(‘Mosaic Elephant 2’, in process, by Christine Kerrick)

The most fun an artist can have is when she — and by that I mean me – is inspired, happy and sitting down with a cup of coffee to put on canvas, paper, board, fabric (pick your place) that dream nestled in the corner of her mind. Things seem to flow; paint goes where it should, new techniques may offer themselves and time seems to disappear. Before she knows it, she has something that makes her smile and stare at it again and again.

But what about when things don’t come so easily? When the inspiration gives way to sitting through another episode of something with romance, zombies or Thrones? Maybe you’re just feeling ‘off’ physically or emotionally. Maybe you just went through a breakup or loss. Or financial difficulties only allow paying work into your day, making your true love—your inspiration or idea or will to create, sit in the corner. Depression can be another bucket of water on your artistic fire, too. What has affected you? What do you do?

Well, being a fan of lists, here’s one based on what I do, or don’t do, when the inspiration, ideas and creativity have fled like a fart in the wind:

  • Don’t push it. Sometimes it’s time to get away and go for a walk. Change your setting. Going to another place stimulates different things in your brain. That’s a highly scientific explanation, but actually there is data to back it up. And there is scripture in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by renewing your mind”. Scientists have discovered that there actually are ‘paths’ in our brains, worn there by habits. It is possible to ‘renew’ the mind by changing these paths, i.e., doing a new thing. It might not be easy, but it is possible.
  • Push it. There’s a difference between being burned out and just being lazy. I’ve found this is the case when I work out. I can tell the difference between just not wanting to go to the gym and actually feeling like I need rest. When it is the former, I go, and I’m grateful. Sometimes it takes sitting down, staring at that blank thing, screen, canvas, paper, space, and making a mark. Do something. Many times it will surprise you what can come from just doing it.
  • Take care of what’s ailing you. At the risk of repeating myself, take care of yourself first. You’re more important than your art, and if you don’t take care of yourself, no art will get done. Simple thought, but some artists neglect themselves, pour on the coffee or drugs (hopefully not), or other stimulants in order to push more. But you can’t catch up on sleep or health. Take vitamins, exercise, pray and eliminate toxic people and situations from your life. It’s something you should do anyway, whether you’re an artist or not. Maybe instead of a walk, you need a trip. It depends on the severity of your blockage. This is ‘changing your setting’ on steroids. If you can swing it, go out of the country. If not, go to another state where the people and culture are different enough to snap you out of your doldrums.
  • Do something else. We artists tend to sit a lot, focusing on tiny details. There are stories of football players doing needlepoint to relax, or software engineers playing sports. As in working out, changing up your exercises for different muscle groups yields good results. For artists, this may look like: doing sports; doing meetups involving walking, touring, bike riding or anything else where you are using your whole body and being in motion, not thinking of line weights, type or colors.

No matter what, don’t worry. You’re an artist. And if that’s the calling of your life, you will always be an artist. These lulls are normal. Balance is key. And soon you’ll be back to creating the things that made you want to be an artist in the first place.