Reclaim Your Creativity: 3 Steps to Bust Through Inaction

This guest post is by Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl

Ignoring your creativity can have serious consequences. You feel stuck—even depressed. You start heading down a spiral of inaction. It gets harder & harder to make things happen in your life.

Reclaiming your creativity (yes, I know you’ve got some!) can jump start your life in startling ways. Finding your own creative spark will help you set your dreams in motion and push ahead when the going gets tough.

My senior year of college was a real creative peak for me. I was writing daily, blogging on Xanga, and reading like a fiend. I earned a full scholarship to my graduate program of choice with the intent to study postmodern Christian theology.

I was poised to be another small success story of academia.

But while I was working my summer job, I got bit by the conventional life bug. My forward momentum ceased.

I took a full time job at one of the bookstore chains, slinging coffee and steaming milk. I was passionate about coffee and books. Turns out I was also passionate about business. But Fortune 500 retail management doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity in the workplace.

My independent successes were often overruled by overlords—I mean, middle managers—who preached conformity.

My mood ebbed and flowed with the decisions that those above me made. I rose in the ranks and found that the higher I went, the less creativity I was allowed.

In a lifetime of run-ins with depression, I battled the worst bout while working there. With no time or energy for self-expression, I couldn’t act on my usual creative self remedies. I quickly spiraled out of control, losing about 30lbs as my body shut down. I drove to work wanting to die. I drove home from work wanting to die.

Luckily, I met my husband and recovered. If only it was as quickly and easily as writing that sentence. With his accountability, I made time for me and my mood improved.

Now I realize that period in my life was a direct consequence of inaction. With no creative outlet, I lost touch with my own life.

It turned out that the conventional life I desired wasn’t what I thought it would be. Working my butt off for mediocre-at-best pay didn’t mean I could live on my own, purchase the things I needed, or keep up with any sort of social life outside of the occasional glass of wine with my coworkers, who I already saw too often thankyouverymuch.

On top of this, I realized that when you settle for inaction and the conventional, it’s that much harder to create and act on unconventional circumstances.

It’s that much harder to create the action you need to fulfill your goals.

Settling for inaction doesn’t just delay your satisfaction—it makes it harder to achieve!

Reclaiming my creativity and my own lust for action took a complete break from my circumstances: the birth of my daughter.

While the shift from dreaming to doing wasn’t immediate, I reconnected with my capacity for learning new things and achieving my goals. It was a process—one that was punctuated with reading, writing, and experimentation. Within a few months, I was able to act.

It was like drawing my pistol from its holster on my hip, still plump with post-pregnancy weight.

While my first shot may not have hit true, shot after shot, action after action, my aim and my circumstances improved.

People now ask me how I turn ideas into reality so quickly, how I can generate so much forward progress from a schedule that all to easily gets bogged down in the day to day. Very simply, it’s the cycle of action. The consequence of inaction is more—paralyzing—inaction.

The consequence of action is more—energizing—action.

If you’re feeling bogged down by the day-to-day, unsure of where the energy to achieve your dreams will come from, or simply stuck, here are some ideas for helping you break free.

1. Find your breaking point.

Not where you break, but where you can break the cycle of inaction. What fundamental change can you make in your life to produce an environment where your creativity can thrive? Your solution might be a change of routine or schedule, a change in location, or a break from a toxic friendship. In general, I don’t recommend having a baby for this purpose.

Your breaking point is a change that will allow you to fundamentally shift your perspective on your day to day tasks. Inevitably, these kinds of changes don’t happen overnight, they’re part of a process of change. But working words a single action that has the capacity to renew your energy and restart your forward progress can be motivation in and of itself.

2. Accept that not every idea is a good one.

While you’re recovering from inaction, it’s easy to get discouraged when you discover your new idea isn’t feasible or when your project just doesn’t turn out well. Part of creating your forward progress is failing, learning, and acting again. By accepting that a great many of your ideas won’t turn out, you’ll leave yourself open for even better ideas.

