Help! All the creativity has left me!

Why did I choose a creative profession!? I’ve been staring at a blank document on my laptop for hours. Well, it’s intermittent staring. I’ve gotten up to make tea, to get cookies, to do laundry, to make more tea, to dance around in the living room, to eat lunch, to make tea, to hang the laundry, to stare at my screen from a different angle and to call my mom. But in the meantime, not a word. Not a single word of story has gotten into my brain, through my fingers onto the screen. Nada, zero, nothing. Why did I choose a creative profession?!

If you have a creative profession yourself or maybe even more so if you don’t, you’ll know the dull, lifeless, rag doll-like feeling of being uninspired. The creative block. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it comes up out of nowhere. You’re in the flow creating something beautiful and all of a sudden it stops. It’s almost like you’ve used it all up. That was it, you’ve now exhausted your last bit of creative ability.

Other times it’s like a dark cloud following you around. You have a vague memory of producing something at some point in the distant past but it was probably pretty shit anyway. Because you now know: you suck! Better go work at McDonald’s, hopefully, they don’t require a written application.

Let’s get a little insight into what creative block versus creative flow is. I love this talk by John Cleese. He talks about two different modes: the open mode and the closed mode. The closed mode is the one in which we cannot experience creativity. It’s active and somewhat anxious, it’s purposeful but there’s a lack of playfulness. The open mode, on the other hand, is signified by relaxation, humour and curiosity for the sake of curiosity.

The open mode is where our brain can wander freely to explore options and find solutions. However, we need to be in the closed mode in order to implement our ideas efficiently. Both modes are vital. It’s hard to be around people who are always in open mode just as much as people who are always in closed mode. For the openmoder, everything is always possible, including making me wait for 1,5 half before cancelling our appointment. For the closedmoder nothing is ever possible at all, certainly not storytelling in business.

Creativity is a fickle thing and we’ll never have full control over it, which is a big part of its beauty. We do, however, have figured out some tools to stimulate it. To get the juices flowing, so to say. For some reason, we are all created as individuals so not everything works for everyone. Let me discuss a few different techniques here, find out which ones work well for you. Please do let me know in the comments if you have some secret exercises you use to be able to create the magic you create.

  1. Just get the heck started

It’s idyllic to be the misunderstood, tortured soul when you never actually produce anything. Staring at a blank canvas/sheet of paper/Word doc/stage/fill in your own… Willing the brilliance to come to you and simply waiting for it to happen. NOT GONNA WORK! We’ll actually have to produce something to produce anything of value. Just do it. Allow it to be absolute garbage. Redo it. Grow, learn, evolve! When there’s no creativity, make something absolutely uninspired but just keep at it.

  1. Nature is pretty darn magical

I, personally, only really discovered the intense effects of nature at 26 years old. I am what they call a city gal. I understand cities, drop me in any city and I’ll manage. Plants, on the other hand, seem extremely unpredictable to me. Last April, however, I decided to broaden my horizon. I went on an 800 km hike. This took me 7 weeks and much of it was through nature. Fields, mountains, forests. I will never forget the surge of inspiration I got from touching a horse’s nose for the first time. Exhilarating! Later I heard that most people just venture out into nature for an hour or two. Get in touch with nature, touch a horse’s nose if, like me, you’ve never done that. Maybe it will help you find the inspiration to write a blog post about inspiration!

  1. Marvelling at others’ creativity

For me, this can honestly go both ways. Sometimes, when I’m admiring the product of someone else’s creative process, I feel like a complete and an utter failure. I will never be able to produce something like that, why even try!? At other times, art in any form can lift me up. Makes me want to create, do, become better. It doesn’t only inspire me, it also motivates me. Some of my personal favourites: Hamilton the musical (haven’t actually seen it but know the lyrics by heart), I’ve fallen in love with Botero’s art here in Colombia and books ranging from Harry Potter to 1984.

 

Reading back this article I see it’s dripping with arrogance and insecurity. Two things I, apparently, very much associate with my creative process. When it’s flowing, I feel on top of the world. I feel like nothing can stop me and I will create magic. When it isn’t going I feel miserable and worthless. This brings me to my last point: try to disconnect your creative process from your sense of self-worth. When you can do that, it can be OK to be blocked. You can just walk away from it all, do something else and come back to it later. I still have enough work to do in that respect, I can’t always do it. But just every now and then I can keep believing that I have good ideas and produce valuable work even though it’s not coming right now.

And if all this fails, we can always change professions.

Remote work.90

Remote work

There is this wonderful trend going of people realising there is more than one way to organise their work and private life. The people who follow this trend do not want to go to the same office to work with the same people on the same things every day, week after week, month after month and year after year. Neither do they want to go home to the same house in the same neighbourhood in the same country every day. These people are addicted to the unknown and allergic to the conventional. These people are called digital nomads and they work remotely or location independently. I am one of these people.

Rooftop office, Medellin

The world is an incredible place. And thanks to our growing globalisation most of this world is readily accessible to us. For a few hundred euros we can fly to the other side of the world within a day’s time. Digital nomads have made it into an art to take advantage of this possibility. We have designed our businesses in such a way that all we require of a place is a steady internet connection. True, this can be a struggle sometimes but thanks to our active online community we know exactly what we can expect from each corner of the earth.

There are numerous different options when it comes to remote work. Many of my travelling colleagues work in web development, copywriting, graphic design or online marketing. In this sense I am somewhat the odd one out. I am a storyteller, consultant, trainer and speaker. I offer online courses and work with people one-on-one. And whoever said that couldn’t be done online, I’d like to prove you wrong.

So what does my life look like? I work Monday to Friday and a little more often than not on Saturdays and Sundays too, just like any entrepreneur. The thing that makes me different is that I do it from wherever I darn well please. Currently, that seems to be Medellin, Colombia. What sets me apart from a normal backpacker? I do not have the time and energy to move from place to place every few days but I do have all the time in the world to stay somewhere a little longer because my funds are not running out. I like to stay in one place for a month or longer. This gives me the opportunity to explore the place in my free time, find my favourite cafe or co-working space to work from and build more sustainable relationships on the way.

 

Guatapé, Colombia

So no, I’m not just on holiday and I’m not going to cancel on our appointment because I feel like surfing. My company and my clients are my number one priority, as it should be. I just really don’t want to know what my view will be in a week, a month or a year from now.

Do you want to get inspired by the nomad lifestyle and even find out how you can become one? Check out the Digital Nomad Network Facebook page.