Ever wondered how to stay inspired as an artist?
Doing something creative for your day job can be draining, unless you know how to keep that river flowing through you.
I’ve always considered myself to be a creative person (the truth is, we all are creative beings by nature). But perfectionism, stagnation, and fear held me back for a decade from doing what I really wanted to do: write a book.
Then I wrote a book, and I wrote two more. And I got stuck. Majorly stuck. It felt like a severe case of writer’s block. I’d show up at my laptop, stare blankly at it for hours, and fail to string a sentence together.
And I battled through this for about a year. That’s why I wanted to show you how you can stay inspired as an artist and keep going during challenging periods like this. Because every creatrix has them.
Here’s how to stay inspired as an artist, creatrix, or maker, and avoid creative burnout
Consistently show up every day
The key to staying inspired as an artist, is to show up every day. Even when you feel uninspired. Especially then.
Have a schedule, and stick to it. I get up and write every morning between 5AM and 6AM, until I’ve completed an article; or half of one if it’s a mammoth post.
There are days, like today, when I really don’t feel like it. I want to take the day off, binge read some books, and veg on the sofa. But here I am, typing away. Because I know that if I’m serious about being a writer, I have to write consistently. And the more I practice my art, the stronger it will grow.
You probably won’t notice this happening day to day, but it is happening.
It’s this practice that will show creativity you’re committed to your work. And she’ll be there to support you or give you bursts of inspiration and magic when you need them most.
Find meaning in your art
Inspiration comes from having a purpose; a reason why you wake up every day and create.
So, why do you create?
Do you even know why?
When I first began writing, it was for no reason other than wanting to give it a try and see if it brought me joy. Plus, it was a much needed escape from my soul sapping job at the time.
But then I began to write articles that spoke directly to women, and focused on themes that were close to my heart. Like body image, confidence, self-love, and empowerment.
And the feeling I got from writing about those things was very different.
I felt like my writing mattered. I felt like there was meaning to what I was doing. As if it was my duty, my calling, to speak to women with my art, and help them reclaim their inner power.
When you find meaning in your art, it becomes greater than you. It’s a force that propels you forward, and encourages you to keep going no matter what.
Doing the same thing every day will produce the same outcome.
So, if you want something extraordinary, something mind blowing and dazzling, then it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and embrace discomfort.
Challenge your skills, push your boundaries, and dare to do things that scare you. Because this is how you grow.
This is how you continue to stay inspired, and make art that even you are in awe of.
Give yourself permission to write something crappy
Holding yourself to impossibly high standards is a brilliant way to block your creative flow.
You’ll end up in a vicious cycle of editing, erasing and censoring your art, until there’s nothing left. All in the pursuit of the urban myth of perfection.
Giving yourself the best chance of creating something great begins with giving yourself permission to write something that isn’t so great. Because once you clear out those three pages of rubbish, it lets you access the hidden gems that were nestled beneath the surface.
There isn’t an artist on this earth who only creates masterpieces. But if you allow self-judgement or pride to prevent you from creating things that are mediocre, then you won’t be able to reach the good stuff. And that would be a damn shame.
Re-visit your favourite artist’s work
Browse through your favourite books, and re-read quotes that speak to your soul. Print out the most inspiring ones, and pin them up somewhere you’ll see them every day.
Immersing yourself in other people’s creations helps to get you into the creative zone; which can often lead to you feeling inspired to create, too.
Do this any time your creative well runs a little dry
Create space away from your art
While it’s true that you need to consistently show up and create, it’s equally important to give yourself time and space away from creating.
That means taking an afternoon or a day off. Letting something sit and marinate for a while, and revisiting it with fresh eyes.
Creating space away from our deepest passions is vital to avoid burnout and boredom. It also gives you time to reflect and ponder, and offers you a different perspective to bring to your art.
How to stay inspired as an artist: Play
I think us adults majorly underestimate the importance of play; not only the role it plays in our general well being, but our creative life force, too.
