How to Get Out of a Creative Funk

How to Get Out of a Creative Funk

You love putting new and exciting things out into the world. Whether it’s writing, painting, music, or crafts, you have a spark of creativity just itching to burst itself into flames.

Except lately, something has been holding you back. That spark has dimmed into a barely perceptible flicker of light threatening to extinguish itself at any moment.

Your passion for creating is still there somewhere, but it’s buried beneath layers of perfectionism, distraction, and the emotional drain which accompanies your busy life.

Unfortunately, you have passed into the “creative funk,” a place where ideas dry up and the music stops.

First of all, it’s essential to know that EVERYONE who has even one creative bone in their body goes through a creative funk sometimes. No one can be brilliant all the time!

But even knowing that getting into a slump is common doesn’t change the fact that you can feel cranky and frustrated when it does. After all, isn’t getting into the flow of your art one of the best feelings in the world!?

Although going through a slump is disheartening, there are steps you can take to find your inspiration once again. Let’s dive right in so you can start tackling that creative funk of yours!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Free Writing

Even if you’re not a writer, taking time to write down the thoughts surrounding your block can be exceedingly helpful. You don’t even need a fancy journal. All you need is paper, a pen, and a willingness to sit with your thoughts for a few minutes.

Don’t think too hard about your responses. Put pen to paper and write whatever comes to mind. Now is also a great time to bench your inner critic.

Start by asking yourself what you feel right now. Are your feelings, as a whole, positive or negative? Take some time to explore what may be contributing to your current emotional state.

Maybe you’ve been putting in too many hours at work. Or you’ve taken on too many tasks at home. Perhaps you haven’t taken the time you need to indeed rest and recharge.

Then ask yourself what you would rather be feeling. Think about how it feels when you’re at your creative best, and everything simply flows. Are there specific outside factors that help you get to that place of flow? Maybe it’s that one channel on Pandora. Or the corner table at Starbucks, iced cinnamon dolce latte in hand.

Is there a specific time of day when you feel most creative? And how can you arrange your schedule to accommodate creating at that time?

Finally, what inspires you? Is it spending time in nature? Or maybe it’s a chat with your bestie. Perhaps some of your best ideas find you during a long run.

Now it’s time to close the gap between the creative funk and your genius. Go back and read over what you wrote. Take a hard look at those hazy thoughts which once aimlessly bounced around in your head. Start making connections now that those thoughts are staring back at you in black in white on the page.

If you still feel cemented in the mundane, check out my next tip for shaking a creative funk.

Find Inspiration Wherever You Can

Although I tend to take comfort in habits and routines, sometimes they are an absolute buzzkill for your creativity!

New experiences, different ways to do the same old thing, and shaking it up are vital to keeping life fresh. And when life is fresh, creativity flows.

Maybe it’s even time to try a completely new art form. If you’re a writer, have you ever considered learning to play an instrument?

Or if music is your thing, have you ever considered taking one of those evening painting classes? Perhaps a stained glass art class is something that excites you.

Figure out what inspires you right now. Is it time to pick up that partially finished quilting project you started several years ago? Or maybe you need a trip to the craft store to spark some inspiration.

Creativity can come in so many different forms, and sometimes it takes stepping out of your monotonous routine to get those juices flowing again!

For more on getting into the flow, check out this inspiring post!

Seek out Support

If your creative funk persists, perhaps it’s time to consider help. Fortunately, support comes in a multitude of forms.

Maybe it’s time to find a teacher. There have been so many times in the past when my piano playing starts to get stale. I find myself playing the same pieces over and over. And I continue stumbling over the same techniques time after time.

But reaching out to a teacher has given me the exact inspiration I needed to master the technical aspects. And most importantly, it’s reignited my passion for playing.

Help can also come in the form of emotional support from friends. If your friends also have creative inclinations, chances are excellent that they’ve also encountered a creative funk or two. Talking about what you’re going through with someone else can be incredibly cathartic and may be precisely what you need to get your groove back.

