Hey there fam. I thought I would make one of my first blog posts about the one thing that is constantly on my mind as an artist. How do I create when I feel so unproductive/uninspired? Note: I’m a visual artist, but this post will likely expand to so many people who are makers of any and all things.
I fell in love with art around the time when I began struggling with my mental health but for the most part never experienced true road blocks because of it. Well, until isolation began in March 2020. I’ve always had an incredible community of other artists backing me and supporting me, providing critique and advise. Losing that support was detrimental to how I think about my art-making practice and sent me into a non-creative funk. I started taking fewer photographs, talked to my artist friends less and less, and graduated from my art program during this time, losing my mentors/professors. When your passions begin occupying less space in your mind, your motivation decreases.
Within a few months of graduating, I started a job that had nothing to do with art. I work an office job specializing in payroll and benefits. Can you say BORING. I love the company I work for but damn it can be a drag and never in my life have I had to dedicate so much mind-space to something I am not passionate about. Before my head was filled with photographic chemical processes and camera exposure equations. Now my brain is constantly trying to remember payroll taxes and endless compliance protocols.
I feel a constant pressure to make art and my ego and Instagram are my worst enemy. Whether you’re an artist or YouTuber or welder, you probably fill your social media with your passions, following like-minded creators who post their achievements and successes. This can be an awesome way to expand your own ideas and drive you to make work of your own. It can also be a soul-sucking black hole for your creative mind to compare yourself unfairly to others. I log into Instagram every day and see artists constantly making work and that is just not a fair standard to hold myself to. Hell, I don’t even make work every week and I’ve come to accept that is ok.
Having depression seriously blocks my creative self from producing the photographs I want to. I have ideas but most days I completely lack the drive to create. I think it’s important to remember not to compare yourself to your peers because you are on your own path of creation. The path is not going to be the same for everyone. I think it’s also important not to compare yourself to yourself. A year ago I was making so much work because I had the time and the support system to drive that. I can’t compare myself to that person because we are in different galaxies and I am doing the best for me right now. The act of creation can also be incredibly overwhelming and when mixed depression or anxiety it will bulldoze your drive. It’s not fair to expect the best of yourself when you’re not 100%. And FYI it’s ok to not be 100% a lot of the time.
When too overwhelmed to create I will dive into something else adjacent to the creative act. As an artist a large part of my work is research and idea based. I can’t make work if I haven’t done my research and generated the ideas behind it. If I’m too blocked to get out my camera, I will research and brainstorm or even watch a documentary about my favorite photographer. Doing these activities allows me to feel close to my art without the pressure to make.
So the answer to the question: how the f#*% do I stay creative? Sometimes I don’t and that’s ok. Acknowledge your roadblocks and don’t compare yourself to others or your past self because it’s not remotely relevant to your current self. And even if you’re not creating, that doesn’t make you any less of an artist. I am going to get my camera out and make some amazing photographs, just not today!