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Creativity Blues

Hi All, It seems every year about this time I get what I call the
creativity blues, otherwise known as burnout. After racing from
show to show and trying in between to build inventory with great
designs at great prices that people will buy, by the end of December
and January I go completely blank and can’t think of a single thing
worth making. Around the end of January I begin to panic as I see
show dates drawing near. Eventually I come out of my stupor but by
that time I am really under pressure to start turning it out. Every
year I tell myself that I am not going to go into this lapse but it
seems I have no control. I am wondering if anyone else out there
experiences this and if so what they do to counteract it and get
back in the groove?? It is especially bad this year!!! Any

G. in Cleveland

Grace, is it possible, given that your creativity stupor is centered
around the winter solstice, that you are suffering to some degree
from Seasonal Affective Disorder? SAD (so aptly named) is more
common the further one is from the equator. 85% of those diagnosed
are women. The most common form of treatment is to sit in front of a
"light box" for at least a half hour per day (these boxes produce
bright light, up to 10,000 lumens.) Going for walks outdoors during
daylight hours also can help.

If the problem is just getting “stuck,” creatively, sure, it happens
to me. One thing that helps is getting “fuel.” Either going to an
art show or museum, or getting out in nature, seeing things that are
beautiful and inspiring. “Soul food,” in a different sense of the

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

Grace, I am sure this list will have some wonderful thoughts for you.
They always do. Before I add my thoughts I just want to let you know
that I am also a Personal Coach w/ several certifications in hypnosis
and NLP along w/ some other training. And if you ever need to
consult off-line I would happy to do so. These ideas are the results
of my training and may or may not be applicable to you. Also, you are
poviding a limited amount of and I will make certain
assumptions perhaps some of them are correct and perhaps some of them
are not. My first request to you would be for you to perhaps consider
that this is very useful cycle for you. Your mind and body work
together to do this amazing amount of work through the holiday season
and then ask for a little bit of time off to renew themselves. When
you stress your body or your brain to high levels your mind-body will
automatically try and renew itself. And a simple and elegant way for
it to do so is to demand a little bit of time off to allow some
healing or downtime. When people don’t take time to renew from
mental or physical stress they potentially could create greater
physical or mental health risks. Imagine running a marathon every day
w/o a break. You have developed a natural routine that protects you,
consider honoring it. Consider if you haven taken any time to thank
your conscious, your unconscious and your body for their hardwork
doing the season. Perhaps, you can find additional ways to restore
yourself from those draining times. Get a massage, a small
mini-vacation, even a single day off can be extremely useful, go to
the movies. Enjoy, revel in it. This is my day to do nothing. To
renew yourself. Spend time w/ someone important to you. Do
something simple and foolish, whatever is appropriate your mind and
body, your creative side will come up w/ a wonderful suggestion is
just right for what you need. For creativity, go over some of your
old creations, remember the different stages, how you first thought
of the idea, the different stages, what might you have done
differently. There maybe useful stuff in here and some stuff that
is less useful so dwell on the good stuff. Look over old jewelry
catalouges, books for inspiration. Go to a museum, art exhibit,
etc. What has inspired you in the past, where have you been inspired
in the past, where/what might inspire you in the present or the
future During it all, don’t fight the fact your a little less
inspired then usual, more importantly know you’ve always come out of
it, and will again. There is an extremely simple process that you can
use to literally link any feeling such as creativity to a
picture/sound/touch inside or outside your head. In NLP this is
called “anchoring” and the process can be easily searched on the
web. It is simple Pavlovian training and it is something as humans we
do all the time. If you know a couple who has ever had “their song”,
that particular piece of music is an “anchor” or trigger for a
particular feeling they have about each other. Both positive and
negative feelings can be anchored. Make a picture in your head of a
person you don’t like and you’ll get that negative feeling.
Anchoring is also the process by which advertisers try and rope us in
all the time, or the process you use every time you try and make a
memorable logo for your business, when the person sees the logo they
should remember you or your work.

