5 Ways to Break Out of a Creative Rut

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Eventually, it happens to everyone who pursues an art or craft: the dreaded Creative Rut. Every time you sit down to make something new, every idea that comes into your head seems stale, or it's something you've made before, or it just doesn't "sing" to you. It doesn't have that spark. Or sometimes, your brain just refuses to come up with anything new at all. Fortunately, these ruts are usually temporary, if you give your creativity a little encouragement.. These are a few things I like to try to get that inspired, excited-to-make-the-thing feeling back again.

1. Make findings and other elements.

When I do this specifically to encourage my brain to spark up new ideas, I like to make sure that I'm sitting down without a specific plan for the bits and pieces that I'm making. I'll work on chain, clasps, earwires, and design elements like spirals and weaves that I use often. It's mindless (and a chore I put off a lot), so while my hands are busy, my mind will kind of wander around, and I'll often have an idea that has nothing to do with the findings/elements in my hands. I also make sure to have a sketch pad and pencil handy to quickly jot down rough ideas when they come to me. 

2. Mix and match design elements.

So I have a spiral element on this piece, and a leaf detail on this other piece -- what would happen if I put them together on a new piece? I already know how to do those elements, so it's just a matter of figuring out how to combine them. I'll often do this after I've spent a while working on the findings and elements I mentioned above, playing with elements and seeing how they fit together, kind of like playing with a jigsaw puzzle. 

3. Learn a new technique.

Sometimes when I'm stuck, I find that it's because I'm kind of bored in using the same techniques over and over. So I'll go through my giant cache of tutorials and books, or hop on to YouTube, and try to learn how to make something I've never done before. When I learn a new technique, my brain starts automatically trying to fit it into new designs. And as I mentioned previously, I make sure to have a paper and pencil handy to capture those ideas. 

4. Make something for myself rather than for sale or anybody else.

Most often, when I get stuck, it's not because my mind isn't being creative; it's that I'm automatically rejecting ideas as "not good enough." The habit of making things to sell or to please others can be a creativity killer. There's a pressure to make something bigger and better than the last thing you made, and that just isn't sustainable. I have to remind myself often that not everything is going to be the best thing I've ever made. Making something just for myself, that I never even have to show anybody else if I don't want to, takes the pressure off and lets me create freely.

5. Take a break with a different activity.

Sometimes, a brain just gets tired and needs a break. When I'm taking a break specifically because I'm not coming up with anything I like, I try to make sure that my break activity is something active, whether mentally or physically. Taking a walk (when the weather is decent for it) is great, and so is sitting with a coloring book and some pencils. I'll often come up with new ideas while cooking, or even showering. Sometimes it's necessary to take a step away from the "work" activity, and let the subconscious nibble away at it in the background. And as always, whenever possible, I try to have a notepad or sketchbook within reach when I'm trying to encourage my brain to spit out some ideas. 

These are just a few things that I find help break me out a creative rut. What do you do to encourage yourself when you're feeling a little burned out or stymied? What works for you to keep that creativity fresh? Let me know in the comments! 

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