Happiness Project Reflection 2: Creating When You’re Not Inspired

Inspiration_banner_loresHello friends!

I hope you had a lovely week.  Welcome to my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post No. 2!

Have you ever felt like your creative juice had stopped flowing and don’t know if or when it’s coming back?  Felt like you aren’t a “real” artist because you aren’t inspired to draw, paint, write, cook, or make something all the time?  Do you think all the successful creative people wake up every morning full of inspiration and motivation to create?

I used to believe it too.  But you know what?  That is not how it actually works.

No matter how passionate you are, the inspiration and motivation to create don’t always come naturally or freely.  Creation takes work.  It’s about having your own unique voice and experiences and using your skills to turn them into something others can see, touch, taste, hear, smell, feel, and appreciate.

The creative process can be painful at times: you may feel frustration, self-doubt, or disappointment.  You have a vision but what you create doesn’t quite cut it.  You feel even less inspired because what you’ve just created is far from inspiring.

You may have seen/heard this quote from Ira Glass before.  Every time I look at it, I feel humble and reassured.  Everyone feels this way, and it is totally OK.

Poster by Nikki Hampson
Poster by Nikki Hampson

If you love making things just for fun, it is totally cool to wait until the  inspiration hits you.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I know many talented artists who choose not to pursue a career as an artist and are completely happy making art for fun.

But If you really want to turn your passion into a thriving career, then you need to create even when you’re not inspired.

When I made a public commitment to start my 365 day Happiness is project, I knew it was the kick in the pants I needed to keep a daily creative practice going.  On some nights, after I came home exhausted from my day job, I would eat dinner, do the dishes, and sit down at my desk staring at the blank page in my sketchbook without an inspiration.  I would browse the internet hoping an inspiration would hit and end up wasting over an hour reading my friends’ updates on facebook.  On other days, I would have a vision but couldn’t  execute it right.  I would draw, and it would look like crap.  I would whine and moan and feel like a fraud drawing about happiness.  Sometimes I felt like I was squeezing a lemon that had been squeezed 100 times to get just one more drop.

At the end of each day, I still managed to find something to feel happy about and made and shared a drawing every day for 365 days.  And that was so rewarding and worth all the pain and lost sleep!


Are you struggling to create every day?   Do you need a little push to get you going?  Here are some suggestions!

  1. Make your commitment public. Tell your friends and family.  Announce it to your followers on social media. This has been the most effective method for me so far.
  2. Take advantage of the “free” time you already have.  Doodle something while waiting for your drink at a coffee shop.  Create your post-it art collection while listening to a webinar.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.  You just want the creative activity to be part of your everyday life.
  3. Make your goal realistic.  Maybe making an elaborate painting every day isn’t feasible but doing a 15 minute doodle is.  Consistency is more important than having a fancy goal you’re going to quit after 3 days.
  4. Set perimeters and limits for your creative project.  When you have total freedom, you may feel overwhelmed and don’t  know what to do.  Give yourself perimeters like “only draw with black ink” or “draw a cat wearing a suit in 30 different ways”.  After all, creativity is most required when you’re put in a box!  Ask someone to give you a prompt if that’s helpful.  My non-artistic husband is full of interesting prompts when I need them.
  5. Participate in creative challenges ! – there are many challenges out there – I found this article about Instagram Challenges, and Spoonflower has a weekly design contest. Speaking of which, I’m currently participating in a 30 Day Sketch Challenge on Instagram (#MakeWithMe with @janinecrum)  It’s nice to have a group of folks who are working on the same goal, and it’s always inspiring to see different styles of art people create!
  6. Clarify the connection between your daily practice and your long term goal.  I’m realizing this more and more.  When you know how your daily practice (e.g. daily happiness doodle) is helping you achieve your big goal (e.g. be a full-time working artist), it becomes more meaningful and engaging for you.

Remember, your goal should be about creating something on a regular basis, if not daily, even if it doesn’t look perfect or nobody “likes” it.  When you make a bunch of work, chances are, you will find more inspirations from your own work.  It could be the 10th drawing of an apple that turns out just right that makes you want to create a series of drawings of tree fruits.  Or it could be that someone telling you your daily sketch challenge inspired them to do the same.  You just never know until you do it!

Tell me what helps you create when you’re not in a mood.  We all have those days.

I look forward to continuing with my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post next Sunday!

Thanks for reading and take care!

xoxo  Yuko












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