My other main suggestion would be to concentrate on what you want,
not what you don’t want. Often the unconscious mind does not
understand the concept of “not” doing something. The old adage comes
to mind of “don’t think of pink elephants” and the first thing the
mind does is to make a picture of a pink elephant and then try and
remove it. Focus on what you want instead. Imagine someone instead
of saying “I don’t want to fail this test” and making a picture of
themself failing first, they say “I want to pass”, and then they make
a picture of what they want. For someone in your situation, they
might normally say “I don’t want to be stuck…”, instead they might
say “I want to be creative again” or something like this. The
feeling or combinations of feelings that are useful for you in any
situation are totally different for each individual. And your
positives should be concrete, positive, acheivable goals or feelings.
I hope some of this is useful or helps spark a wealth of
useful ideas for you or for this list in their offerings to you. Joel

Sure, we all get the Creativity blues. Howevedr, a fellow artist
has a marvelous recommendation for burnout. She says that all she
has to do is to look at her dwindling bank account and it is
amazing how quickly t he blues give way to a burst of energy. As for
me, I just begin doodling an d playing around with ideas with no
concern as to their marketability, jus t making things that I like,
that I have never tried before, and that I enj oy making. Somehow out
of this muddle, there are times that I have been fortunate enough to
come up with items that really appeal to my custome rs. Alma

I go through this each January as well. I usually try to get myself
back into the swing in time for Valentine’s Day but real purpose and
production don’t usually ramp back up until March for me. These
last two years have been particularly hard because business is soft
and people are not buying the big pieces as much as in the past.
This year I decided that I would give myself a structured break from
making jewelry and have used the whole month of January to knit hats.
I use a lot of textile techniques in my metal work so it’s been a
pleasure to work with something so easy as yarn. I’ve had a good
time thinking about color and texture while giving my hands a rest
from their usual rigors. Once a week I will pick up my sketchbook
and make notes about a particular colorway or structure and how I
might achieve it in metal, but I don’t push for long and I don’t go
any where near my studio. I think a break from our usual work is
good idea.

Best Wishes,
Genevieve Hunt
New Bedford, Massachusetts

G in Cleveland - Sounds like Seasonal Affective Disorder; I get it
sometimes, at the very same season of the year. There are a number
of therapies for it, some involving special light, some special
vitamin supplementation (the truly wealthy travel to sunnier climes
in that season). Basically, the short-light season of the year
throws some of us into what amounts to seasonal depression! I have
ended up using certain amino acid supplements after reading that
solution in Andrew Weil’s newsletter. If you do a web-search on
seasonal affective disorder you will likely find lots of

Jim Small
Small Wonders Lapidary

Hi Grace, I think we’re all so manic before and during the Holidays,
it only makes sense we should feel exhausted physically and
creatively. Give yourself a break!

I spend time in January looking through lots of magazines, reading
lots of new books and going to museums and galleries. It’s exciting
to see what others have been doing. I try to re organize so when
inspiration strikes, I’m ready!

Take care.

After years of forcing myself to work each January, feeling burned
out after a very busy season (my busy season lasts from August
through Christmas without a letup) I finally decided to plan to take
January off and do something completely different, usually home
improvement of some sort. I look forward to my winter project each
year as if it’s a vacation.

Actually I have a few commissions I’ve agreed to do this month. I’ve
finished one and have two in progress, but the one that takes some
serious designing I find myself almost unable to begin, at least
yet. I’ve made sketches and take them out every now and then, but
it’s just going to have to wait until there’s more than a gram of
creativity built up. Until then it’s bookcases and painting. I’m
just still too burned out. But the new bookcase is looking great.

Janet Kofoed

I have found the writings of Julia Cameron (The Artist Way, Vein of
Gold, etc) and the techniques from her books help me keep my
creativity at a flow. Of course ideas and creativity is just one of
those things that ebbs as well as flows. Keeping a journal and
writing down the “extra ideas” in the flow period can help to go back
and refer to during the ebb or dry spells.

Barb Baur

 G in Cleveland - Sounds like Seasonal Affective Disorder; I get it
sometimes, at the very same season of the year. 

Dr. Christiane Northrup recommends both dietary and light therapy.
For light therapy, she specifically recommends this company…

…because their light boxes are of such high quality, with
magnetic shielding, etc. I have mine turned on at the moment.
Because of this type of light, I’m not experiencing the usual
depression and dwindling creativity that previous inversions have
brought. (We haven’t seen the sun in these parts in many a day

Although I’ve always taken nutritional supplements, and still do, it
is the light box that has really kept our lives normal, happy and
healthy this dreary, dark winter. I also have their computer light
over my monitor and it makes a huge difference. And two of my lamps
carry their special bulbs. (I hope to be able to afford to replace
additional bulbs as time goes by.)

