We’ve entered the tough part of winter in the garden, where the roses have been pruned and the hellebores (and my new camellia bush!) haven’t really started blooming yet. I’m making do with what I have: olive branches and dusty miller. It’s a good metaphor for how to get through a creative block.
You see, just as the garden is dormant, it feels like my creativity is rather sluggish, too.
This happens every winter, and I’ve learned to stop fighting it. Instead, I store up ideas in the fall, when I find myself full of energy and inspiration. Then, when the quiet, dark winter months really settle in and I feel the creative block starting, I can pull from that reservoir.
A few years ago now, my friend Emma and I were talking about how our lives’ energy and productivity go through these cyclical up and down phases, and how it doesn’t help to pretend the cycle is not happening. I carry that conversation with me and pull it out like a lucky coin to rub when I need reminding.
Whether you find your energy ebbing and flowing with your body’s hormones or with the seasons or with something else, if you can recognize that cycle and work with it instead of against it, it feels better than constantly battling yourself.
Creativity Moves in Seasons
Just like life, crafting and creativity move in seasons. You can learn to be more creative overall, but it’s hard to force creativity during a dry period. This can be tricky when you feel like you need to produce on a schedule.
Of course, sometimes you really are on a schedule. If you’re a designer who has commitments to third-party publications, for example, then you do need to find some way to push through the slump.
But otherwise, the making can ebb and flow. You don’t need to force yourself, and in fact, forcing yourself might end up sucking all the joy out of it. There’s enough of that in life already without having to bring it to your knitting life.
To Get Through A Creative Block, Swim To The Side
So what to do when you hit a slump? Well, don’t fight it.
It’s like the advice for getting out of a riptide. If you try to swim directly to shore, you’re going to exhaust yourself. Instead, what you do is you swim sideways until you exit the riptide.
The same thing applies here you find your creativity in a slump. Don’t swim directly against it. Swim to the side. Go for walks, drink your water, get your sleep, and do whatever other necessary but unglamorous self-care tasks you need to do to restore yourself.
Often times, a slump in creativity is a result of burnout, and you can’t make your way to the other side of burnout by pushing harder. You have to give yourself space and time.
In a world where social media is constantly demanding new content, that can feel like an impossible ask. How do we give ourselves more time when people will forget about us if we don’t feed the algorithm?
But it turns out, people don’t forget. When you build relationships and nurture them, you can take a break from your social media, your blog, or whatever else it may be, and when you come back, people will be glad to see you. You’ll also be glad to see them because you are rested and restored.
So here I am. Working with myself, with the seasons, with what I have in the garden, with what I have in my heart. I wish the same for you.
If you’re struggling with a creative block right now, too, pop into the comments. I bet there’s quite a few who can relate, and things are always better when we can give each other support.