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The creative flood vs the creative drought

I have come to learn that creative funks are just part of the artistic process.  In my opinion, they come in two forms: the creative drought or the creative flood.  

Floral Embroidery Art

I think the creative drought is a problem most of us can relate to.  You have your tools all ready, you sit down and wait... and wait... and wait.  Nothing comes flowing. It is like all your ideas have dried up.  And when you try to force it, the final creation seems uninspired, foreign and, in some ways, unauthentic. It is a frustrating spot to be in for sure.

But just as frustrating is the creative flood.  That is when your brain is overflowing with ideas.  So many that you can't seem to catch them all.  It is like attempting to grab 100s of balloons as they float off into the sky.  You might catch one or two but you are ultimately left feeling scattered, mentally exhausted, a little bit maniac and worried that you missed out on something amazing. I often find that when I am in this stage, it also starts affecting my sleep because my mind is whirling with too many ideas. I joke that I dream in embroidery floss, usually ending up as a tangled, hot mess.

As artists, I think it is important to recognize these as part of the creative process, accept them for the temporary stages that they are and figure out coping mechanisms to handle each one.

Hand Embroidery Design

So let's start with the creative drought.  Here are a few things that I do to get through this stage:

  • Take a deep breath and realize that this will pass.
  • Step away.  This is when I turn to my other hobbies - reading, gardening, cooking. Nothing like an afternoon spent digging in the dirt or jumping into a literary character's life to change my perspective. And that whole saying about something coming to you when you least expect it... I totally buy into that.
  • Get out into nature.  This can be as simple as going on a hike in the neighborhood.  Fort Worth has these amazing botanical gardens that I could get lost in for days.  I always find inspiration there.
  • Buy fresh flowers.  Now flowers are obviously my love language that translates into my work.  But I really like having something beautiful and alive in my creative space.  It somehow changes the look of things. For you, this could be art or new paint brushes.  Something that really inspires you.
  • Browse other art forms.  Personally, I love looking at watercolor paintings,  photography, and real life floral arrangements.  I get inspiration on color palettes and different flower types. 
  • Keep creating.  Even if you are not happy with those pieces and consider them duds, just chalk it up as your payment to the universe for living a creative life.  I have a box full of duds that will never see the light of day.  I don't see them as ugly finished pieces. Instead, I see them as prototypes or first drafts.  A step in the process to get to that next embroidery piece that I truly love. 

 Fall Flower Embroidery

The creative flood is a bit different because it more like managing mass chaos.  So here is what I do:

  • I carry a notebook around EVERYWHERE during this time.  That way when I am sitting outside at school pickup, at the grocery store, in the middle of the night when I am supposed to be sleeping or even mid-project on another embroidery piece, I can jot down or sketch out my idea as it pops into my head and then come back to it when I am ready. This sketch book becomes gold when I am working through a creative drought.
  • My mind often whirls the most when it comes to color palettes.  So many combinations!  I tend to keep a stockpile of thread around so that I don't run out.  So once I start dreaming up color combinations, I dig into that stock pile and put each color combination into its own snack size baggie.  I literally have a box called color combinations that houses so many of these little baggies.  It's a very colorful box.  But on the plus side, this is a great box to open up when I am in the middle of my creative drought.
  • Stay focused.  Each month, I write out a loose plan as to what I want to accomplish.  I allow plenty of free form creative time to let my brain brew up new ideas.  But if I find that the brewing process is starting to crunch up against the goals/orders that I have planned, I quickly shut it down.  This is especially important during the holidays when you are really focused on customers orders and shipping times. 
  • Keep perspective.  I really do envision creative ideas like balloons with strings hanging off them.  In my mind, there is an infinite amount of them in this world. If you are lucky, you are able to catch one or two of them at a time and truly make them something that is unique and meaningful to you.  Let the other balloons go.  If they are meant to be yours, they will come back to you.  If not, let someone else enjoy them and create something beautiful for their life.

I would love to know your thoughts on how you get through both the creative drought as well as the creative flood.  So share them below in the comments.


1 comment

  • This is so great and helpful!! Thanks so much for sharing your process. Mine is quite similar, but you have great new ideas too. It’s also so great to know there’s others out there experiencing the same thing ❤️

    Monika

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