As an artist, my eyes are terribly important to me, and I can’t
recommend this company highly enough to anyone who uses their eyes
in their work, and values their sight. This kind of light is
healthier year-round than the bulbs you buy at the grocery store.

Best wishes,
Adrienne Swenson

" ~and I don't go any where near my studio.  I think a break from
our usual work is good idea." 

Genevieve’s answer caught my eye, regarding taking a break from
(her) usual work, etc. For some reason, I have been feeling sort of
disconnected lately from the ‘real’ business of life and following
some sort of ‘gravitaional pull’ toward other, older pursuits, namely
writing and drawing/painting. I’m also finding myself in galleries
and bookstores, as well as rediscovering my own long-ignored
’library’, in the last few weeks, taking in the creativity of other
artists and writers/poets. This is the stuff that has been shelved
for forever, it seems, in deference to the time and attention
required to make my living and just to be present for the
requirements of so-called Life. However - something has been going
on these last few weeks… (And I am relieved to see that it isn’t
just me with the January Syndrome…) I really don’t have the luxury
to play hooky, metally or otherwise - but, evidently, something is
compelling me to do it anyway. So, for once, I’m going with it. I’m
taking it on faith that this is a necessary thing for Right Now, and,
for once, I had better pay attention. Just as an athlete requires
cross training to be at peak performance, I think it is also true for
our creative capacities. This is entirely normal in many societies
and other times, all but lost to our own, save for a few golden souls
with bottomless energy and focus whom we call “Renaissance
Men/Women”. It’s a frustration and an effect of the pressures and
insensitivity of our attention-deficient, contemporary society which
seeks to compartmentalize people in general, but especially artists.
(Why should it necessarily surprise people when an actor, for
example, is also an extraordinary artist - and/or poet?)

We need to see with fresh eyes, once in awhile, and flex different
muscles, physically and mentally, so to be able to come back to our
primary work with renewed enthusiasm and refreshed imagination. It’s
just that most of us don’t give ourselves the permission to do it
until we’re so burned out that there’s nothing left for anything or

Every so often, you really need to refill the well.

Margery Epstein

   Hi All, It seems every year about this time I get what I call
the creativity blues, otherwise known as burnout.  I am wondering
if anyone else out there experiences this and if so what they do to
counteract it and get back in the groove??  

Well, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus: “. .
.and now, for something completely different. . . .”

Do try something completely different - different than trying to
make jewelry!

To jump-start the creativity cycle or to bypass the burnt-out
circuits you need to “re-fill” your well of ideas. It’s especially
helpful to do something physical and get a change of scenery. -Head
out for a walk each day and vary the route you take.

-Go bowling or dancing or clean house (NOT the studio . . yet)

-Change the CD’s, tapes, station, etc so you can hear some different
music - moving music(drums, salsa?) or classical or jazz to
stimulate different areas of the brain. Check out the archives for
ideas - there was an extensive discussion of studio tunes a few
months ago.

-Find an interesting recipe (newspaper or online) for something
you’d like to try and make a special dinner. Serve it attractively,
even (especially) if you’re dining alone. How about a flower in a
bud vase?

-Read that book you thought sounded interesting. Get a gardening
magazine and enjoy the colors and composition.

This is a time that calls for treating your artist and yourself with
some special tenderness and treats. Better than a bandaid for a
boo-boo and soon you’ll find yourself itching to play with stones

Many of my suggestions have come from exercises encountered in Julia
Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”

Good luck.

I try not to let the dullness get to far by using some pick-me-ups:
I keep a lot of little white paper pads and pencils near anyplace
where I rest. Usually the casualness of the moment allows for less
pressure and more mind-wandering. I just sketch until a few pages
are filled. When I look them over, much later, even I am surprised!
Then I can fine tune a piece, look for the findings,
and give it a try. Best wishes, june

	. . . Sounds like Seasonal Affective Disorder; 

Jim, I have this too. Didn’t know what it was until I moved from
the Midwest to Mesa, Arizona.

The sunshine and light induced a wonderful high that lasted
virtually two years. I have a few bad days occasionally - like when
it rains for more than 2 or 3 days in a row - but when the light
returns, I do too. :slight_smile:


I doubt there’s an artist alive who doesn’t suffer from creativity
blues (though I’ve not heard it described by those terms before - but
very appropos). I find that turning to a different art form for a
short while usually does the trick for me. I go back to painting, or
decorating or some such thing and inevitably find that something in
that activity will retrigger the jewelry button and I’m off and


It seems every year about this time I get what I call the
creativity blues, otherwise known as burnout.  After racing from
show to show ... 