When we’re kids, playing comes naturally to us. But as we grow up, we somehow forget how to fully relax, let go, and have fun. This continues to be a daily battle that my inner achiever and inner child are caught up in.
You probably want to have fun, but there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing something more “productive” with your time.
But play feeds your inspiration and creativity. It helps you switch off and focus on something completely different. It uplifts your mood and your heart. And that’s a beautiful place to create from.
So think about what brings you joy. Revisit your childhood, and make a list of all the things you loved doing back then. And weave play into your day wherever you can.
Have a chat with your old friend, Fear
It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
If you find yourself procrastinating, or feeling uninspired or stuck, and unable to create art, it’s probably because you’re afraid.
Afraid of not being good enough. Afraid of sucking. And afraid of people criticising or ridiculing your art.
The thing about fear is, if you allow it to seep in and control you, then you’ll never do anything.
But fighting it is a bad idea too. Because you’ll never win. Fear will always be there on every creative journey you embark on. That’s just part of the deal you make as an artist.
But that doesn’t mean fear needs to control you.
So confront him. Tell him he’s not in charge, and if you feel him taking over at any point, get back in the driver’s seat.
I use Evernote to capture and organise anything and everything that inspires me. But you can have a physical notebook or box that you collect inspiration in, too.
Whether it’s lyrics from a song, a piece of street art, the colours of a sunset, an inspirational quote, a conversation I heard, or a rose garden in full bloom.
Every time I stumble on something that makes my heart flutter, I take a photo or screenshot of it, and save it down for later.
Some things never get used again, and others might end up forming the basis of a whole book.
The great thing about having inspiration around you like this is it’s there for you when you need a spark to get your imagination running wild again. This is how to stay inspired as an artist.
Here’s how to stay inspired as an artist: Take care of yourself
Some people believe that artists create their best work when they’re intoxicated. And while it may be true that something great was created under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that’s an exception to the rule.
What fuels creativity more than anything is taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs first.
That means nourishing your body with plenty of fruit and veg and wholesome foods. And moving your body in ways that feel good for you. Taking time to get enough sleep, or taking a power nap if you need one. Meditating or journaling when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Showing yourself at least one act of self care each day. Treating your body like a temple, because it is one.
Taking care of yourself is important whether you’re in the middle of a huge project, or you’ve just completed one. Don’t let this slip in the hopes you’ll get more work done, because it will probably have the opposite effect.
Stop comparing yourself with other “successful” artists
The word successful is open to interpretation anyway. Society has taught us that being successful means having money, fame, and lost of fancy material stuff.
And those things can be wonderful. But that’s not what success looks or feels like to everyone.
For some of us, it’s being able to sustain ourselves financially, and wake up each morning and make art. For others of us, it’s being able to have a healthier balance between work and play, and design our own schedule.
So think about what being successful means to you.
And stop playing the comparison game. You know, the one where you look at all the cool things your peers are doing, throw yourself a pity party, and convince yourself you’re a total failure.
I’ve played that game many times, and it’s not fun. Plus, it only stifles your creativity.
Focus on your art and your journey. That’s all you need to do.
Finish what you start
I’m really proud of the first book I wrote and got published. But there’s a big part of me that feels like I rushed the next two books I wrote. I look back at them, and I’m not completely happy with what I created.
But what’s important is, I finished what I started, and I birthed something into the world. That act of doing that was what mattered, because it showed me what I’m capable of.
What you create on your first few tries doesn’t haven’t to be spellbinding, or top the New York Times Bestseller list. But finishing those projects will help build your motivation and confidence, and that’s what will get you there one day – if you keep going.
Remember: everything you need is already yours
Having a fancy laptop, your own plush office to work in, and a six figure book deal are just a few of the things that are not required to be an artist.
Everything you do need can be found within you.
Your passion, your drive, your voice, your gifts, your heart, and your soul. Everything you need is already yours. Stop looking out there for answers. You’ll find them by turning your gaze inward.
And that, is how to stay inspired as an artist, and keep the creative flame lit.