“Time marks us while we are marking time.” - Theodore Roethke
Ever feel like you’re stuck? You know you WANT to either begin, or get more into that creative thing you want to do, but for whatever reason you just can’t.
It could be a number of issues that seem to be keeping you from getting out of limbo, so let’s diagnose the issues here.
Problem: You’re Sick of What You Do
Ever just get tired of what you play, or draw, or write? It just feels like the same old stuff and while it has always worked, it is just more of the same old same old. You want to do something fresh, but you just can’t seem to make it come out.
The Answer: Abandon the familiar. If you paint with oils, try watercolor. If you write primarily Christian worship songs, try a secular love song. If you write nonfiction, try your hand at fiction.
When I feel like I am writing songs that all sound the same, I try writing them without playing the keyboard or piano. If you can, switch instruments or don’t use one at all to do something different. Find a new computer program that lets you be expressive in a new way. Or if you primarily work alone, find another creative person to work with or share ideas.
Switching from your regular palette of colors, sounds, and techniques could be the way to break out of the doldrums.
Problem: You Feel Like You've Reached a Ceiling
Maybe you've gone as far as you can go doing something and it’s time to break through to the next level. You feel like you are marking time doing the same thing over and over. Even if you had bigger ideas, you just can’t get them done where you are.
The Answer: You need a broader canvas. This suggests a change is needed to your location, your contemporaries, your audience, or all of the above. At some point, we all have to move to the logical next big area where we can bloom. Some may indeed do well “where they are planted”, but if this is you, then you likely aren't in limbo are you?
I have moved on to larger creative canvases before, and while one of those was Nashville for much of what we do for Christian artists, what you need might not be necessarily a “music center”, or “art town”, or “publishing town”. It could just be where your art and work will be better accepted, or where you can find the people you need to break into the next stratosphere of your work.
Problem: You Don’t See the Clear Road Ahead Like You Used To
It used to be so easy right? The Big Creative Dream was obvious. You heard so clearly what you were supposed to do, and you went for it. You actually found success and have enjoyed it. But now you long for that feeling again. You want the next Big Dream. Where is it?
The Answer: Go to God and Find the Next Big Dream. He’s got it waiting for you, as He always has. He’s likely just been waiting for you to ask for it, or look for it. This may take some study, some time, and a lot of really fearless dreaming.
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a really scary thing. If you want to really see what God can do, tell Him you’ll do whatever He asks and watch the floodgates open. Good luck with that!
The key sometimes to finding your next Big Dream is to both ask for it and look hard for it, rather than waiting for it to knock on your door.
Problem: There’s Unfinished Things Blocking the Things You Want Do
We all have the projects we’re working on but look past them to the projects we really want to get to. This used to be a real problem for me. I would start a dozen creative projects and never finish any of them. Of course, now that I have clients tapping their feet behind me, I have learned to be better at it.
I don’t know about you, but I have 5 albums and at least 4 books of my own waiting for me to finish the ones I’m close to finishing now. Oh, the humanity!
The Answer: Get to work. At some point, without a gun to your head, you’re going to have to get off the pot and get the current project done. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
We have to be disciplined to finish the projects we have up on the racks and then get it out so we can move on to more fun things! Whatever will help you get it done, do it. Then you can finally move forward with the next masterpiece.
Problem: You Need Better Help and New Mentors
Well, this is likely the answer to all the problems above.
The (Final?) Answer: A good creative team or mentor can help you find a new way to do things. They can suggest new sounds, colors, themes, techniques, and other things you hadn't thought of. They can help you break through to new levels and find a larger following and canvas. They can assess where you are to help you see a new bigger picture. And, probably most importantly, they can help you complete the current projects that have just been sitting there.
Now, go solve your problems and have a creative week!
Eric Copeland is a composer, creative consultant and author of For the Creative Soul, a unique brand dedicated to the encouragement and growth of creative Christians around the world. For more information or if you need help with any of the problems above, check out the tabs at the top of the page.