A few weeks ago, I had a series of really *blah* days where I was feeling completely unmotivated and uninspired. I'm pretty sure 80% of it was due to wedding and honeymoon withdrawal, but I was also in a creative rut. I had a thousand questions running through my head and rather than trying to focus and solve just ONE, I kept worrying about everything... which meant I was doing nothing productive about my problems. It was like I was paddling in the middle of the ocean and had no idea where land was.
Fast-forward to later that week when I met my father-in-law for lunch. He's a creative person who has spent most of his life as a successful Writer/Producer, which means he's also his fair share of rejection, doubts and feeling crummy. One of the most insightful parts of our conversation was the notion that fear lies in the void. Once we started talking about that, it's like all the puzzle pieces I was dealing with in my craptastic week fell into place...
T H E B R E A K D O W N
When we're busy, we don't have the time or energy to worry about the "what-if's" because our brain is engaged and we're focused on the task at hand. We feel like we're working on or towards something and we're checking things off our mental to-do list. We're being productive, getting stuff done and those warm and fuzzy feeling keep rolling in.
On the flip side, it's the moments in which we're not occupied that our sense of fear often creeps in. When it happens to me, it's usually at the start of a project I've never had to tackle before. I stare at a blank screen or piece of paper and don't know where to begin. My self-doubt takes over and I tell myself that I can't do it... I have no idea what I'm doing... everyone will find out I'm an impostor (which, by the way, is an actual thing) and I distract myself instead.
It's taken me a while to recognize and acknowledge this and, even then, it's still hard to fight sometimes. Over the years, I've used a few trusty tactics to get me through those rough patches. I'm sharing them today in the hopes that people who have gone or are going through this sort of thing realize it's totally normal and they're not alone:
S T A R T S O M E W H E R E
When I landed my current job six years ago, I was given projects that were overwhelming for me. I'd panic, become paralyzed with fear, procrastinate and find myself up against the wall to make a deadline. It was a miserable way to go about things. I eventually learned that the best thing to do when I get to this place is to just start. Put your pencil or pen to paper, draw a pixel on that screen, do ANYTHING that begins the process of putting your mind back on the right track. It's like the joke about the guy who wants to win the lottery but hasn't bought a lottery ticket yet. You won't get anywhere unless you try.
F A C E Y O U R F E A R S
Take a deep breath (or a few of them) and acknowledge that you're not in the best place right now... and that's okay! Shit happens and happens often, so get used to it. Step back from the situation and try to analyze it logically. Where does your sense of fear stem from? What's the worst-case scenario that can happen? Would you survive that? I'm guessing the answer, especially in the creative realm, will be YES. Talk yourself through the situation and you'll realize that those fears are often unfounded. Remember: You're tougher than you think.
C U T Y O U R S E L F S O M E S L A C K
This last one is important, friends: Every once in a while you need to give yourself a break. Be grateful for all the opportunities you've had and reflect on all the wonderful things you've done and accomplished thus far. Embrace it! It's not selfish or conceited. Keep your head up and remember how awesome you really are.
Still gloomy? Here are some good reads to combat the creative blues: