Get out of a creative slump

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.' - Vincent van Gogh

You’re slogging through life when you realize you haven’t made anything for months. You’re in a creative slump. Haven’t picked up your needles, a pencil, a paintbrush… whatever tools you use for your usual choice of creation. Or maybe you’ve been picking up that pencil, but nothing happens. You knit for like 5 minutes a day but just feel bored or discouraged.

Something is holding you back but you have no idea what. You lost the spark for your craft.

I’ve been feeling that kind of creative slump lately. (Could you tell? Seeing as how I haven’t updated this blog since April.)

A few weeks ago, on a day where I was trying to pep-talk myself into working harder on my next knitting pattern, my sister called me to ask for a new website for her new business as a life coach. We decided to trade services instead of paying each other in money. Three weeks into working with her, I’ve gone from feeling like a creative failure to a rockstar.

Hello kitty
Playing with paint and shading techniques

So what happened?

In our sessions, we talk about goals, what I need to do to achieve them, why I want to achieve them, what might hold me back from achieving them and what I can do about that. Because creativity is such a big part of my identity and is tied directly to my being able to successfully create more than one knitting pattern in my entire life, that’s where we have been focusing.

I had been dragging my feet while trying to finish up my latest pattern. I used to write a lot but I hadn’t had an idea for a blog post in forever. And drawing and painting – lawl. What are those? I had actually given up that part of my identity in my head.

I realized my problem wasn’t only with being in a creative slump when it came to knitting, it was an issue in all aspects of my creativity. The solution I decided to test out was to just start creating for the sake of creation. I figured I could make a “creativity habit” to get my brain to start thinking creatively every day.

Wish fulfilling jewel
Painted to remind myself to be mindful and compassionate

But what was the block? Why wasn’t I just doing all of the things I loved to do, like knitting, painting and writing?

Stories we tell ourselves

Our actions are often based on the stories we tell ourselves. Stories about who we are and the world around us. They can stop us from doing the things we want to do and from becoming who we want to be. By identifying these stories, we can start to notice when they’re holding us back and work to change them.

What are some of the stories that hold me back?

  • I tell myself that I’m not a productive member of society if I’m just playing around and creating things for the sake of creating.
  • I tell myself that the only things worth doing create something useful. This is probably the reason I began crocheting and knitting in the first place.
  • I tell myself I can no longer draw or paint, so there’s no reason to waste the money on materials.
  • I tell myself that creating for the joy of it should only be done as a reward after doing ‘real work’.
Intuitive painting
More intuitive painting on days I just didn’t know what to paint

The plan to get out of my creative slump

I would get up an hour early (I’m a morning person), get to my easel and paint whatever came to mind for an hour.

I imagined what it would be like to stand in front of the canvas, how it would feel when I was done and got totally psyched about that feeling. Initially, I imagined I would just paint a bunch of strokes on the canvas with no end goal, mostly because I was still afraid I ‘couldn’t paint’. It was something I hadn’t done for a long time, so there was an excitement to it, but also an old comfort. I imagined I would feel like I was coming back to myself.

Before starting, I worked through a few issues I had with painting – like wasting materials on a crappy painting. “If I enjoy myself, it’s not a waste. I can always paint over it.”

I was also just afraid to create a bad painting in general – what if someone saw it? “So, what if someone did? What would happen? The world wouldn’t end and I still would feel good knowing I at least showed up.”

If only masters of a craft practiced the craft… well, there would be no masters to begin with.

Intuitive painting
Toxic waste? Or intuitive painting? 🙂

I have been showing up for the past three weeks. I have started 5 paintings (some good, some not so good), miniatures (nerdy and creative), and bought supplies to dye yarn because playing with colors on canvas made me realize I would really love playing with colors on yarn. I started following whatever got me excited, or to steal a line from Tara Swiger, I was ‘exploring my enthusiasm’. Oh, and also, my pattern is ready for tech editing.

Painting every day helped me feel like I was getting back to my old creative self – the teenager who would draw and paint because she wanted to, not worried about whether she was being productive or not. And that feeling gave me a spark of energy I hadn’t had in a while.

Half-finished painting of trees
Not quite done

So what can you do if you’re feeling not-so-creative?

First, identify your stories.

What are you telling yourself either consciously or subconsciously that is stopping you from practicing your craft or being fully invested in it? Pay attention to your thoughts for a few days and see what comes up.

