How to get out of a creative funk
Last week I had an unexpected life event happen, and it threw me into a creative funk.
In the past, this would have knocked me out for 3+ days. That's way longer than I was willing to be out for, so - using a specific set of tools - I was able to get out of the funk, rather than wait out the funk.
[Side note: "Wait out the funk" is a great song name. Someone, please write it!]
In today's email, I'll share the steps I took to recognize what was going on and systematically get back to creating in my regular cadence.
Creators need a chest full of tools like the ones I'm going to share because we have to be in control of our creativity, rather than being at the whim of "the muse", or only able to create when you have the perfect set of life conditions.
Without these tools, their creativity suffers, they create less than they could, they fall into self-doubt and impostor syndrome, and the world overall is less good because of it.
(Ok, that may be a bit dramatic, but your art can change the world! If you don't believe that, who else will!?)
Acknowledge your fear, understand it, and then get comfortable existing in a space with it.
- ALLIE DATTILIO
Recognize What's Happening
The first step in the process is to recognize that you're in a funk.
- Did you have a hard time getting up this morning?
- Do you have zero motivation to do your creative work?
- Are you snappy or angry or exhausted or distracted?
Rather than accept it and go back to bed, use these signals (you know your own flavor of funk (another great song title!)) to trigger you to take action, to do something about it.
Choose how you want to feel
When you're in a funk, it means you aren't feeling the way you want to feel as you start your creative work for the day.
So, how do you want to feel right now?
You first need to believe that you have the power and control to change things, and then you need to take concrete steps (keep reading...) to make those changes.
They don't just happen on their own unless you want to use the "wait it out" strategy. But if you want to create today, then use these steps:
Change your [emotional] state:
In case you're still doubting that you can change your emotional state, let me ask you this question:
Have you ever turned on a tv show that you've seen before?
Why would you do that, knowing that there are seemingly infinite other shows you could watch??
The answer: certainty. You know how that show is going to make you feel, and you're using that show as a way to feel it instantly.
The same goes for social media, alcohol and drugs (not recommended), exercise, and food.
We use these different "vehicles", if you will, to change our emotional state.
You are likely a master of this already, without even knowing.
So, let's channel your skills in three specific areas to get you out of your funk and back to creating!
(These are the exact steps that I took to get out of my funk last week.)
Change your focus
The reason you're in a funk is you're focused on the funk. You're paying more attention to how you currently feel than how you want to feel. (See step 2, above).
When you change your focus, everything else starts to follow in its footsteps.
Here's a helpful tip: focus on the feelings you get from doing your creative work, rather than all of the obstacles in your way. Both are "focusing on your work", but one is much more helpful in shifting your focus.
Stop thinking unhelpful thoughts, and think about times that you succeeded in helping people in the past, times people complimented you on your work, how you'll feel once the project or work for the day is done, etc.
These are all positive and empowering thoughts, which is where to put your focus.
Change your language
The very first thing to do in this area is to eliminate the phrase "I can't" from your vocabulary.
If you say that you can or you can't, you're right!
Your language goes hand in hand with your focus. The best thing you can do is start saying, out loud, how freakin' awesome you are, how much you love creating, how you "can't wait to get started today!", etc.
Your language is powerful and affects your emotional state in massive ways. Use it to your advantage, and stop using language - words or phrases - that keep you in the funk you're in.
Change your physiology
THIS is my favorite of them all. Wednesday night is when I got the news that I had been asked to take on more responsibility in my church. This would be a big shift in my time and my focus from what my current life is like, and it took ALL of my brain energy to process it.
- I barely slept that night
- I thought about the implications for my family, my wife, my kids, my work
- I felt inadequate and unqualified
So - luckily - I had already scheduled a hike in Rock Canyon park with my buddy Kevin. What previously was a ~90-minute hike ended up being a ~2.5-hour hike.
- 5.83 miles
- 1,013 calories burned
- 131bpm average heart rate
The movement changed everything. When I got home I instantly dove into planning out my next two days of work. Then, an unexpected opportunity to get lunch with my wife, so I rode my bike another 10 miles that day to keep the momentum I'd built up.
This isn't to brag, but to show you how when you dramatically change your physiology - from laying in bed or snuggled up on the couch or slumped over your desk, head in hand, to moving and being active - you can conquer that funk in record time.
Use these strategies to shift your own emotional state out of a funk and into a fulfilling creative day. They work, you just have to use them.
LINKS FOR THIS WEEK:
I was invited to write a guest post for the ConvertKit blog about how you can build a successful business with a small audience.
You might want to go subscribe to Joe Pulizzi's Content, Inc. podcast.
Why? This episode might give you a clue.
I recently finished Justin Welsh's ContentOS 2.0. I purchased the original course when it came out, but he's updated it with his Hub & Spoke method, and it feels like the next step I was looking for to grow my email list and get more consistent results when it comes to awareness > engagement > conversion.
(Yes, it's an affiliate link, but I only share affiliate links for products I've personally purchased and recommend.)