And speaking of talking it out, never underestimate the power of therapy. Therapy can be beneficial if you find that the roots of your block run deeper than simply feeling uninspired. Fear of failure, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and other serious issues stunt your creative growth and impact diverse areas of your life. But a therapist can help you work through those issues, freeing your creativity and helping you embrace a more fearless life.

Pay Attention to Your Cycle

I’m a sucker for productivity and feel my best when maximizing my “to-do” list. On the flip side, I feel frustrated and overwhelmed on those days when my level of energy does not match the number of things I need to check off.

And deep down, I’ve always known that having fluctuations in energy is an entirely normal human experience. But it wasn’t until I discovered this book that I realized how to work with my biology.

In her book entitled Do Less, author Kate Northrup unpacks the key difference in productivity between men and women. She asserts that if women embrace the concept of life as a cycle instead of linear, they are in a better position to embrace energy fluctuations. And by embracing instead of fighting energy fluctuations, productivity improves.

Northrup presents a fresh take on productivity. It’s a take that throws guilt out the window and encourages you to reframe your thinking around productivity. She affirms that the path to happiness and peace is paved with “no’s” instead of “yes’s.”

And once you’ve ditched all those obligations, guilty thoughts, and unrealistic expectations, you’d be amazed at how much room is left over for creativity!

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Do Less, click the Amazon link below to revolutionize your life!

Change Up Your Environment

Although I’m not a student of the feng shui movement, I have become very aware that the environment plays a massive role in my creativity. If the space around me is messy and chaotic, my ability to create becomes stunted.

This post wouldn’t have been written if I hadn’t first taken the time to clear my space. Unfortunately, my “office” currently consists of a table in the living room. This table is often littered with toys, homework from the kids, and a litany of miscellaneous items without definite homes.

I attempted to write in this state of general chaos and disarray for several weeks but felt utterly unmotivated and uninspired. Until I took a few minutes to free myself from the clutter. At which time, the words once again began flowing as they do when I’m at my absolute best.

Sometimes overcoming a block means taking a hard look at your surroundings.

Do you ALWAYS work in the same spot at home? Try working on your patio instead. Or maybe, like me, you simply need to clean up your workspace.

Maybe you always sit in the same corner booth at Starbucks. Try checking out the Caribou down the street instead.

There are a million tiny ways to improve your surroundings to facilitate creativity. And if none of the above advice has reversed your creative funk, maybe it’s time to take a break!

Take a Break

Taking a break can be as simple as taking a nap or going for a walk. It could also mean getting out for a round of golf. Or maybe your inspiration will return after finishing that compelling novel you started last week.

Perhaps getting wrapped up in the newest blockbuster thriller will be enough to set you on the path to greatness again.

There are times when your brain needs to step away for a bit to process creativity subconsciously. And even if it seems as if your mind is fully absorbed in the activity, it’s still hashing out that blog post or navigating the technical challenges of the piece you’re perfecting.

The break could be 20 minutes, or maybe you even choose to step away for several days. You are not a machine and are therefore incapable of consistently churning out content without downtime. Embrace the breaks so you can more fully embrace your art!

Are you feeling emotionally drained? Check out this post for help.

Cut Yourself a Break

And speaking of breaks, don’t pressure yourself when you’re not feeling it! When your energy is lacking, cut down on your creative output instead of amping up the pressure on yourself. Try to get creative with your creativity. For example, can you re-purpose anything you’ve previously done if you simply don’t have the energy to create something new?

Or do you have a partially or almost fully completed project that you could put the finishing touches on so you can gain some momentum? Finishing a project can sometimes be enough to propel you away from that creative funk you’ve been battling.

Cutting yourself a break also means freeing yourself from your own judgment. Give yourself the freedom to create something terrible because you never know when it might turn into your greatest masterpiece. In many cases, we are the ones standing in our own way.

Waste Time

And speaking of productivity, if you’re even the tiniest bit of a perfectionist or a mom, it can be easy to get wrapped up in productivity. When your list is a mile long, it’s tempting to pack “productive” activities into every single minute.

