How to Get Out of a Creative Rut

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We are all creative. Even if you’re not a writer/painter/dancer/designer/involved in some other directly creative pursuit, we all use creativity to problem-solve, create goals and, well, live. This means the question of how to get out of a creative rut is relevant to all of us, whoever we are and wherever we are in our lives.

Our creativity is like a muscle and we can get creatively drained if we don't manage our energy properly. If you’ve found yourself feeling creatively stale and are wondering how to get out of a creative rut, here are five practical ways you can get your mojo back.

How to get out of a creative rut

1. Stop making it about you

We rarely do things that just impact us. If you run a business, you have a direct impact on your customers. If you write, you have a direct impact on your readers (and likewise for any other kind of creative pursuit with an end user). If you’re an office manager, you have a direct impact on other people’s experience of their work environment. If you parent—I consider parenting to be a creative act—you have a direct impact your kids and a small part of the next generation.

Sometimes, we get stuck in a create rut because we’re too busy focusing on “me, me, me.”

I don’t know what to write/paint/create/etc.”

I’m worried people won’t like this.”

“What will people think of me if I write that book?”

One of the simplest and most effective ways to kickstart your creativity is to stop making it all about you and start focusing on how other people will be impacted by your work. Who do you want it to move, inform or entertain? What kind of an impact do you want to have on the lives of other people around you (even if only because you’re a nicer person to be around when you’re in the creative flow)? What legacy do you want to create with your work? What do your audience want you to write/paint/create/etc.?

[Tweet "Creativity is self-expression, and self-expression is a path to service."]

When thinking about how to get out of a creative rut, check in with yourself: am I focused on what people think of me, or how I can help others? The latter is the key.

2. Change your scene

If you’re stuck on a tricky problem, question, or situation, changing your environment will help you see the situation at hand in a different way. This could be as simple as leaving your office and going to a café, it could involve holding a potentially challenging conversation outside the boardroom or home and in a park or during a walk, or it might mean printing out that chapter, article, or proposal and reading it off printed paper rather than on a screen.

Changing your scene is a simple, but effective, way of seeing something from a different perspective and could provide the possibilities or solutions you’ve been looking for.

3. Do something creative, but completely different

As I wrote above, creativity is a muscle. Just as runners who only run, without incorporating other forms of exercise or cross-training, end up injured sooner or later, using our creativity in just one way can lead to burn-out.

If you’re stuck on a particular creative problem or noticing that your creativity in a certain area is running low, take a break and indulge in some creative cross-training for fun (and by “fun” I mean not resulting in income, qualifications, etc., but just for the love of it).

4. Ask other creative people what works for them

This can be especially helpful if you do creative work for a living and need to balance paying the bills with maintaining your creative energy. Different solutions work for different people, so try asking friends, mentors, bosses, and role models how they manage this balance, experiment, and find a routine that works for you. I asked 16 creatives how they nourish their creativity here.

5. Create a ritual around your creative time

Rituals are helpful for training our mindset. As the saying goes, “neurons that fire together, wire together,” so when we get used to starting our creative time with a specific ritual, our minds get used to entering creative mode when we engage in that particular ritual.

Your ritual doesn’t have to be complicated (in fact, the simpler, the better), but it does need to be consistent. Whether you’re writing, painting, working on a tricky business issue, or figuring out how to use your budget in a more creative way, create boundaries around your creative energy with a ritual that signals to your brain “Now it’s creative time.”

What's your best advice for how to get out of a creative rut? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Further reading: Rediscovering your creativity & 52 easy and inspiring ideas for artist dates

Image: Bench Accounting