Failure is an integral part of creating more action in your life. It’s not a stumbling block; it’s an opportunity. People who produce a lot of good stuff produce a lot more bad stuff. But they use their failures to propel them forward not hold them back.

3. Don’t hold on to the things that hold you back.

While it sounds simple, many people I know hold on to habits that stop them from making progress: TV, naps, household expectations, shopping… Most of these things don’t have the ROT—return on your time—that exercising your creativity and action on your ideas can.

Whether you goal is to start a business, take up an exercise routine, or write the great American novel, you’ll find your time is better spent working towards your goals. Once you’re in the cycle of action, there will be plenty of time for obligations and mindless activities.

Inaction has serious consequences.

While you may not see its effects today or tomorrow, it’s wearing away at your productivity, tearing apart your creativity. Finding your way back to a cycle of action, progress, and momentum will help you deal with these consequences, reverse them, and find real energy in your life, no matter your goals.

Breaking the cycle of inaction requires a choice: to make your own needs a priority. Allow yourself to examine what kind of action you need to move forward with your goals. Allow yourself to consider what you’ve been missing as a result of your inaction.

Then, little by little or full steam ahead, embrace new choices that require your action.

Tara Gentile empowers people to live more creatively and change the world with their money on Scoutie Girl. Learn more about moving from inaction to accomplishment with her free Creating Action ecourse.

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Comments

  1. Good post this. I find that sometimes you (er, or me) can be scared of creativity – so you become paralysed. But if you force yourself, you do find the energy and enthusiasm to create.

    • Yes, as kind of icky as it sounds, forcing yourself in the beginning is really important. It’s easy to make the excuse that “when I’m ready, it’ll come naturally.” No, it probably won’t!

      Make yourself take the first step and the second will be much easier.

      Thanks for reading!
      Tara

      • Terry Earp says:

        I have been down that road also. That 9 to 5 crunch or the rat race what ever you choose to call it can put a damper on our creative side. Without this creative release life can become very mundane and boring. It is hard sometimes but I believe we can find a balance if we work at it.
        Great article, keep moving forward

        Terry

  2. Wow, it almost seems as if we’ve lived a duplicate life! I’m at the point of trying to find a balance of my passion and creativity, and the day to day mind numbing corporate job that pays the bills.
    Love the article. The words ring true for me. :)

    • Hey Tammy,

      I feel ya! I know I read an article on how you can use that “mind numbing corporate job” to feed your creativity… but I can’t find it now for the life of me.

      I think the biggest thing is just having something to come home to: a blog, an unfinished project, a musical instrument. But always having it “ready to go” so that you don’t have an excuse for not picking it up.

      Good luck!
      Tara

  3. Good post, I can relate to the inaction and how life turns things around.

    The three things I would add to this list:
    1. Read “Whack on the side of the head”, great book on creativity and an easy read.
    2. As a photographer I learned one important thing: You can’t make everyone happy! So don’t be discouraged when something doesn’t go according to plan.
    3. A bit cliche nowadays, but step out of your comfort zone. Even now I tend to not do it for one reason or another, but it’s very important. Baby steps, don’t go running right off the bet. And as I said in 2, don’t be discouraged when it doesn’t go as you planned. Stuff happens, so just keep moving forward.

    Viktor =)

    • Hi Viktor!

      2 & 3 are such great additions! And I’m definitely going to check out your book suggestion. Thanks for reading!

      Tara

      • Hey Tara,
        Yes, I think you’ll enjoy that book. It’s a good read. I always try to find something to read that helps me overcome blocks and procrastination, which are two problems that I always face whatever the task might be.

        Viktor

    • Yeah, Viktor’s number 3 is a big one. There has to be some degree of “daring-do” mustered to pry one’s self from the mire of inaction. It can also be referred to as “taking a chance” or “adding risk” or even “inviting danger.” A depressed or determined procrastinator would cite these as reasons to remain swaddled in the comfort of their current predicament. But in the hands of someone ready or beginning to take those baby steps forward, these ideas can add a squirt of “thrill” into the new, more productive disposition.