Create counter-stories

Once you’ve identified them, come up with some counter-stories for each one.

For example, for my first story, “I’m not a productive member of society if I’m just playing around and creating things for the sake of creating“, I have created a counter-story:

“I value art for art’s sake. I value artists and designers and all they create whether it is practical or just beautiful, so I value my own time to create practical or impractical things.”

I also know that story has something to do with what I think others might think of the way I spend my time. So I add a little “eff everyone else” to the end of that story. My values, my time. Please don’t waste your time on what you think others think. They probably don’t even care.

Then become aware of when you’re telling yourself these stories so you can actively counter them with your new story. Believe your new story. Repeat it often and let it become your story.

Start acting, pick your craft, pick a time, go for it!

While you’re working on identifying your stories and coming up with counter-stories, start imagining new or old ways you’d like to work on your creativity.

Kate from A Playful Day goes on a walk with her camera to spark her creativity.

Maybe you like to bake, so commit to baking every few days while altering the recipe in some new way. Pick up one of those fancy new coloring books for adults. Watercolor. Try sculpting. If you’re a knitter, maybe challenge yourself to some small, quick knits – hats, chunky scarves, etc…

If nothing comes to mind, what kind of crafts did you do as a kid or teenager because you thought it was fun?

Are there crafts you know nothing about but really want to try? Give yourself permission to buy the materials and get started. Follow your enthusiasm!

Imagine yourself doing this craft, where are you going to do it? How does it feel? What time of day is it?

Is there something that can get in the way of practicing this craft every day and if so, what is it and how can you remove the obstacle. Work out those obstacles and get to it!

But what if I’m still stuck?

Hopefully you just go for it, start creating and feel super awesome about it. But if there’s something still holding you back, start to think about why you want to be creative. Is there an end-goal? Or is it more about being your true self? Really think about it and imagine yourself where you want to be. Get excited about being there and your actions will follow.



lalylala’s Whimsical Winter Amigurumi Pattern Set

Lalylala 4 Seasons Winter Amigurumi

When I saw this set of 4 Seasons Winter amigurumi patterns on Ravelry, I squeed with joy! lalylala designs very whimsical, unique amigurumi patterns that I adore and these are no exception. My favorite amigurumi of the set is Heinz the stag, but the pine cone and snowman are equally adorable.

As lalylala states in the description, these three winter-inspired toys would make delightful Christmas ornaments! I know there are many (many many many) haters out there who think those of us who start celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving should be locked in a closet. I am one of those people that has been listening to Christmas music for the past few weeks and I think spending the holiday weekend crocheting up some of these little guys as ornaments would be the perfect after-Thanksgiving dinner treat. (Less calories, too!)

Something that draws my eye to these amigurumis beyond their cute little faces is the shine on cotton yarn. They are crocheted with Catania from Schachenmayr. I’ve never used this yarn but I’m definitely tempted to add it to my ridiculous stash now.

Check out lalylala’s blog for more patterns, whimsical illustrations, and other inspirations!

Brooklyn Tweed’s Fall 2015 Lookbook

Willamette Scarf from the Brooklyn Tweed Lookbook

Brooklyn Tweed released their gorgeous Fall 2015 Lookbook today and it’s focused around one of my favorite things: The Pacific Northwest! Since they’ve moved their offices to Portland, I guess they’re feeling a bit inspired. I know the feeling.

The lookbook is beautiful and makes me want to pack up my needles and knit in Oregon somewhere.

Brooklyn Tweed's Quarry in Lazulite colorway
Brooklyn Tweed’s Quarry in Lazulite colorway

They have also released a new line of yarn: Quarry – a beautiful, bulky yarn that comes in the loveliest, earthy colorways! I’m a sucker for roving-style yarn and this one is sourced from Targhee-Columbia sheep in Wyoming, dyed in Philadelphia and spun in New Hampshire, keeping the process all in the US. It will definitely have a spot on my holiday wishlist!

Volunteering: Giving a bit of myself

Confession #1: Unfortunately, I used to view volunteering as the giving up of free time. Not wanting to give up my free time, I did not volunteer in the last 10 years while I had a full-time job. Yep. It’s out there; my shame is known.

We’re in a bit of a lull as far as traveling goes and though I’m filling my time with blogging, illustrating and knitting, I wanted to make sure I was contributing to the happiness and compassion of the world. I know I sound like a head-in-the-clouds hippy but that’s what I want to do with my life. I knew I needed to start volunteering.