For example, you may insist upon listening to podcasts during your commute. Or use the little spare time you have to read books about productivity, time management, and other highly “non-fun” topics.

But eliminating unfocused time from your day might be the very thing killing your creativity.

Your brain needs a lack of structure sometimes to weave together all that genius inside just waiting to be released. Consider this your invitation to waste time.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Go ahead. Watch a few episodes of your favorite telenovela. Laugh your way through the new Kevin Hart movie. Or simply enjoy a stroll through the neighborhood while listening to the playlist of your teenage years.

Just make sure to leave the guilt at home.

If you lack clarity, check out this post to find yourself again.

The 5-Minute Rule

If you’ve tried all of the above and are still hopelessly stuck, here’s the secret weapon for which you’ve been searching. This solution is guaranteed to banish the creative funk you’ve been wallowing in.

The first step is to figure out some type of reward. Maybe it’s an episode of your favorite show. Or perhaps it’s cheesecake from your favorite restaurant. Is it, perchance, a cinnamon dolce latte from Starbucks?

Whatever it is, choose something that feels celebratory to you.

The second step is to tell yourself that you will get the reward if you work for at least 5 minutes. Then set the timer.

Once 5 minutes is up, you can either continue working or move on to the reward. That’s it!

No matter how small, any progress is progress and should be celebrated as such. Reward yourself!

This technique is effective because it gets you out of your head. It forces you to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, brush to canvas, or any number of other creative endeavors. The 5-minute rule compels you to take action instead of lulling you into a false sense of action created by thinking.

And here’s a little-known secret about creativity. In most cases, work comes BEFORE inspiration. And I know we spent a ton of time talking about inspiration today. But the reality of it is that you’ll never feel inspired until you start creating.

You have to get out there, make mistakes, and create some genuinely terrible stuff before you have enough experience to be great. That’s how creativity works. No one gets to be amazing fresh out of the gate.

So don’t sweat it! Stop pressuring yourself. Have fun! Look for ways to fall in love with the journey instead of the destination. And if your interests change over the years, embrace the change. Create in whatever medium feels right to you at the moment.

The most important thing to remember is never to give up! The world needs your unique contribution.

It’s Your Turn

I hope this post inspired you to find new ways to overcome the proverbial creative funk. Take this opportunity to examine your life and figure out whether something more profound contributes to the block. Then work to resolve the issue.

And if there is nothing more profound, consider switching it up! Get out there and have some fun! Talk to new people, try a new hobby, or find a way to waste some time.

Do something that lights you up instead and feels exciting. And you never know where this one tiny step will lead.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below with your comments on this post. How do you overcome a creative funk?

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

Elton John

Music is a gift, as is the ability to create music yourself. And maybe your goal is to deliver a flawless performance to a packed audience. Or perhaps you’re happiest in your living room, content to play only for yourself.

Whatever your piano goals, practice is the difference between achieving success and remaining stagnant. And unfortunately, practice tends to be one of those activities which gets a bad rap.

This is especially true for anyone who has taken piano lessons from a young age. Many parents and piano teachers mistakenly believe forcing kids to practice is the secret to musical success.

Unfortunately, forcing kids to practice often ends in fighting and resentment. Even worse, kids begin to associate the piano with negativity and eventually give it up entirely.

And even if you didn’t take lessons as a child, you may be somewhat mystified when it comes to practice. What is the best way to practice? Does it only mean countless repetitions? Are there secrets to making piano practice more effective and exciting?

These are the exact questions I found myself asking. My piano journey started at the age of 7 and led me toward a baccalaureate degree in music. To this day, I continue to be fascinated by the topic of piano practice.

And I’m constantly searching for the best piano practice techniques. If you’re also looking for ways to upgrade your piano practice, read on!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Preparation

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin

Mindful, inspiring piano practice starts with preparation away from the piano.

Select the Ideal Time

Start by deciding when you will practice. Try to pick a time when you’re at your best, physically and emotionally. As a busy working mom, I realize this is NOT always possible. Just try your best. Then commit to this time by blocking it off in your planner.

