Nearly a month ago I was staring at my screen, willing for the blinking cursor to magically type the words that wouldn’t come. I was scrolling through photos, ones that I loved at the time of shooting but that in the moment sparked nothing. I was feeling frustrated and guilty because even as time went on between posts, I was just procrastinating and putting off dealing with my creative funk. It was a vicious cycle, until the point where I decided to step away from it all.
An empty vessel cannot pour and my creativity was as dry as a desert. So I took a vacation from Instagram, from le blog and from writing, shooting, creating content and the never ending whir in my head. I spent time with friends and family, I got through an extremely busy time in my 9 to 5. I let my body and mind rest, heal and recharge. Most of all I took the time to intentionally think about the future of blogging for me. For so long it was a creative outlet that occasionally earned a bit of pocket money. Now that I’m balancing a 9 to 5, a weekend shift at Anthropologie, and creating content, I needed to reconfigure things. So with the help of some truly excellent goal setting tips from the super chic career badass Mary Orton (read her advice here), I sat down and explored how I want my creative pursuits to feed into short and long term goals. As of right now, I don’t see myself becoming a full time influencer as my main gig. I want to start something bigger than a personal brand, do something that allows me to create a team and work alongside other people. For me, blogging is a way to stretch my creative muscles and learn new skills that will help me on the path to becoming Global Creative Director of X or CEO & Founder of Y. Remembering your North Star, the why, can see you through a block, especially if your low creativity levels are a result of burnout and growing pains.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy. I adore creating moodboards and scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration, it’s how I plan my shoots and think about the identity of my brand. However, when you’re exhausted creatively it can be easy to turn ‘ oh I’d love to create something like that’ into negativity and frustration like ‘my photos/writing/work will never be that good’. Which is why the first step to getting over a block is to distract yourself. Our brains do some of their best creative work when we are not actively thinking. You might be in the shower after a long day, in the middle of your run or on a road trip when that light bulb moment happens. The other key component is that the dissatisfaction and frustration we often feel is the disconnect between creative vision and our abilities to manifest those ideas into reality. Getting to the level that we admire and crave takes dedication and practice. In one of my favorite quotes about creativity, radio host and producer Ira Glass says that continuing despite this gap is the most important thing any beginner can do.
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.”
After taking a much needed break and re-examining my goals, I wanted to jump right back into creating content. One of my decisions during my time offline was to start approaching my passion projects as if I was working on a campaign or for a magazine. To plan my shoots, create moodboards and scout locations the way that I used to when I was styling and art directing for other people. To give my interests the priority they deserve. Of course being me and having many, many ideas jotted down in my Notes app, often times the hardest part is choosing the idea! Luckily just after I returned to Instagram, the incredible ladies of Stories Studio announced an art submission for Spring. It was a competition for a prize and the chance to be featured in their first Stories seasonal publication. I’ve followed Stories founders Melissa and Emily through the journey of bringing their marvellous company to life since way back in the Ibiza days and so I was delighted to show my support for them, the Stories team and all that they do. I created this photo essay, inspired by Spring but also the menagerie of ideas in my head including but not limited to: Little Women, Dutch still lifes, Greek myths, femininity, 1970s big hair. I wanted to capture the feverish feeling we all get this time of year, coming out of hibernation and embracing all that is fresh and new in our style and our spaces, and the hunger for knowledge and growth. Maybe it was Lana Del Rey’s cover of Doin’ Time blasting from my laptop as I dashed about madly arranging flowers, but every bit of it was a creative delight. There was much laughter as I carefully balanced on my vanity, trying not to knock over my lit Jo Malone candle (Honeysuckle and Davanna– incidentally the dreamiest, most lush, feminine scent for Spring). The entire project from shopping for supplies to shooting in my sun drenched bedroom on a Sunday morning reminded me of the joy of being creative in tandem with other creatives. It was the perfect way to shake off any lingering cobwebs from my slump.
My final thoughts on getting over creative burnout is to remember that your creativity doesn’t have to performed. You don’t have to post about it on Instagram or social media if you’re having an off day. You don’t need to strategise or monetise your creativity online unless you want to. Remember that first and foremost, you must do it for yourself. Instagram and social media are just tools to share and connect, not the center of the universe. Letting go of that pressure breathed new life into my creativity. Because at the end of the day, if something doesn’t serve you, doesn’t have a net-positive effect, then why should we allow it to take up so much of our time, energy and headspace?