You grab your instrument and sit down, ready to create. You play a chord — it doesn’t feel right. You sing a note — you’re not feeling it. You start to make a beat — but the rhythm isn’t in your veins today.
This happens to every creative person.
Even though creativity itself may be there — underneath the cobwebs or filters — sometimes you just don’t feel it. It’s asleep or out for a walk or hiding.
So in this post, I’d like to share practical tips for staying productive and continuing to create even when you don’t feel creative.
Each of these tips you could probably do right now. You don’t have to do all of them of course. Just pick one that jumps out to you and try using it the next time you don’t feel the creative juices flowing.
1. Drink water
Your brain and body need water to properly function. That’s a fact. And if you’re like me, you sometimes forget to hydrate.
But you need your brain to create stuff. So set a reminder on your phone to drink a glass of water about every two hours.
2. Go for a walk (without your phone)
Blood is another thing your brain and body need. And going for a walk helps get your blood circulating.
But go for a walk without your phone. I know it might be hard, but letting your mind wander as your body wanders is a great way to come up with new ideas.
3. Do some breathing exercises
Oxygen is yet another thing your brain and body need (surprise!). And sometimes it feels great to just take a huge breath.
So why not take several huge breaths one after the other?
It helps you be less stressed and lowers your blood pressure, putting you in a more relaxed and focused state to create.
4. Say “no” more
“No” is powerful. It frees you up to say yes to the things that really matter to your music career.
Warren Buffet, one of the richest and most “successful” people in the world, knows the power of no.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,” he says.
So try saying “yes” to “no” more often.
5. Set small goals
I know you have a lot of things you want to do, but you don’t have to do them all right now. Give yourself smaller goals so you're more likely to reach them.
And that means you’ll be accomplishing goals more often, keeping you more encouraged to go on creating.
6. Do the most important thing first (before lunch!)
Start your day with the most important task. Ensure that you get it done so your day will have a productive beginning.
This should leave you more time to be creative.
7. Do one thing at a time
By “one thing,” I mean just one thing. Because as it turns out, multitasking is not a real thing. When you think you’re multitasking, you’re actually just making your brain switch tasks rapidly.
And that will exhaust your brain real fast.
8. Put email on the back burner
Why do I check my email every half hour? I don’t need to. Nobody’s emailing me. And if they are, I probably don’t want to read it.
So stay focused on your creative work by setting designated “email time.” I’d suggest not checking it until lunch and then finishing your day doing email. No more than that.
9. Use airplane mode
Our phones distract us way too much. If you don’t believe me, just use a tracking app for one day and you'll realize you're on your phone more than you think.
Feel free to put it on airplane mode while you're working or making music. You'll accomplish much more.
10. Create when you're most creative
First, figure out when creativity is buzzing the loudest within you. For me, it’s first thing in the morning. For you, it might be late at night or over your lunch break.
Then make it a point to create at that time. This will help you maximize the creative minutes or hours you do have.
11. Talk to a friend
The creative life should not be a lonely life. We learn from and are inspired by other people. Humans are cool — we should spend some time with them.
It's easy to get stuck inside your own head, so ask a fellow musician what they've been creating lately, then share what you’ve been doing. Maybe you'll both get inspired.
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter and producer based in Austin, TX., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.