Back to the drawing board: how to get back to being creative after a timeout

When it comes to being creative — or even our personal lives in general — we’ve all had a low point. It can be a lack of inspiration, the end of a long-term relationship, a project that wasn’t successful, being rejected for something or by someone, or even something as extreme as a tragedy; at some point we all feel the need to take a step back from creating things.

Getting back into our ‘creative zone’ after a difficult period is one of the things that separates people who can create ideas from people who can execute them.

Without getting too much into the emotional side of things, the way that we try to get over those negative feelings, heal, and move on when everything seems to be going against us says a lot about what kind of person we are. But, of course, that’s a lot easier to say than it is to actually do. Getting back into our ‘creative zone’ after a difficult period is one of the things that separates people who can create ideas from people who can execute them.

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It is possible to get back to being creative after a hiatus

Taking time out from being creative doesn’t have negatively impact your ability to create things or generate ideas. In fact, we actually think that an extended break from creative work is necessary. It lets you pause, recharge and reflect — things that are all vital ingredients of a successful creative process.

But how do you continue to work, grow, process your feelings, and move forward when you’ve taken a long break from being creative? What does it take to ‘rediscover’ your rhythm and unlock new dimensions to your creative work? How do you find the motivation to be productive again?

We’ve got a few suggestions to help you not only get back into your groove but also find a new one that will take your ideas even further than before.

Why are you creating in the first place?

There are many reasons why taking time out from being creative can be a good thing. When you get back to your creative work with fresh eyes, you might find yourself falling back in love with your craft and remembering why you got into it in the first place. One of the ways you can encourage this is by creating brand new goals for yourself and redefining what success means to you.

These days, the world is super social and creative people — in fact, people in general — are constantly measuring themselves against unfair or unrealistic ideas of what it means to be successful. That means that now, more than ever, getting back to being creative means figuring out what your intentions are and asking yourself some tough but honest questions.

Why do you want to create? What are the values that affect not only what you create but also how you create it. If you’re a designer, what do you think it really mean to be a designer? Are “likes” or “retweets” the way you’ll measure whether you’re successful or not or is it solving a problem?

Changing the parameters for yourself about what success means and what your intentions are can breathe new life into your work.

Why collaborating more will help

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” — African proverb

Sometimes, relying on a community — whether it’s friendships, family or colleagues — is a great way to ease yourself back into creative work after a hiatus. Collaborating with other people has this magic effect of making a process seem more achievable. But maybe the most valuable aspect of collaboration is the feeling of not being alone, of having support. It also gives you  a sense of accountability and a dialogue that can be a great trigger of creative impulses.

Try shutting up for a bit

Pay close attention to those around you. Notice the small things like the tone and body language that people use towards you and towards each other. When other people are talking, we have a natural tendency to start thinking of what we’re going to say next, or how we’re going to respond. Some advice: try to resist this urge.

Instead, have a go at trying not to respond until you’re sure that others have finished. If you try nothing else, the simple act of training yourself in the skill of listening can have a significant impact on the creativity of your teammates.

As pianist Lennie Tristano once said, “The hippest thing you can do is not play at all. Just listen.”

Don’t go changing. Just adapt.

Getting back to creative work after a sabbatical will require you to look at things from a fresh perspective. But that doesn’t necessarily mean changing your entire process. What it means is that you need to establish new rules, new limits, and look at it from a new perspective.

Whether that involves changing the spaces where you work, the tools you use to create or even the methodology you use to generate ideas, there’s little things you can do differently that can breathe fresh air into how you create.

Good luck!