Boy do I know about creativity blues! Every year I have promised
myself that I would take off a couple of weeks and then get my butt
back into the studio and be productive no matter what. But it never
seems to happen that way. Trying to force the issue just seems to
make it worse. Then…I get a call about a private class from a
friend of one of my former students. Now THAT is motivating. I have
no choice - I have to clean up the studio. And once I’m back in
there, sorting through the misc. jump rings and half finished ideas,
the spark comes back! The juices begin to flow - I get an idea on
how to deal with that bracelet that just didn’t seem to be going
right and any number of unfinished projects that I lay my hands on.
And things start clicking and I’m off and running.

If that doesn’t work for you - or if you don’t have someone elses
demands to motivate you or need a pick-me-up now and then - here are
some other suggestions:

Spend an afternoon at an art gallery. Do something creative in
another media - even if it’s messing with a lump of clay. Play with
your (or someone elses) cat or dog. Read “A Creative Comanion” or
"Eat Mangos Naked" by Sark. Make a snowman or a sandcastle -
depending on where you live.

I think the important thing is NOT TO PANIC. Recognize that we all
need a bit of down time - it really makes us better in the end.
Gives us a new perspective. The secret is to not let the down time
take over.

If anyone else has any ideas on rekindling the creative spark -
please share them. I bet we can all come up with a great list!

Sharon Jeter

Creativity Blues, I find myself in this hole on occasion. I am not
in the position to sell just the art pieces I make so I have been
developing a production line which bends the creativity in a
different way. Also the business keeps me creative, business is
fascinating and an area where all the creativity I can muster is
challenged. Technique is another area I explore to get back into the
game, try a new technique and see where it takes you. Beautiful
stones are another spur in my side to be inspired. I feel I have so
many areas to attack, I have never had a lack of opportunity, just
the the means to take advantage of them comes and goes. Giving to
the advancement of the craft is another good area, teaching,
volunteering for Orchid, or just posting is another inspiration. Get
outside yourself, shitcan all your assumptions, laugh at yourself,
give it a go.

Sam Patania, Tucson

I am extremely grateful to all the people who wrote in their
suggestions on how to tackle those NASTY ‘blues’. All really good
advice too! It’s as if by some magic, more realistically that
people commiserate and go through the very same thing. and are willing
to talk about it . but yesterday I woke up and just knew I was going
to work on jewelry. I designed 6 pendants . and it was fun!!!
Intellectually I recognize the importance of down time - it’s not
allowing the guilt and other pressures to disrupt the natural flow –
that is the trick isn’t it.

Thanks everyone for sharing. Grace (in snowy, blustery, but
actually quite beautiful for the moment Cleveland)

I have been struggling with this particular affliction for several
months and am just starting to get back in the swing of things. I
moved across the country and bought a house, and my creative
energies were totally consumed with the house and also drained by
being detached from what had been feeding them (i.e., the great
music to be found in Boston and the love and support of my friends).
To get rolling again, I did a few things:

First, instead of bemoaning my lack of creative juice, I spent my
time doing the mundane stuff that I knew I’d be grateful was done
once the creativity returned such as drawing wire, milling sheet,
organizing my files, etc…

Second, I set up my “creative space”–I have a spot that is
dedicated to my creative process. I set out all of my stones in a
manner that they are all visible and decorate in a way that is
inspirational (for me, that means filling the space with plants,
candles, flowers, and objects/images that symbolize the divine to

Third, I remind myself (continuously) that creativity has an ebb and
flow, and I work to retain my faith that it will flow again.

Finally, I do something that I find INCREDIBLY tedious and boring,
like sit in on a lecture on economics or a city council meeting. I
bring my sketchbook with me. I find that once the mind has been
sufficiently numbed, creativity comes out to play…

How true about production pieces. The art pieces are about pure
creativity. Bottom line is only a small concern compared to creating
something you truly can be proud of. Putting pieces into production
forces you to be creative in your thinking. It is necessary to
adjust the ‘vision’ with some reality so that you can make your
living while hitting comfortable price points. I think the true ‘art
market’ is limited, at least compared to the market for production
items. I can’t make any kind of living off of my prime pieces, but
my production line, small as it is, provides a fair contribution to
my overall income. Being that most of it is wholesale, I have to get
really creative sometimes to make a profit and still have pieces that
will move.