What to do when creativity left the building

11:10 AM

We creative creatures are a strange species. We can be engaged in non stop creativity to the point of loosing sleep for weeks, and then suddenly find ourselves waking up without a purpose for another few weeks.

Science seems to confirm that is all has to do with how a creative brain is wired, and that those periods of creative lows are unavoidable and probably a necessary break in the system to allow the body and mind to get some rest after a period of almost manic creative high. If you aren't creative, you will not understand the struggle, but it is real people!

In fact it is so real a struggle that ancient Greeks felt the need to devote 9 Goddesses to task of inspiring all those relying on creativity for a living: the Muses. Muses that were worshipped in exchange for inspiration by musicians, painters, actors and even scientists. Yes! Science was considered a creative art (and rightly so)

The real problem with the sudden low down in creative juice is that when you make a living, or made a point to showcase that creative talent publicly, you can't really afford to suddenly wake up one morning and forced to explain the crazy demons you are battling internally to people that decided that your creative input is like an ATM dispensing what they need at the press of a button at any time of day and night. And, again, the Greek understood that before us too. But worshiping ancient Goddesses you are likely not to believe into might not be the thing to do.

Fortunately there are things that are more sensible in our days and times, and which will yield some results still:

Prepare yourself for rainy days
I know it is a hard thing to do, I struggle with it at time (ok often). But it pays off to save some of  your projects for when you have nothing to blog about anymore. As tempting as it is to just post ALL of your creative projects right after the other, DON'T! Save a few for later. Nobody will know that you made those cute little painted pots, or that stunning frame weeks ago, they will be just glad to see it.

Write lists
I found that even if I am in the mood to create absolutely nothing, I still get my ya ya out of making lists of what I want to do one day. And I use said lists all the time. To the point of even finding a few things I want to do on my down low.

Change your scenery
It doesn't have to be going on an exotic and expensive vacation (though it never hurts). But sometimes just working in a different location will help you snap out of that creative rut. Can't write anything productive and coherent at home? Head to your local cafe, or park, or the library instead.

Go for a long walk
Dealing with the creative block monster is very frustrating. The best way to deal with frustration is to work it out. I got a lot of my best ideas while walking the pent up frustration away. Some like Swimming, others like running, some will play video game. I think the idea is to engage the brain into a simple yet repetititve task to re-tune it and redirect the energy toward something more productive. Those repetitive tasks free up brain resources that can be used more efficiently.

Do something new
Bringing some fresh water to the mill will get the wheel spinning again. A creative lowdown is often the result of boredom. It happens when something suddenly becomes too routine and familiar. For me, the worst of the worst time in the year is Summer. I feel trapped indoors, and miserable with nothing exiting bound to happen. Then I find out that just watching a new TV series, or reading a book I would never have thought of reading just get me back in the groove.

Keep on creating
What will come out of it is likely to be "crappy" at least under the perception of your low on mojo self. But keep doing it, you never know when a doodle or a random string of mindless sentences will suddenly spark a great idea. In the end it is still better than mopping about it.

Take it easy
Remember, creativity works in cycles, and it is OK to feel stuck. Kick your shoes off, put your feet up and relax. Your juice will come back, it always does. And when it does, you know you'll probably give the Energizer bunny a run for his money once again.

So, how do you cope when your creativity decided to go on a vacation without any warning?

You Might Also Like


  1. Well, I'm a doodler like you Cyn so I brainstorm on paper too. Then I save all my scribbles & doodles & roughly organize them by crafts, cooking, decorating, etc. When creativity takes a break I sort through those doodlings again & usually find something great. I also take my phone/camera with me everywhere now, especially on walks as you never know what you'll see & inspiration might strike!


    1. I remember how my teachers in middle school and Highschool used to go crazy with my doodling habits, they even told my parents about it. But what baffled them the most is that I would still get good grades during tests and quizzes, and even term exams later on. They just could not get how the certified doodler and total day dreamer in the class could score that high. What they failed to grasp is that my doodling was not a sign I was not paying any attention, it was my way to increase my retention capacity. I have a visual memory, I can't memorise what has been said unless I have a visual support to attach to the words that are spoken out loud, the more I doodled, the better my lecture rentre toon rate was, it was that simple.

