What to Do When Your Creative Spark Dies - Christine Kane

One of my Platinum mastermind clients, a successful corporate trainer, issued a plea to her peers last week in the Facebook group.  She wrote:

Today I am having a tough time creating. Feeling rather overwhelmed and a bit stressed out. Does this happen to anyone else? Maybe it’s the weather. I feel like watching movies on the sofa today versus working. Or maybe it’s after my week of vacation but I just can’t get my groove on today.

Sometimes, when we are stuck creatively, we get all up in our left-brain trying to FIGURE IT OUT.  We let our thoughts careen into the part of the brain that doesn’t seek creative solutions, but would rather just simply criticize.  Then those thoughts begin to take over. “What if I never have another creative idea again?” “What if this empty shell of a human is who I really am?”   “I have so much to do I gotta just get cracking!”  “You’ve been on vacation! You had your time off! Get crackin’ sister!”

Pretty soon, you are left-braining yourself to death. You are trying to get inspired. You are seeking motivational blurbs from books. You are – by God – going to FIGURE OUT how to make your muse come out and play no matter freaking what!

Problem is, this isn’t about your creativity.

Most likely, it’s about your state of mind. You may have to amp up your awareness to recognize what’s actually happening and take the required actions to free your creative self once again.

Here are five of the most common problem areas entrepreneurs face for creative work (and what to do about them.)

1 – You’re tired and you need to rest.

That ol’ lizard brain of yours is telling you that you got lots of sleep last night, that you just had a vacation, that you slept in a bit, that you have no rational reason to be tired. But the truth is that most of us DON’T get enough sleep, that most of us require an enormous amount of focus to run our businesses, and that our brains are often on full-throttle long after full-throttle has served us.

If you’re tired, you don’t think creatively. You think reactively. At this point, you’ll be better served to either take a nap or get some menial things completed.  This is the time to file stuff, return phone calls, clean out your inbox or some other “get ‘er done” task. It’s not the time to hound yourself into making a new idea come to life. (And hounding rarely works anyway. Only when you’re tired do you think hounding will work.)

Get some sleep. You’ll have more energy in the morning.

2 – You’re wired and you need to play.

When you’re “wired,” you are metallic. You are tight.  Your brain is linear with no room for mystery. Often this is a result of the repetitive thoughts about all the stuff you gotta do, things you gotta master and tasks you gotta check off.  A few days of that steely regimen and your soul becomes thin.

At this point, you probably need to walk away.  Walk away from the laptop. Walk away from your office. Walk away from the long list of crap to do.

Counter-intuitive?  Yes.  But you can’t create from a well that is empty.

If you sit there pounding yourself in order to just feel better about working, then all that will happen is that you will be in the dreaded Grey Zone, where you aren’t really working, but you aren’t really resting either.  This is the most destructive place of all.  Walk away. Go play. Go nap. Go ANYTHING. But do not try to force creativity. It can’t be done.

3 – You’re unaware – and you need to manage your energy.

At my live events, I teach about the five energies of the entrepreneur.

I share that there are certain activities in your business that require different levels and types of energy and focus from you.  Creative work requires the most energy and focus.  Therefore it can’t be stuffed into your day willy-nilly and just hope it all works out.  Start your day with it. Or find the time that works best for you to focus.

4 – You’re driving too hard and you need imperfection.

When Anne Lamott wrote about “shitty first drafts,” millions of souls around the world uttered a giant sigh of relief.

Your creative spark never dies. It’s just that you have a death grip on what you think the outcome should be.  You want it to be fast, perfect, and complete.

If you gave yourself permission to simply show up and do it badly – while fending off the inner critic with the tenacity of a lion tamer – then you would rekindle the creative spark. All creativity begins with imperfection. You show up. You have some horrible ideas. They turn into okay ideas. They turn into some pretty good things. And suddenly, you’re back on fire. Start badly. Become an imperfectionist. All the cool kids are doing it.

5 – You’re splattered and you need some parameters.

When you have a big project looming, or a fabulous idea to flesh out, the blank slate is daunting. Ideas over here. Ideas over there. Before you know it, someone shouts “Squirrel!” and you’re gone.

This is why you need parameters. Parameters get you started and protect you from your ego.

So, first schedule the time for your creative work.

Then when you sit down at that time, set a timer. Using a timer tells all of your distractible selves that this is the time you work. These are the parameters. Be here now. When the alarm sounds, get up, check off your to-do list – and move on with your day.

Share with me below!!  What do YOU do when your creativity seems to have dried up and disappeared?









  • Kathryn Crous

    Be kind to yourself! Many of us have competing and compelling priorities! Children, spouse, aging parents, financial worries. We cannot be it all, do it all and own it all! Stepping away from trying to own every problem. Talk a walk, (I like to be near water to soothe my soul), get outdoors, have that sinful dessert, savor your coffee, spend time with someone who fills your emotional reservoir. You cannot be “on” 100% of the time.

  • Diane

    Excellent article! And obviously so much more effective then just beating ourselves up (not that I would ever do that ;-)). Thank you.

  • Dawn Kotzer

    This is a great post on helping keep the CreaTiVe Flow accessible, Christine. I work as a Master creativity coach and your suggestions are spot on. Dawn Kotzer

  • Alexandre L’Eveille

    I started to get that burned out, I’ve got no ideas left feeling this month. It usually comes after the “I am overloaded with work and deadlines but it’s not steady enough for me to bring on more help so I’ll work myself through it” and “whew, made it, now I need to fill the pipeline.” Stepping away and getting out of my head is always a winner. For me, usually a walk through the museum gets me inspired and back on track. Thanks for the reminder. I’m overdue for a little time out.

  • Kate Ostrem

    I love that you quoted Anne Lamott. She is the best – has the ability to say what we all think! As I’ve been creating my new business, I find I’m distracted all the time (“SQUIRREL!”) and am easily swayed by any business newsletter/blog I read. I’m slowly figuring out ways to focus my time and energy and why that is so important. This article was reaffirming and full of great ideas as I continue to work on this. Thank you!

  • Marcie Hill

    I have a friend who’s temporarily lost her mojo because of life transitions and I told her to try not to do anything pertaining to work for a couple days. Then I suggested to watch funny pet videos on YouTube. Some of them may even spark a little creativity. If they don’t, at least she’d be entertained without feeling bad about doing nothing.

    Sometimes we just have to stop because we get burned out. And we have to know that it’s okay to do nothing. If we just “HAVE” to do stuff, put three easy things that would move us forward on our to-do list – e-mails and phone calls – and do them for a sense of accomplishment.

    • Christine Kane

      Great advice, Marcie! She’s lucky to have you as a sage adviser and friend!

  • Carrie

    Without fail a refreshing and re-energising walk in the woods sparks my creativity, and definitely plenty of rest/sleep.
    Brilliant post, Christine, thank you for sharing!

    • Christine Kane

      Carrie – ME TOO!!! It’s usually about 100 feet into the trail where I literally feel everything inside me shift.

  • Abbie Richardson

    I LOVE YOU!!
    I MISS YOU!!

    COSTA RICA…ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    SQUIRREL!! 🙂
    Love that.
    BIG hugs…my far away friend!

    • Christine Kane

      Awwww. I love you too my pal! And i miss you like cra-cra!