How to crush a creative rut: Simple ideas to stay inspired

Do you ever feel like all of your pictures look the same? Are you discouraged feeling like your images lack creativity? Have you ever felt unmotivated to even pick up your camera? Do your unsuccessful attempts at creating the images in your imagination leave you feeling defeated?

I do. And frequently! The more photographers I talk to, the more I realize that all of us feel this way from time to time.

As an introvert, I think deep and I feel deep. I can be easily discouraged when working on my art. I take things personally and to heart (sometimes to a fault).

To combat these feelings, I knew I had to create a proactive solution. These are some quick and simple ideas I have successfully uses to find inspiration when I need to pull myself out of a creative rut.

Take care of yourself

What are you doing to take care of yourself on a regular basis?

This is number one on my list for a reason! Getting enough sleep, excercising, eating well, and taking time for just you are essential to staying creatively driven.

It can be hard to enjoy creating or feel inspired when you’re not physically and mentally healthy. A sluggish body and brain will not serve you as you try to create art. Caring for yourself will ensure that you are energized and can keep up with all of your own ideas!

When I am stressed about work, family, or life in general, I get frustrated. And frustration often makes we want to give-up. It is much harder to thinking outside the box when my brain is consumed with anxiety and stress.

As we all play many roles in our daily lives, it can be easy to put others first and forget about ourselves. However, I promise that by carving out time and space to meet your own needs, you will be better in every role you play…especially your role as a creative.

Unplug from technology

Our culture is consumed by technology. With computers in our pockets, it can be difficult to resist the urge to check email, hop on social media, or answer that last text.

But all those things vying for our attention can take us away from the things that inspire us creatively! I have found that unplugging for a day or two helps me tremendously when I am in a rut.

Turn off the television. Wait to answer texts. Close Facebook and Instagram. Put an “out of office” auto reply on your emails. Take the time away from these distracting conveniences. Instead, use that time to pick-up your camera and practice your craft.

Technology is great, but sometimes we need to take a break from it all. You will be amazed at how even a day or two away from all the devices will clear creative space in your mind.

Reconnect with nature

Something about being in nature always revitalizes my soul. The scenery, the sounds, and the smells ignite my creativity.

You don’t have to go far to reconnect with nature! A simple nature walk in a local park or stroll through your own neighborhood can do wonders for you.

Even better, bring your camera out into nature with you! Whether it’s a little leaf, a pretty sunrise, or a sweeping landscape, you will most definitely find something beautiful to photograph.

Related: 5 Steps for creative and beautiful flower photography

Being connected with nature has been proven to be beneficial in awakening creativity. In a world so often driven by screens and technology, a little fresh air can be the best therapy we artists need!

Listen to nostalgic music

It seems so strange for me to call music from my childhood “old” or “classic”…that’s what my parents listened to, right?!

Call it what you want, but listening to hits from the 70’s and 80’s is very inspirational for me. Flashbacks of my childhood always come flooding in. It was when I was listening to music from this era that the idea of shooting through a slinky came from!

I was listening to a song that triggered a childhood memory. Probably something by Bruce Springsteen or Dire Straits, Did I just date myself? Ha!

The song triggered a memory of me being in grade three, playing with my slinky by myself at recess. I could even picture the jacket I was wearing, and where I was on the playground. That simple memory sparked a whole landslide of creativity that led to me creating images I adore.

Chat with the kids

Children have the best and most wild imaginations! You can get some pretty creative and incredible ideas from them.

Even if you have no kids of your own, they are everywhere! Listen to the little conversations going on around you when you’re at the park, out for coffee, etc. I’m sure you will not only get a few ideas, you will also have a few laughs. Kids really do say the darnedest things!

I teach grade one and have two young children myself. I am lucky I get to have lots of wild and hilarious conversations on a daily basis. It was in one of these conversations that I got the idea for a new series.

I wanted to create images that incorporated paper airplanes. Through this idea I realized that I actually totally forgot how to even make a paper airplane! A student in my class had to reteach me which was a fun and inspiring interaction in itself.

We then made paper airplanes and flew them in the classroom to see whose went the furthest (Don’t worry! We made it part of our math curriculum – measurement! And I was the only one who got hit with one…ha!).

The images I created did not turn out how I envisioned and I am still working on executing this idea. Which leads me to…

Try and then try again

Don’t let yourself feel defeated if you don’t succeed on the first try! Let that first attempt be an opportunity to learn and then try again!

Failure can awaken creativity when you allow it to do so. Take the opporunity to shoot in a different space, use a different lens, different lighting, or different composition.

Even when I create an image I like, I also like to try it again later on. Sometimes the littlest of tweaks can create a whole new feel to the image.

Be inspired by other artists

Sometimes going through the work of artists will create a spark in your creativity. A simple scroll through my Instagram feed will let me see the work of countless artists I admire!

The key thing to remember when doing this is to NOT compare your work to theirs. I understand that this can be very difficult at times, but it is of the utmost importance.

We are all in different stages of our photography journey and it is so much healthier to establish other artists as your community, not your competition. Appreciating the work of others and sharing my work with them has been a huge inspiration to me!

The Clickin Moms community really does value lifting each other up in this photography journey and I love that! We are all different and unique and the world is big enough for all of us!

Make your weaknesses your strengths

What is it that you are struggling with creatively? What do you find hard and what scares you? Yeah, shoot that.

I used to be petrified of low light. I was not even going to attempt it. Metering in a challenging situation like that was not something I felt confident doing.

When I signed-up for a 52 week project this year, I knew I would be challenged but never could have guessed that January’s technique would be my biggest photography fear!

Related: 6 Tips for embracing low light and high ISO photos

It was very hard at first and I struggled through those first frames. However, facing my fear I forced myself to be comfortable with discomfort. I have actually grown to love low light and even seek it out now!

Help others

I find that when I am helping others learn, I feel inspired. Whether it be showing someone how to shoot with their own cameras or making them feel beautiful in front of my camera, helping others helps me, too!

Bottom line, keep doing what you’re doing even when you feel like you are stuck. Shoot what you love and let your personality shine through your work.

Know that everyone feels like inspiration is in short supply from time to time (even your favorite artist who always seems to be posting beautiful images!). It’s when we push through those creatively dry periods that we become stronger photographers and go on to make the best work of our lives.

About the Author:

I am a wife, mother of two living in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Photography is a hobby and passion of mine. I teach grade one full time. I am inspired by candid moments and pockets of light. I enjoy capturing “real” moments, raw emotion and movement.

One Comment

  1. Christopher Hall Oct 30 2018 at 12:50 am - Reply

    I work with photography. It’s there everyday. Most of the time my work is driven by what the client wants and they sometimes all seem to want the same style of photography. 2.4 kids all looking straight at the camera.

    I look at other people’s work for inspiration however that gets me down as I don’t get the opportunity to give it a go (it’s all about the client right).

    I have just taken the bold step of stopping some of the types of session that don’t interest me as much so I can concentrate on the ones that give me more creativity. Time will tell if that is good or bad.

    Also I find that comparing my work to others doesn’t help. I end up thinking my work is not as good as theirs. Now it’s my style my way.

    I have days now where I book myself out of office. I write a book or paint. Do something different I find that helps.

    Chris

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