Confession #2: I am an introvert. One of my worries about volunteering was that there would be a lot of talking and social interaction with a lot of strangers which generally just wears me out. I was thinking of situations like serving dinner at a soup kitchen or what John does: talking to hospice patients and family all day.

After spending five minutes on the VolunteerMatch website, I realized that not all volunteer opportunities are front-line, social situations. So I started scouring VolunteerMatch for volunteer opportunities having to do with the environment and animals and have started filling up my calendar.

I spent this weekend volunteering and now I really wish that I would have seen volunteering as an activity worthy of my free time rather than as something that was taking it away. I realize now that if I had found volunteering opportunities that aligned with my values, it would not have felt like I was losing my free time.

Air Potato Raid

John and I volunteered at an air potato raid this past Saturday at Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte, Florida. Not only was it fun but we helped remove one of the many invasive plant species in the area.

According to the park ranger, 1/3 of the plants we see in Florida are not actually native to Florida. Some of the non-native plants don’t do much harm but others, like the air potato, choke out other plants and grow out of control.

Man with a bag of air potatoes hiding behind a saw palmetto
John tromping through Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte Springs, removing air potatoes!
125 lbs of air potatoes

There were about 15 volunteers and we collected what seemed like a lot of air potatoes. The ranger told us that when they first started doing the air potato raids years ago, they would have about a 100 volunteers and would collect 2000 lbs of air potatoes. Because of the regularity of the raids and the introduction of the lily beetle that eats air potatoes, the amount of potatoes found has been reduced dramatically.

We learned something new and got to run around in the forest searching for and picking air potatoes. I’m not sure why, but I felt like volunteering was going to feel like a chore. I guess you just have to find the right thing.

CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm

On Sunday, John, my sister, her boyfriend, and I went to CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm to volunteer our time.

I didn’t find CJ Acres through VolunteerMatch, but through Facebook… while searching for random farms to follow on Facebook. (I know, I’m a dork, but I’m seriously interested in the goings-on of fiber farms — sheep, alpacas, etc….) I liked them on Facebook because I liked what they were doing for animals and this past week they posted a volunteer opportunity.

Jessy with George the horse
Jessy and George the horse

I didn’t realize that CJ Acres was 2.5 hours away from us before I signed us all up to volunteer there but I’m glad I didn’t know beforehand because it probably would have stopped us from a very fun and rewarding day.

Weirdo taking a selfie with a sheep
Me, ridiculously trying to take a selfie with Moses, the sheep

CJ Acres is a non-profit, volunteer-run farm that takes in abused and abandoned farm animals and rehabilitates them to be adopted to a new home. We spent our day with a bunch of new volunteers and permanent volunteers, as well as a co-founder of the farm, Lee. Lee has been rescuing farm animals for the past 30 years while working his day job in advertising.

Moses pretended to like me but he really just wanted more crackers.

The farm is just a happy, fun place full of animals being animals.

For three hours, we put hay in pig’s shelters for beds, shoveled horse poop (not as awful as I expected), cleaned out water troughs, and socialized with the animals to help them become more desirable for adoption.

Petting a turkey
Mike and Summer petting Thomas the turkey – he made the cutest little noises and flirted with everyone

It was really rewarding helping out the animals who had, for one reason or another, been abandoned or mistreated. And it didn’t feel like work.

We’ll definitely be putting in more volunteer hours here.

On CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm!
On CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm!

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

I am a bird lover and watcher. We put out food for the birds in our backyard and I let ugly bird-feeding bushes grow up around my backyard to give the birds extra food and shelter. I’ve been an Audubon Society donor for the past 10 years to help them succeed in their mission to make the world a better place for birds. I posted about the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey two years ago during my design challenge because I love what they do and it’s really cool to get up close and personal with the birds.

To continue on my quest of becoming the ultimate bird lover, I’ll be starting regular volunteer hours at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. The center rehabilitates raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures) for release back into the wild or keeps them safe if they can’t be released. I’ll be feeding raptors on Tuesdays and cleaning out aviaries on Fridays!

I hope this post inspires you to look for volunteer opportunities that you can do in your free time that you’ll love doing. Use VolunteerMatch to find nearby opportunities or just start with organizations that you already donate to.