    2. I was routinely lectured on my "non participation" and not looking at the teacher during lectures. I thought the Swiss educational system would have been a bit more knowledgable about different learning styles. Perhaps the Swiss system is more Prussian than Montessori?
      My generation was the first recipient f the 'dumbing down' of the US educational system by Reagan. My teachers were so dumb I would correct their spelling & math errors on exams. School funding was slashed & extracurricular programs eliminated. You can see the horrifying results of this 'dumbing down' in the current US presidential election.

    3. Yeah the result of the "dumbing down system" in the US is frightening. The school system in Switzerland is a mix of different methods, in elementary school it is or was quite Montessori influenced. I had less problem being a day dreamer and doodler in elementary school than I had in elementary school onward where the system was "one topic one teacher", some teachers were fine with my doodling, some were not.

      The one thing I didn't like much all through my school years was this ridiculous obsession with groups: study groups, project groups, debate groups, research group....UGH! I hated them with passion and I had no idea why until years later once out of the system and I learned that there was such a thing as being Introverted.

      Back in my school days, I kid you not, one of my elementary teacher sent a note to my parents recommending I got tested by the psychiatrist at the State Education department because she thought my constantly wanting to work alone was abnormal, and so was my not speaking up all the time. She decided that I might be autistic or something because on top of disliking group activities I was way way way above average in all things creative.

      The psychiatrist that evaluated me did a thorough 6-7 sessions evaluation to only report that I was a normal child who happened to enjoy quiet and should be given the option to retreat in the class room when things became too extroverted. She might have even told my parent about Introversion, though I don't remember.
      The teacher had no choice but to accept the verdict, but she was not too happy about it, I defied the teaching methodology of the time that wanted kids to do everything in groups. and what more I thrived on solo projects.

    4. Anonymous11:38 PM

      I have read tonnes of atricles about something wrong with the american education system. They are surely worried about the school education. College education is ofcourse very good, everyone flocks to american colleges. I got the impression there is lot of experimentation going on with new concepts and theories every year. One of the major problems I encountered was something called "Common Core Maths" where even a wrong answer is good enough if you can explain it well. Common Core is more like the enemy no. 1 there. Then there is the "No Child Left Behind" rule whereby everyone is promoted irrespective of their performances, which I think is practiced in India also upto I think eight grade or something. Very dangerous practice though. There is also something else, you can become a maths teacher without being an expert. Specialized teacher training is also lacking. I don't know how much is true.

      Everyone seems to be afraid of maths. They are having major problem with maths it seems. A lot more emphasis on sports which is good to some extent. Parents are really getting crazy with the strange syllabus. Actually, it is the parent who comment blaming the syllabus. It happnes in India also, what my son is stuying in third grade was in fifth grade in our time. Parents blame the teachers, teachers blame the parents for not being strict. Asians seem to be admired though for their hard work and achievements. It is like opening a pandora's box. There are articles upon articles about it. Not just that it seems Enland, Australia, New Zealand are having the exactly the same problems as Americans in education. There is a pattern. All seem to be very worried about the Asians. Asians are both admired and criticized for being without creativity.

      The Indian education system is not perfect and we have all suffered because of it. But what I read about the American system is news to me. It is reassuring to know that we are not he only people having problems with education. There is one thing good about america though they talk about their problms, sometimes to the point of self criticism. Some one is always doing something different, wacky. Some theory, some research. It is a very vibrant and enegetic society. I wish we could talk more about our problems, real problems not media created.


    5. There are no perfect school system, and the Indian problem is serious too. I am changing school for that very reason, her school is supposed to abide by the Cambridge curriculum, but under pressure from parents they skipped all the Grade one curriculum in Maths and English, went against the Cambridge ideal of not giving exams until Grade 5 and what's more every single one of these already not legal exams are full of the most horrible typos and grammar errors I have ever seen. As an adult, I had to read some of the sentences in these mock exams a couple of times to figure out what it was all about, so imagine a 6-7 years old child who can barely read trying to decipher these. Not only that, but the teach also marked a sentence wrong when it wasn't: The ant is small and the elephant is big. She wanted Ishita to write but instead of and. But you can't say what Ishita wrote was incorrect, in fact it was probably even more correct to use and considering the sentence had two different subjects and but is usually used to connect two opposite statement describing the same subject.

