Often I get this question from people I mentor, and often I have asked this question to myself in the past.
Let’s be honest, it’s naturally impossible to feel motivated and unlocked all the time. (Even machines crash!) It’s not a surprise that when we are in that blue dark-ish moment we see everything as too hard to achieve. That dream we have been following until yesterday all of sudden has become a distant mirage that vanishes into the mist.
Whether it is for the environment that surrounds us (with no other creatives or dynamic/active people around to share our thoughts with) or for those long dark cold winter days that make you want to hibernate, or perhaps for those deep fears that block your willingness to go ahead, or maybe because you have some other temporary burden in your head, or maybe you think that nobody around you believes in you, or because you haven’t seen any result of all your hard effort yet… when you get so low and down, you feel deeply demotivated, sad and lost.
When that blue comes around, here is what I do.
1. Stay in silence and feel yourself
Too often when we get into that inner dark zone instead of understanding what is happening, we bomb ourselves with plenty of stimuli to shut that scary inner voice up.
Stop. Stay still. Shut up that noisy world outside. Silence everything. Listen to your inner self. It’s got something to tell you. Don’t force that voice into action, at least not before you have become aware of what is its message.
This is the moment when you need to take that precious time just for yourself in order to nurture your creative soul. Perhaps you may want to write down your feelings or maybe you can let everything go for the rest of the day. Maybe you can go for a lonely walk into nature, just in that park close to you. Whatever you do, do it slowly, in silence and alone.
Only when you slow down and you are in silence, your brain spontaneously releases substances necessary to your growth and to the awareness of those feelings that cannot be explained with words. It’s exactly from this feeling of darkness and emptiness that your creativity will resurface.
2. Feel at one with the cycles of nature
There is a small cherry tree outside my bedroom window. Its leaves go from pink, to green, to yellow, to red, to death. Then the cycle restarts.
That tree is my guru. When I feel stuck, low and demotivated as if my capacity to dream, my creative ideas together with my joy in making art have disappeared forever, instead of phoning people, get distracted or get into desperation, I turn my gaze to that cherry tree and he says: “Nature has its cycles. Every season is necessary for the next. Nobody can change that. Nature has its time. It’s not fast. It’s not slow. It’s just its time. Winter is a long season. True. Yet there is not a single day in winter I’m exactly the same of the day before. Nature evolves, even when you don’t notice it.”
The calming power of nature is enormous. Don’t ever underestimate it. Be aware of its cycles and be aware that we are part of it. Isn’t that beautiful that we humans have our seasons as well? Your winter is necessary for your next bloom. And when you think you are stuck, you are actually evolving, transforming, even if you don’t notice it.
3. Give yourself the right to play
Sometimes that inner voice is simply trying to give us a bit of discomfort because she wants us to get a powerful message: Change something! Do it in a different way! Have fun in what you are doing!
So, stop. Tune into your feeling and express it by using a tool or a medium or a way/style you have not used recently or ever. Activate your creativity by thinking differently. Don’t ever worry about the final result. Too often we think about the result of our performance, the outcome of what we are doing. Don’t even care for one second about it when you feel low and without motivation. It’s not the result that counts here. It’s the process. Loose yourself. Follow that grumpy mood, that laziness or dark feeling and give it a shape, a colour, a word, a symbol, a sound. Let it go. Recreate a sacred kindergarten moment for yourself. Give yourself the right to play.
4. Create rituals
Too often we hear about the importance of having habits. Personally I’m not a big fan of the concept of “habit”, “routine”. I’ve always hated the idea of repetition and I’ve always made sure no one day in my life would be the same as the previous. I’ve always challenged myself to choose alternative and unknown paths day by day.
It’s true that some of us creatives associate habit or routine to a sort of auto-pilot taking us into something non creative, soulless and repetitive. A sort of cage that doesn’t allow any spontaneity. Something that undermines our identity, that objectifies human beings rather than emphasising our uniqueness. In practice, in the context of habits, we envisage ourselves like the workers far below the surface of the earth shown in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
If you are like me, rather than habits I would suggest to create rituals. Rituals are an intimate dialogue between us and our inner self. In fact, whereas habit is a tendency or a practice that you do automatically without even being aware of (your brain can be somewhere else in the meantime) a ritual requires your awareness. A ritual has a sacrality element in it that prepares your inner self to do something, makes you feel ready, fosters the prosperity of the action you are going to take.
Needless to say that when you do something mindfully, you immediately feel the beneficial effect on your wellbeing. You go from negative to positive thinking and even though you perhaps still feel down, in a way you become aware that is just a phase, a temporary phase.
Some of my favourite rituals:
Write all the negative thoughts and blue feelings on a piece of paper, then burn it. Smell the smoke. Look and touch the ashes. Those feelings have gone.
Prepare my favourite mixed hot cup of coffee, coffee barley and cocoa powder in my cherished handmade and hand-painted Andalusian mug and sip it while sitting on the stairs that lead me to my studio before starting any creative action.
Have an intense chat with my cherry tree (see above) :)
Read some pages of my favourites artists’ autobiography or novel.
These are all sacred little actions that help me to get into my creative zone, they open the doors to get into my time of creativity.
5. Step away from social media
Although I should have started from this point, I decided to put it as last bit of my post because I want to believe that “the-avoid-looking-at-other-people’s-profiles” has become the obvious rule number 1 to defeat demotivation by now.
I’ll never stop saying that in 95% of the cases our lack of motivation comes from comparing ourselves to others, and by judging them ‘successful’ just from what we see on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc etc. What we see is not real. Period.
We don’t know the reality behind. You are not them. You are you. Be proud of yourself. Be grateful to yourself. Refocus on you, refocus on your own dreams. Refocus on your creative time away from any digital device.