13 – Have You Ever Been in a Creative Funk? Let’s Talk About Mental Health
Creative Funk

Laura and Nikki talk about mental health, specifically about what happens when you get into a creative funk, feeling uninspired or unmotivated to create. They discuss how this shows up for each of them and some different approaches you can take to try to get past it.

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Topics discussed

Resources

  • The impact of isolation during a pandemic (0:57)
  • How creative funk manifests for Laura (3:02)
  • How it manifests for Nikki (3:44)
  • Laura’s top 3 suggestions to get out of a funk (4:17)
  • Nikki’s top 3 suggestions to get out of a funk (6:21)
  • The importance of laughter (9:04)
  • Reaching out to loved ones  (9:19)

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki, with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination, that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

0:38
So Nikki, what are we talking about today?

Nikki

0:41
Today, we’re talking about mental health. Specifically, do you ever get into a creative funk?

Laura

0:47
Oh, yeah, I have been in a creative funk many times in my life. And I can certainly tell you that this pandemic has not helped.

Nikki

0:55
No kidding.

Laura

0:57
We are in a space where it’s hard to get inspired and you’re in your home all the time, you’re unable to visit art museums and galleries to get exposure to the things that might normally inspire your art. And it’s a little bit like Groundhog Day. I mean, every day feels the same. Half the time I forget if it’s a Saturday or a Tuesday.

Nikki

1:18
Wait, what’s today?

Laura

1:19
I have no idea.

Laura

1:22
So it makes me feel a little stagnant. And also that isolation can be depressing.

Nikki

1:29
It really can. So, disclaimer, we aren’t doctors, and we’re not talking about how to deal with or manage clinical depression or any other diagnosed mental health condition. We’re just talking about the day-to-day or season-to-season or even situational pandemic-type challenges. So for me, I actually deal with diagnosed depression, which I have managed very well by medication. But I can still experience having bouts of just sort of situational depression, anxiety and a lot of overwhelm that can easily put me into a creative funk.

Laura

2:06
Yeah, and I can totally identify with the anxiety piece as well. About 20 years ago, I had six months of panic attacks, which happened everywhere like waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to breathe. I would have them weird times, like on a highway when I was driving or while I was on the phone. And since then, on occasion, different stressful situations have brought things up like that. You know, leaving a job or being stuck on an airplane for 15 hours. So I totally can understand how anxiety can be really debilitating and depressing and hamper your creative flow. But what we’re focusing on here is what we think everyone experiences at some point, which comes with the ebb and flow of being an artist.

Nikki

2:50
Or of being a human?

Laura

2:52
Exactly. It keeps you from feeling creative, productive and just getting stuff done.

Nikki

2:59
Okay, so how does that manifest for you, Laura?

Laura

3:02
Well, for me, being in a creative funk manifests itself by feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. I end up in imposter syndrome, thinking “Who am I doing this?” I have too many projects, I don’t know what to work on. So I just want to binge watch Netflix to avoid dealing with all of it.

Nikki

3:22
Oh, and that’s exactly what I do when I’m not medicated.

Laura

3:27
Well, those thoughts go through my head, like, “I’m not a creative person, I’m never going to be able to reach these goals that I have”. And when I’ve worked really hard, and I don’t see immediate results to that, part of me wants to just give up and not be in it for the long haul.

Nikki

3:44
Oh, I feel all of those same things. When I have too many things to do, like so much I don’t know where to focus, my inclination is totally to just go take a nap. But actually, sometimes I get some great artwork done when I’m feeling that overwhelm and avoidance because I will draw right through my avoidance.

Laura

4:04
That is called productive procrastination.

Nikki

4:07
And I’m so good at it.

Laura

4:09
I am as well.

Nikki

4:11
Okay, Laura. So how do we deal with getting past that mental funk state that we find ourselves in sometimes?

Laura

4:17
Well, I would say for me personally, there are three things that have helped me. One of those is when I’m in a creative funk, it’s getting out of my immediate environment and getting out in nature. You know, getting a little bit of vitamin D, and seeing some sunshine, taking my dog out for a long walk. Some people can do that through meditation. But for me, walking can sort of be like that meditation as well. So that’s one way that that helps me personally.

Laura

4:45
And the second one for me is having a sense of gratitude. And I like keeping a gratitude journal that has space for like five things that I can be grateful for every day. And it’s something that I write in and you can do it at the beginning of the day in the morning. Or you can do it at the end of the day just kind of looking back and saying, Okay, what are the five things that I’m grateful for, or if you’re just stuck in that funk in the middle of the day, you can do it then too. But I find that when I’m in that sense of gratitude, and it can be small things, it doesn’t have to be huge things. It could be, I am grateful today, because I have a roof over my head, I’m cuddling with my dog, it can be my health, anything, anything at all that you’re grateful for. It could be big things like launching a successful class or creating art that I’m really happy with. But when I shift my attitude to gratitude, it’s sort of helps everything, just all the other stuff sort itself out. So that’s a practice, I find really helpful.