It’s also ideal if you select a time with few distractions. Again, my experience as a mom who works full-time contradicts this ideal. My practice sessions are typically peppered with requests to fix toys, wipe tushies, and the occasional work call.

Between being forced to practice when I’m fatigued and the perpetual interruptions, tailoring my expectations has been a necessary part of the journey.

And honestly, the lack of progress due to factors outside my control is frustrating sometimes.

But I’ve learned to be reasonable and give myself grace. I’ve also started planning by taking a few minutes to clarify my practice session. Planning sessions involve setting goals for what I will accomplish today, tomorrow, and throughout the week.

Upgrade your Piano Practice by Setting Goals

Start by listing all the different pieces you’re aspiring to learn. Then brainstorm every little thing that needs improvement in each piece. Now is the time to unleash your love for the details! Nothing is too small to write down.

Is the fingering in measure 34 awkward? Or are you having trouble nailing the trill at the end of that Chopin Nocturne? Do you forget to breathe when you play and, therefore, tense up? Maybe you’d love to work on memorization but have never taken the time before.

List each area where you are seeking improvements.

Once you have it all down on paper, it’s time to figure out a schedule. Consider your time constraints. Remember to be realistic about your time and ability to accomplish goals in a single session. Being practical is especially important if your time constraints are similar to mine! It always feels better to cross everything off a small list than to leave things unfinished on a larger one.

Although time is a crucial factor in the preparation phase, there’s another equally important factor at play; a factor that can also make or break your practice sessions’ effectiveness.

It’s All About Balance

You will find that some piano practice goals are more straightforward to accomplish than others. For example, memorization may require more brainpower than correcting the fingering in a trill.

Therefore, it’s essential to organize your goals by time and consider difficulty. How challenging is each one? And how can you arrange them to maximize your practice time?

Consider tackling one larger goal per day and throwing in one or two smaller ones to balance your session out. Or you could save the more complex tasks for days when you have fewer distractions.

To truly upgrade your piano practice, stack the more challenging task(s) at the beginning of your session, after your warm-up. Organizing your routine this way ensures you’re at your best and can effectively process the practice.

It can also be helpful to do several short practice sessions during the day instead of one long one. Personal experience has taught me that my brain grasps information better in shorter sessions than in longer marathons.

Block off time each week to prepare for the upcoming week’s practice sessions. By taking time to prepare and set goals, you will soon see your piano playing improve dramatically!

Warm-Up

Another often overlooked way to upgrade your piano practice is to warm up at your session’s start.

I know what you’re thinking. Your practice time is limited as it is. Why spend extra time on anything that isn’t a specific goal?

And the answer is that the warm-up is the ideal way to get your mind in the right space. It’s the perfect opportunity to set your intention for practicing.

Warming up also gives your muscles time to adjust to the upcoming session. Whether it’s a Chopin etude, Rachmaninoff prelude, or your favorite pop song, playing the piano requires a certain degree of physical dexterity. It’s the combination between brain and body that ultimately produces a particular sound.

Therefore both the brain and body must be prepared for the session to succeed.

And there are so many distinct ways to effectively warm-up. One of my favorites is to simultaneously play and sing whatever strikes me as fun or appealing at the time. I have found that accompanying myself kicks things off in an entertaining way and makes my entire practice session more enjoyable.

Keep It Fun!

As someone who adores classical piano, I recognize that sometimes, I take myself and my playing way too seriously. On those days when I’m either dreading practice or simply not feeling it, I like to make sure the warm-up is fun! Oddly enough, one of the ways I do this is by singing.

Although you won’t see me headlining Broadway any time soon, I dearly love a catchy show tune. And I’m a sucker for anything by Matchbox Twenty. I especially love accompanying myself because it stretches my brain and keeps practice entertaining.

It brings back the simple joy of creating music my way.

On other days, I warm up by playing scales or various exercises to work on technique. You may also consider pulling concepts out of the pieces you’re working on to use as a warm-up.

The possibilities are endless, so see where your creativity leads!

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of my favorites.