      Her math teacher is an idiot who think 6 years old should grasp a concept as complex as addition and substraction in less than 15 days, and was concerned when Ishita could not understand what 1000 meant after 6 weeks of school. When I pointed to her that unless children understand how the decimal system works they can't grasp it, she asked me : "Ma'am what is that decimal system you speak about" She had no idea what it was and yet is a math teacher :-(

      The school I enrolled her for this coming academic year is far more in line with Cambridge, down to the core essential teaching methodologies, but it also come at a higher price, not all can afford it, we figured out that since we have only one child and can do it, we might as well give her a better chance at education and an environment in which she can thrive

    6. Anonymous9:32 PM

      how is she doing in english and Hindi??

      in second grade they are teaching noun, pronoun, conjunction. They are teaching stuff that we studied in higher grades. grammer came later and was very comprehensive. There was an English grammer book in seventh grade called "wren & martin" which is perhaps the most amazing book of english grammer. now I find text books are either two advanced or sometimes trying to fit too much. the same was the case with hindi grammer.

      Then there is continuous exams all year round called FA's. In our times we never felt we are studying something which we could not grasp except of course maths which I never liked.

      In Hindi u can teach grammer because children can relate to it but in English there is nothing to relate because many families do not use it.

      Why they try to teach stuff children do not understand. perhaps they think that in this age of information children are more intelligent but they are clearly not at this tender age.


    7. I remember the Wren & Martin from my own English study days :-) Ishita does good in English, in Hindi not so much, but this is because the teacher is stupid, they did an entire year of practicing the alphabet, she knows no sentences, or extra vocabulary, and like her other non native Hindi classmate learned nothing to help her function in the language. It was the same idiocy with Marathi. I kid you not she had French classes in school this past year that was better conducted than the local languages classes. And she learned a ton of vocabulary and even a few sentences in French.
      I know Hindi is more intelligently approached in many of the other schools in the area, so that is really this school's fault.

      English and Math are both way too advanced for a 1st Grader in that school, both hubby and I could not remember doing what they asked Ishita to do earlier than the end of grade 2 and all through grade 3. Which means they skipped the core foundation teachings for both those topics. When we applied for the new school, they had a one on one session just with her to evaluate her level and they found that the same core learnings were lacking but they told us not to worry as they do have a special teacher and counsellor who is there to help children with learning difficulties: they advised me to make her read 5-10 minutes a day, her choice of book, and make her write a few lines, without insisting on the spelling, at this point they just want her to establish the connection between sounds and letter.
      Which is what the school she is in right now should have done but didn't preferring to make them copy complicated sentences off the black board and try to make them understand how to conjugate verbs in past tense but sadly WITHOUT telling them the difference between regular verbs and irregular ones. Heck they skipped straight to past tense without telling them about present, or present continuous tense.

  2. Anonymous3:36 PM

    They have Marathi with hindi at this age. Two different languages. I guess Marathi being the local language of the State. Hindi gets progressively more difficult in higher grades with all the grammar even more than English. With Children using less and less hindi, their understanding of the language has also diminished.

    We had a good mix of foreign and Indian writers for books in our curriculum. Give me the good old "Wren & Martin" with deep red colour cover any day. The books were comprehensive, now even for higher grades, the books are kind of exhaustive and incoherent and it takes an adult to correlate the information which is difficult for children of any age.

    I guess in order to look smart they are cramming too much information in one place. Its all Oxford and Cambridge but the books are very advanced. We have borrowed something from somewhere but unable to implement it properly.


    1. The Marathi is compuslory until 5th grade in English medium schools in the State, and it is conversational Marathi, just because they have to teach it. The problem I have with Hindi, is that it is taught weirdly in that school, and with the assumption that all kids are native speaker and need to learn how to read and write, but this is far from being the case. Ishita was speech delayed as a kid, and the play school told us to stop both French and Hindi, discarding both as useless languages in Mumbai. I know several parents who've been told to stop regional languages at home too. Then there is the fact that all South Indian kids in her class do not speak Hindi at home...AT ALL, add to this the few other kids coming from other non Hindi speaking States and it means that nearly half the kids in her class didn't know how to speak much if any Hindi. In the first few years of teaching, they should at least mind the fact that some students need more attentions and more "beginner" level classes. Heck they should have started in pre-primary if you ask me, by simply having a couple of hours a week of Hindi play time, or role play. But nope, it was all in English.