      In my last corporate job, I characterized my slow, creative demise as ‘the shrinking, flickering flame of my muse’ about to go out, possibly forever. That recurring image finally provided the important leap away from a well-paying position back to a more creative life.

      Thanks for your story and your ideas.

  4. Tara says:

    I think that I’ve been the most successful at tapping into my strengths when my friends and family encouraged me to do so.

    A couple years ago, I was about 1/2 way through my dissertation. I had completely stalled. So I wrote this lengthy email that described all the steps I HAD completed, and all those I hadn’t. I urged everyone to ask me about my dissertation—they didn’t even have to listen to my answer! Just ask me. Hold me accountable. It totally worked, thankfully.

  5. Vicki O'Dell says:

    I’m in the stuck place right now and trying to figure out where to go from here. I work a creative “day job” that is the equivalent of your coffee shop/bookstore job. The longer I’m with the company the less creative I’m “allowed” to be. Then I come home and I’m so drained of any ideas, energy, emotion to work on my own creative work. UGH! I need the day job to pay the bills but I want to grow my own company. It’s happening, but not as fast as I’d like and that leaves me feeling depressed. The answer is there but I feel like it’s just out of reach.
    Thanks for the article… many ideas to consider. :)

    • Vicki – perhaps have a friend give you an “assignment” with a short deadline, so you can at least start to remember the taste of creative challenge?

      • Vicki O'Dell says:

        Thanks Bruce, I have many deadlines, some related to my business that I consider HARD deadlines and some that are self imposed that I consider SOFT deadlines. As you can imagine I let myself off a little on the SOFT deadlines but the HARD ones I’m kind of anal about. Maybe my problem is that I have too much on my plate? :)

  6. Susan says:

    This is exactly what I needed. I’ve probably started a ton of projects that I end up finding that aren’t what I really want to do, until now – I really want to work on my graphic design craft and sell on Etsy. So I’ve been really focusing on that and so far it has definitely been a challenge. I’ve struggled with inaction for so long, and my breaking point was really just feeling so unaccomplished. Now that I’ve put up some of my work up on Etsy, I’ve felt accomplished and motivated to create or at least think of what to create everyday.

    Your post and those on Scoutiegirl are definitely inspiring and motivating me to push forward. Thanks so much!

  7. Gwyn Michael says:

    Your story resonates with me on many levels. I think I was ahead of my time and did not know how to make that work for me in that time when entrepreneurship was a foreign concept and breaking the mold was unacceptable. Still all my successes came from taking chances and letting my creativity shine. Meeting my husband also bought me back from the brink when I was in my twenties and gave me the freedom to find my way, though it took me a bit longer :-) You are an inspiration always!

  8. Michelle says:

    I too have gotten depressed working at a corporate chain. But sometimes the hardest part is just starting to do the thing that you want. I’m still figuring it out! Thanks for this post :)

  9. Ann says:

    Thank you so much for this article, Tara!
    It has struck a cord within me, not so much on the creative outlet front, but more on the ‘evil cycle of inactivity’.
    I have posted a link on my facebook to this article :)

  10. Ellen says:

    My problem isn’t a lack of creative ideas – it’s the feeling I have now that there is no possible way I could find an appreciative audience for anything I do. There are so many people out there “being creative” on the Internet now, and selling themselves hard, that I’ve lost all confidence that anything I want to do is worth doing. What if I just end up with a room full of dusty paintings, with no one to buy or even appreciate them? This is coming from someone who used to make fairly steady sales of paintings (though not in a style that I really liked to do best). Now I find I’m paralyzed because I feel I can’t compete. I like the stuff I do, but if no one else cares, what’s the point of creating? What if you’re just creating stuff for a landfill that no one is ever going to look at?

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  12. Megan says:

    Wow! I know this is a old post and I don’t know if this comment will even be read but THANK YOU! Not thank you because this post made me feel so much better but thank you because this post helped to put into words and allow me to admit something was wrong. Thank you because I now see how to take steps to slowly get out of this mind numbing rut I fell into. I am going to save this article to read again and again so that I can push myself into action instead of falling over and over again into “paralyzing” inaction. Thanks again!

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