Is a Creative Slump the Result of Setting the Bar Higher?

A pile of knitted sweaters in neutral tones

If you've been following me along on Instagram you've probably seen that I've posted new stuff very consistently for the last 6 months or so. The reason that I've posted almost daily has been to improve my photography and visual storytelling skills, and also because I've just really enjoyed the process of making and sharing my work everyday. And so, when I hit a creative slump and felt completely stuck creatively last week, I kinda panicked. I spent the week desperately trying to get out of the slump, and also tried to understand why it was all happening.

It all started on a quiet afternoon after I had listened to an episode of the Blogtacular podcast by Kat Molesworth where she interviews the brilliant Dominique Davies from @allthatisshe. In the interview they talk about all things Instagram and the journey behind Dom's genious visual storytelling.

The chat got me super motivated to start push myself further and experiment with new elements and compositions in my pics. I feel like I've found certain motifs and things that tend to work pretty well in my photos which I re-use quite often (pics of flowers and coffee cups, yup guilty) but now I got the feeling that I wanted to expand my repertoire.

All excited I sat down to brainstorm and was eager to start making amazing new stuff, but obviously life doesn't work that way, and I soon found myself in a complete creative block.

Every idea that popped into my head I quickly rejected because I immediately thought it wouldn't work. Suddenly the bar for what quality looked like had been set higher in my head and nothing felt good enough anymore. And so I slowly started to spiral down the endless hole of self-criticism and frustration.

The really interesting part of all this is that as it happened I was constantly very aware of my own psychological pattern and behavior. My brain was now set on creating better stuff than before and had put these new huge expectations on me. It put me in a very tight and uncomfortable spot, all in order to conjure up a sort of a crisis that would shock me out of my status quo and give me a kick in my creative butt.

After a few restless days spent twisting and turning in this sticky state of mind I finally did the only thing one can in such a situation, I started making something, anything.

Because time and time after again it's been the actual process of creating something that has proven to be the only way for me to get out of a creative slump. No matter how banal or boring I feel all my ideas are I just need to start somewhere and see where my intuition takes me.

Sometimes it's not possible immediately and you need to marinate in the juices of un-inspiration and creative confusion for quite a while. But when you've reached that point where it becomes unbearable it's time to just start making stuff again, even if that might feel like the heaviest and hardest thing to do in just that moment.

I have these big playing cards that I thought would look interesting in a picture so that's what i started with. Well, that didn't work. But at least now I was dealing with the concrete world again instead of being stuck in my head. After some other sluggish attempts I finally ended up making something very simple yet quite fun.

Tea cup balloons

That night I posted the pic and ta-daa! the spell was broken, finally! After a painstakingly long week of questioning all my ideas and style I felt like I found a grain of something that felt new and exciting again. Although it maybe doesn't look that different to my other stuff from an outside perspective, I definitively took a creative leap that I cannot un-leap anymore.

Although I'm sure this wasn't my last creative slump, I'll at least have this blog post to remind me that there is always a reason for those, namely to get better. I think anyone who has high expectations on themselves will probably find themselves in a creative slump from time to time, but those should actually be seen as a positive thing. They're an opportunity to grow and learn, the two most satisfying things I can think of as a human being (after mud cake and brownies, obviously).

What about you, do you find yourself having creative slumps from time to time? How do you feel about it and what do you do to get out of them?