      Another really sad truth in Mumbai, a lot of kids are taught that Hindi is a maid's language. My husband once got put back in his place by a 5 years old a few years back when he talked to her in Hindi : "Uncle, stop speaking Hindi, this is a maid language, it's not good" I can only imagine she heard that kind of BS from her own parents and relative :-(

      The only problem of school is that they try to cram way too many topics way too early. As a kid I remember having only French and Maths plus all the arts and crafts activities until Grade 3 then in Grade 3 they added German and Geopraphy, then in 5th Grade they added Swiss History to it, and I only started English and biology in Grade 7, by Grade 9 we had Physics, and then in Highschool I got Italian, and Chemistry added to the other topics. It was gradual, the idea was that you first need to build bases in the language used as a medium in school and once that is grasped, you add to it.

      Hubby and I compared what we ended learning and remembering by the end of our education, and it is the same type of topics, granted he did more science because he chose to pursue engineering and I did more language and art because I pursued an art and language major, the bases are the same. The only difference is how the Swiss system praise critical thinking and creativity over rote learning. But all in all, by the end of 12th Standard, we pretty much covered the same syllabus. like me, hubby was not forced to rush through topics at such an early age either, this is really a new, and rather ridiculous trend in India.

    2. Anonymous7:36 PM

      The craze for english among Indians is legendary. People put children in english medium schools for english and standard of education was also good. The government schools introuduce it at higher grade and then they have problems because these children find it difficult to compete in technical education at higher level which is invariably in English. This becomes a handicap because they cannot follow the lecutures and often sit with dictionary. Some Government schools like Kendriya Vidayala in India are very good and even better than public schools. Hindi becomes a polital and prestige issue.

      Our parents thankfully never abandoned our native languages at school. Hindi was always omnipresent and no matter what our teachers insisted, we spoke in Hindi among ourselves. We were reprimanded for speaking in Hindi and I thought, isn't Hindi our national language. There was this hatred and smug attitude. After some time, the English business just melted away. Only the teachers spoke English not the children.

      Hindi was never my mother tongue but we grew up watching bollywood movies and I at the age of eight had better vocabulary in Hindi than most of the youngsters today. Now, they watch hollywood movies and hear english songs. I often see little girls in our apartment with earfones practicing english songs with the accent. Little by little whatever was there, we have chipped away.

      We have borrowed concepts but are unable to implement it. It is like trying to invent the wheel. Schools have special educators for special children but they have not trained their teachers who get frustated with these children and ask the parents what to do.My son writes little in the class and cannot tell what happened in school due to speech problem. My wife often has to take the class work on whatsapp. Quiet an uphill task.

      The school feel that one special educator is the solution to all problems. They have also inadvertently put this in the mind of other children that these children are special creating a rift among children. This is what I gathered from the PTM this morning. The parent of special children are very worried and one of them requested the teacher not to mention the word "special" infront of his child because it has gone into his head. He keeps on saying he is special child. The special class should be referred to as "extra class".

      If they cannot implement new methods go back the old curriculium and if they want to do something for special childrn then they should do it properly. This half hearted and token efforts are any good.


    3. The schools that have quality cousellors and educators are there. We are sending Ishita to one starting this coming academic year, but they tend to cost a bit more, and are often labelled "Alternative schools". The curriculum will be in line with the board they follow, but the teaching methods will be alternative in these kind of schools, which is something that even if kept as affordable as other regular schools of the same board, would still be hard for people in middle class India to grasp because it is a new concept.

      For example in the school in question, children who need special attentions will end up doing one on one work with a teacher either after school hours, or during part of the scheduled break. The school told us they call it "extra time". At the time of the admission interview, they also asked us, if we were willing to let them ask for a third party counsellor or therapist if needed as they need to have the consent of parents and write it in the student files before the admission process is complete. These are those little things, that are good and helpful, but are definitely not mainstream in India just yet (and should be).


Blog Archive