice in the tank than to refill it again. So firstly, here are some tips to help you protect your reserves:
- Ongoing stress is the enemy of creativity, so make sure you include any activities you love that reduce stress - meditation, yoga, watching Parks and Recreation - in your weekly schedule. Down time is essential.
- Leave a day or three between each freelance booking/writing session, or a few hours between clients if you are a coach or consultant.
- Ladies, try tracking your monthly cycle to identify any patterns in your creativity, energy levels and mood. Generally some weeks will be a lot better to start a big project, hold meetings and spark new ideas than others. It's handy to understand yourself.
- Do something totally different, but also creative. If you're a copywriter, try weaving; if you're a designer, try poetry; if you're a photographer, try painting! By tricking your brain into being creative in a different way, you can fill those tanks a little more.
- Take good care of yourself - food, exercise, sleep. Yeah yeah, you've heard it all before. But if your body isn't feeling tended to, your mind will be busy imagining delicious snacks or a warm cosy bed instead of fresh new ideas.
- Read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for a great understanding of where creativity comes from and how it works, and a gentle butt-kicking too.
So what if you've been working yourself into the ground, or you're having one of those days where you are plain out of ideas, and you just HAVE to get on with business?
Here are some suggestions:
- Get outside. Walk around the building or the block. Get a coffee or stare at the trees.
- Browse Pinterest, or another eye-candy site, but put a firm time limit on it!
- Feel the sun on your face, breathe deeply and remember of the last time you were truly inspired.
- Surrender your frustration. Close your eyes, whisper a few sentences to release it, pause, and then invite fresh ideas to flow.
- 5 minute personal dance party. Pick a real banger. Whip that hair around.
- Have a gasp-inducing cold shower.
- Draw a couple of oracle/tarot cards for guidance, if that's your thing.
- Bargain with your brain using the Pomodoro Technique, and plan cool rewards for your downtime between sessions.
- Call a friend or (let's be real here) message them on Facebook. Tell the what you need to be doing and by when, and get them to hold you accountable throughout the day.
- If you are a fridge-checker, have snacks at your desk, to reduce excuses for getting up.
- Move your laptop to a new location (this one usually works for me!) Try the living room, bed if it's cosy, backyard, or head to a scenic location and work as hard as you can before your battery runs out.
- Delegate some tasks to an employee or Virtual Assistant (VA). Schedule some stuff in advance. Have a contingency plan. That way the cogs keep turning even if you're down for the count.
Or, if things are really bad:
- Take the damn day off. You have my permission.
I'd love to hear from you - do you have any techniques for keeping the creative juice tank full, or getting yourself back on track on those days your brain will not cooperate? Let me know in the comments!