Not feeling creative? There's a reason for that: tips for the maker who’s stuck in a rut

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Creativity is such a gift. Especially in times like this. The stress of constant lockdowns and covid updates, however, can certainly take its toll on us mentally, and creatively.

Welcome to the Covid creative rut. It can be a dreary place.

It’s one thing to be able to make art, but to be able to freely think of new ideas is one of the keys to happiness in my humble opinion. I am most content when my creative mind is flowing freely. I’ll have a few projects on the go, several baskets half-finished, some stitch work designs ready; my mind jumping from one idea to the next. It’s times like this I can rest easy knowing that even if a project goes belly-up, there’ll be more ideas to come. And when that one wonderful idea comes to fruition– that feeling is one of the best feelings in the world. If you’re reading this, you’ll likely agree.

So, what happens when that part of us that gets those creative ideas floating about, stops working?

Well, it turns out that our creative potential is intrinsically linked to a relaxed state of mind. I baulked when I first read this (admittedly a long time ago) because most creatives I know - from all walks of life - aren’t always the most relaxed bunch, myself included! But it got me thinking, perhaps we're drawn to craft because it’s our outlet for relaxation? Well, turns out, it most certainly is. Science says so.

The sort of thinking required to craft; weave baskets, stitch creative work, make art - it teleports us into a flow state, described in this study on the Creative Self as a sense of fluidity between body and mind'. We all know that feeling of being in a creative flow, that wonderful cathartic surge of creative energy where we almost can’t stop what we’re doing. When I’m in my creative flow, my husband will often chuckle that he knows to not approach me until I stop, which could be hours. He understands it’s my time out from the stresses of daily life (and a time when I make lots of mess!). To reach this state of creative flow, science tells us, requires less stress, and a spark of motivation.

These things come more easily if you can create an environment that helps them grow. I’ve made a list of a few simple tricks you can use when your creative side becomes elusive, because who doesn’t want to shut off from the world right about now and get making!?

Start small

Focussing on smaller creative projects means you’re less likely to feel burnt out or disappointed if you can’t finish them. Smaller projects are less overwhelming, and we can all get easily overwhelmed if there’s a lot of external stress going on. So, make a small basket or try a little random weave – it’s still going to be fun. Once you find your creative flow, you can always aim bigger!

If you’d like a small project to start with, here's an old video (pre microphone!) where I teach you how to make stunning cordage (string) from plant fibre. It’s so simple! I've put some examples below.

Try Something Different

The creative mind loves new things. It thrives on complexity. This means that a new technique might pique your interest and get you feeling motivated. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just something new, or slightly different. Maybe a different stitch or material you haven’t used before. Do a deep dive into inspiration online, and in nature. Don’t confine yourself to just your craft, creatives of all works of life; photographers, painters, poets – can all be inspiring.

Try slow stitch if you haven't already!

Just play

I’ve always had a visual journal, a place I note my ideas down. I’ve been doing this for over 25-years! My journals aren’t just for when I want to start a project necessarily, they’re just a place to play around with creative thoughts.

I’ll sometimes group materials in what I call ‘idea bundles’. That way I can visit them later if I don’t feel I have the mental capacity for them at the time. I feel this really takes the pressure off and allows me to just enjoy the beginnings of the creative process.

Play is so important for the creative mind, as is not taking things too seriously.

Play with ideas with a creative journal.

Have a tidy-up

I’m not going to lie, we creatives can be a messy bunch. Honestly, sometimes my studio looks like it’s been hit by an earthquake –It’s wonderful, disorganised chaos. But does it serve me creatively? Probably not.

Science tells us that a messy space can overstimulate our brains. This study by Princeton University found that overstimulation can have a real effect on concentration and conversely, our motivation.

Look, I’m no fan of cleaning either, but when I have materials at the ready and everything in its rightful spot; raffia in colour bundles, plants drying in one spot, and sewing needles where they should be, it helps me start fresh.

This process can inspire new ideas and yield materials you’d forgotten about too - one of my favourite pieces is made from a man's shirt I turned into a dress I found in a cleaning frenzy!

About as tidy as I get!

Put your tools down

This is only based on my own experience, but I am sure many will agree with me when I say that throwing down the materials when they’ve been frustrating you for a good while is a smart thing to do. It’s not giving up; it’s allowing yourself space from the task you’re having trouble with. Often, I find new ideas come when I just walk away.

When I am feeling like a piece isn’t working out like I wanted or just isn’t working at all. I’ll put my work down (in a huff I admit) and head out the door for a good walk - it certainly shifts the thinking.

Escape into nature, or find your nearest tree.

If you’re looking for a new outlet to get your creative flow going, you’re in the right place. My range of online craft courses offer a range of skills that will have you making beautiful work in no time, simply. Go at your own pace, with access forever! Explore online craft courses.

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