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Upgrade Your Piano Practice Through Memorization

Before studying piano in college, I admittedly had done very little memorization. It was somewhat of a foreign concept. And it was incredibly intimidating at first.

It wasn’t until after college that I became genuinely interested in memorization. Don’t get me wrong. I did plenty of memorizing in college but never truly embraced it.

After college, I took a job in a completely different field that I didn’t particularly care for, and playing the piano became my escape. Ironically, although I no longer had access to the college practice room grand pianos, I was more motivated to practice than I had ever been.

At that point in my life, memorization became more of a game and less of a graduation requirement. It’s interesting how much more appealing something becomes when no one is forcing you to do it.

And I suddenly realized how memorizing a piece of music could make the piece a part of you in a way that reading from a score can’t. Musical expression, phrasing, and dynamics suddenly come alive as all your focus goes toward playing instead of the sheet music.

Although memorization takes practice in and of itself, it’s absolutely worth it! And in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to instantly upgrade your piano practice!

Memorization Tips and Tricks

Whether you aspire to perform a Rachmaninoff concerto someday or whether you want to impress your friends, memorization is a tool that can close the gap between dream and reality.

And although it may seem difficult at first, there are a few tips to make the process a bit smoother. The first is to start with songs well below your playing capability. Memorization is a tricky skill to learn when you’re also struggling with technique and artistry. And if it’s a piece you can sight-read correctly (or nearly so) at first glance, even better!

The second trick I use is to memorize one measure at a time. And there are many times when I don’t even start at the beginning of the piece. Sometimes it’s beneficial to start either at the very end of the piece itself or the beginning of a particular section of the piece.

If you always memorize only from the beginning of the piece and you have a memory lapse (which is, by the way, completely normal!), it can be difficult to start again mid-piece. But if you are constantly working to build your memory starting at various places throughout the piece, picking up anywhere will be easier.

The third tip for those new to memorizing music is to keep your memorization sessions very short. I’m talking about a maximum of 5 minutes. Learning new skills, especially memorization, requires a great deal of focus. If your sessions are too long, your brain can quickly become overwhelmed, and memory lapses can take over, stalling progress and leading to frustration.

If you would like to start incorporating memorization into your practice sessions, make sure you check out this post.

It’s Your Turn to Upgrade Your Piano Practice

Whether you’ve now resolved to prepare for practice sessions in advance or to starting memorizing your music, I genuinely hope this post has inspired you to upgrade your piano practice! As someone who has played the instrument for upwards of 20 years, I can assure you that your desire to practice will ebb and flow at times.

It’s normal to go through periods in your life when you’re so motivated to practice that it’s difficult to peel yourself away from the keyboard. And it’s just as normal to have others when you couldn’t feel less compelled to sit down at the bench.

It’s easy to show up when your motivation is high, and you feel like practicing. But continuing to show up, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, is the mark of a true musician.

Motivation comes and goes, but you can also instantly upgrade your piano practice by creating foolproof systems to get you closer to your goals. For more on setting goals and creating habits, check out this post dedicated to the topic. I guarantee you won’t look at either goals or habits the same way again!

Although there are seasons in life when you may learn piano independently, there are others when getting instruction from a teacher is key to continued improvement. If you’re currently searching for a teacher, make sure you visit my resource page for online teachers with current openings in their studios. This list includes a diverse range of teachers with diverse backgrounds and specialties, but all have a passion for teaching and helping students accomplish their goals.

And if you’re searching for a complimentary program for your classical piano training, don’t miss out on the ProPractice course created by Dr. Josh Wright. It’s absolutely the best and most thorough instruction on a wide variety of pieces from the classical piano repertoire. If you’ve never heard of the course, click here to read about my experience and the reasons why you’re missing out by not investing in this incredible resource.

As always, I would love to hear from you! Drop a comment below with your thoughts on this post. Where are you on your piano journey? What are the best ways you’ve found to upgrade your piano practice? And what are your struggles with learning piano, either independently or with a teacher?

Until next time, stay healthy, stay safe, and never stop learning!