We've all done it. We've all hit a wall of frustration, where creating something new just doesn't happen. A creative block can put you in a slump, make you bored, or even make you consider throwing in the towel – even if it's something that you're passionate about. Creative blocks suck.
I recently went through a creative bankruptcy. Every time I'd open Photoshop or Premiere Pro, I would stare blankly into the white void square asking myself, "What am I doing?" I started thinking maybe I'm not good enough to be doing what I'm doing. Then I started judging my past work, analyzing if it was even good in the first place. I really started to doubt my talents altogether. But then I found the spark again, and the self-doubt went away.
Here are a few things I found helpful when I started to feel creatively bankrupt:
When you start to struggle, a good place to start is by looking at your workflow and finding ways to make it better. Maybe a complicated or convoluted process is bogging you down or blocking your creativity entirely. Trying a new approach can stir up those creative juices and get you back into the flow.
I was started to notice that my workspace was starting feel like an episode of Hoarders. Work piling up on work. A bill here, an invoice there, I could barely see my keyboard. I started cleaning, but then I realized maybe I should just move my entire space around. So that's what I did. I reinvented the space I was in. Being a home space it was easier, but this can work in a studio or office as well. Right away I felt refreshed and looked forward to working with natural light coming through the windows.
One thing is for sure, I camera shop a lot. I had worked with a Canon since I started working with video, but then I slid into a Black Magic Cinema Camera when it came out. It was exciting working with something that was built for video and recorded 4K raw. It was awesome to work with, but after a while, it became a hassle. Updates happened too often and the batteries were huge and heavy – lugging them around while shooting events and commercials was no fun. Eventually, I went back to something familiar but new – a Sony. Now I could have a lighter, more agile system with new technology that had been missing with the other cameras I came across. I've been happy since.
I had been sitting with the website for over 2 years with movement on it slowing down, I wasn't doing as much as I was when I started but then I started to notice the content was old and the last time I updated was 6 months prior. I just kinda left it vacant. It was my fault the site wasn't showing my newest stuff, I been too busy working to think about it. I updated my site added some new contact pages and new photos and I started seeing people contact me soon after. It felt great adding a new coat of paint t something I had already a makeover is okay to do.
Growing up I loved all types of photography and art. I wanted to be a painter and painted realistic portraits for most of my life, but then I grew bored. I always like abstract art, but always felt like I could never be that spontaneous. A few months ago, I got a few art canvases because I wanted to spruce up my home with art on the wall, not just random stuff. I pulled out some paint brushes and just stared at the white canvas for a while.
What was I going to paint? I really hadn't given it a thought. I just started throwing down paint. I didn't care what I was doing. I just kept throwing stuff down on it until I got tired. After a while, I was surprised to see what I made. It was like nothing I'd ever done before. It was refreshing to try something I never really thought I'd like. It's the only painting I have up in my house.
You can apply that idea to anything: Don't know how to dance? Take some classes. Never tried sushi? Get a California roll! You might find something you really like by embracing it.
One thing I had missed was traveling. I used to shoot in locations around the world, but that changed when I started focusing on my family. Seeing the world became a memory instead of something that I did. I've been changing that in recent years, but it's not about going to an exotic beach or some other big destination. Now, it's about experiencing the world with my family. Going to the zoo, traveling to see friends and family, and making our own daily adventures instead of planning one big trip.
If you can see the world, do it, but don't wait to go on the big trip. Take smaller ones in between, venture out and see the world in your backyard!
The hardest part (and the one reason I burn out so often) is saying "yes" to everything. I put too much on my plate, and work hard and fast to satisfy the needs of my clients. The next thing you know, you've completely exhausted yourself to the point where you don't want to do what you like anymore. Then you say "yes" again. The biggest lesson in life I've learned is knowing its okay to say "no."
No, my prices are not too high.
No, I will not do this for free.
No, I will not do this just "for fun."
No, I will not give you a discount since you're a family or friend.
If I know they won't give me discounts or deals for their services, why should I expect to discount my job for others? You are worth it, and you have to make sure you work the amount of time you are worth. I could plug 20 hours into a single job, but if I'm only getting paid $1,000 dollars is that enough to get me by? Is it worth my time and effort? Don't sacrifice yourself just to get by with smaller jobs. Make sure you are making enough to support yourself.
After making a few life changes, I was able to be inspired to work like I once did. And these changes are not a one-and-done thing; change your environment, website, or tools often. Adventure more and not always far. Try something new every day if possible, and learn to say no for yourself. It's not just about business improvement, it's about self-improvement. Don't worry, you'll be out of the creative funk in no time!