Laura

5:48
And then the third thing is giving yourself a super simple task that does not require much brainpower. So an example of that would be to pull out my watercolor palette, and just find some beautiful colors that I love and mix them together on little scraps of paper and make color swatches, something as simple as that. It’s sort of activating that part of my brain that does creativity, but in a really easy way.

Nikki

6:12
Right.

Laura

6:12
And so once I’m started with something like that, then maybe that will help, some color combination might inspire me to work on something else.

Nikki

6:20
Nice.

Laura

6:20
How about you, Nikki?

Nikki

6:21
So, okay, for me, the first thing I might do is actually allow myself a little bit of that avoidance by taking a short nap or taking a long hot bath with a little sip of bourbon.

Laura

6:35
And there it is, folks, we had to get the word bourbon in there today.

Nikki

6:39
Well, I mean, you wouldn’t recognize me if I didn’t.

But, the idea is to just give yourself a little bit of a break. And let yourself do that thing that you want to do to avoid things, but just not too long. Don’t dwell in it, do a 20 minute nap, not like a four hour nap. And then the next thing that I like to do, like what you mentioned, with the watercolor swatches, I’ll go into my studio and just start piecing things together with whatever’s on my studio table, with no end result in mind. So, unlike the highly detailed drawings that I do when I’m intentionally creating something, when I need to just start feeling creative again and get out of that cycle in my mind of overwhelm, I’ll just allow myself playtime in the studio. That is meditation to me. And it gets me out of that overthinking cycle.

Laura

7:29
Yeah, that’s great.

Nikki

7:30
Yeah. And then sometimes, especially if my issue is overwhelm, simply taking the time to write about what’s bothering me or freaking me out can take some of the pressure off. It might be journaling, but it might just be writing lists. I’m such a list maker. And that kind of clears my mind. So whether it’s a list of things I feel like I should be doing, a list of what’s bothering me, sometimes just kind of a free association of words that are in my head, just getting the jumbled thoughts out of my head and onto paper makes me realize that things aren’t really as bad as they seem, when they’re just thoughts bouncing around in my hollow brain.

Laura

8:10
Right. And that actually reminds me a little bit of Julie Cameron and the morning pages, writing the morning pages and getting those out on on paper, whatever is in your head so that you can just dump it out on paper and set it aside.

Nikki

8:24
Definitely.

Laura

8:26
So and if I’m being honest, there’s another thing that I just did today.

Nikki

8:29
Masturbation?

Laura

8:32
That is not at ALL what I was going to say, Nikki.

Laura

8:37
But I happen to be a musician as well. And I don’t actively make a living doing that. It’s just one of those things that I do for fun. So when I’m stressed out, or if I’m in a creative funk, and just can’t get in the flow, one of the things I might go do is pound it out in the piano…

Nikki

8:54
Wait, I thought you weren’t gonna… never mind.

Laura

8:56
Okay, on the piano, Nikki, pounding the keys, the KEYS on the piano.

Nikki

9:04
And that brings us to my next suggestion, which is humor, the ability to laugh at yourself.

Laura

9:10
We are really good at that. And if you’ve listened to our podcast at all, you would know that by now.

Nikki

9:17
Definitely.

Laura

9:19
So another thing that you can do when you’re in a creative funk is to reach out to a loved one, a friend, a family member or a partner.

Nikki

9:28
Yeah, I don’t do that. I’m more than one people reach out to, but when I’m in a funk, I just usually hibernate and try to get myself out of it.

Laura

9:36
And I do that too. And I’m also working on that and trying to learn to be a little bit more vulnerable.

Nikki

9:42
Yeah

Laura

9:43
You know, if you’re in a place where you can’t get out of that funk, and especially when you’re someone who might be living alone, like you and I, it’s important to be able to reach out to someone close to you. And I’m trying to admit my vulnerabilities more and it can be really difficult when you’re stuck in your own head right.

Nikki

9:59
Your own house and your own head.

Laura

10:01
Your own house and your own heads.

Nikki

10:04
Yeah.

Laura

10:06
So Nikki, what are our key takeaways?

Nikki

10:09
Bourbon, masturbation and humor.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, seriously. But seriously, take a minute to hit pause, step away and get some distance from the situation. Go out in nature, take a nap or a bath, meditate so you can get a fresh perspective.

Laura

10:27
Yeah, and do something that’s creative, but has no pressure associated with it, whether it’s something simple, like creating watercolor swatches, or playing on the piano or journaling.

Nikki

10:39
And finally, reach out to people that you care about, that you know, care about you and spend some time with them.

Laura

10:46
So disclaimer, we’re not mental health professionals. And this advice is not meant to replace actual care by a physician or a mental health provider.

Nikki

10:54
And another disclaimer, I don’t recommend bourbon to solve all your mental health issues. I actually talk about it way more than I drink it.

Laura

11:03
Thank God.

Now it’s your turn. We’d love for you to share in the Startist Society Facebook group, how creative funk shows up for you and how you handle getting yourself out of it.

Nikki

11:18
And if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe and leave a review. Visit startistsociety.com/mentalhealth to learn more about the podcast and read the show notes, where we’re including links to some books on this topic we think you might find useful.

Laura

11:31
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

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