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Recently I've cut corners and recycled old ideas to meet a deadline and now I feel creatively burnt out - how do I start to work creatively again?

heart to heart
How do I get working creatively again after months of feeling creatively burnt out? Several months ago I was in a difficult situation where I had to produce a lot of creative work very quickly. I achieved this by cutting corners and by recycling old ideas. Afterwards I felt extremely drained and was very dissatisfied with the work, although it was well received and praised.

Since then I have been blocked creatively and unsure of how to generate a new creative direction. I seem to have lost my focus both creatively and spirituality. Can you help me find a pathway through this depressive state?

Wallace's reply
As creative people we need to see our work essentially as play. We need to learn to manage our life and work so that our inner creative child is happy to come out and play with energy and vigor. In this regard, being an artist is different from working in a more routine environment. With many routine jobs, if we put in the time, we get the result. Art and creative expression are different from that.

Art - true art - is a spiritual pursuit - consequently we need to take care of our soul so that we can have self expression. This means living and working with integrity and forgiving our self when we make mistakes. If we compromise our artistic integrity we will suffer.

The depressed state you are describing is a result of anger that you have turned in on yourself. I suspect you are angry that you compromised your creative integrity to satisfy a deadline and you have not forgiven yourself.

Therefore the first step in your recovery is to forgive yourself for producing work that lacked integrity when under the pressure of a deadline. You made a mistake accepting the contract with that tight deadline and you are paying the price in lost productive time, a fall off in creative expression and a depressed state of mind. By learning the lessons this mistake presents you will find it easier to forgive yourself. You were not aware of the destructive effect trying to meet this deadline would have. Now you are wiser. You know you need to nurture and protect your ability to be creative.

To enhance your creativity see your inner artist like a child who needs nurtured, protected and encouraged. Parents know when their children are happy and cared for, because they play with gay abandon. If a parent puts pressure on their child to perform she will sulk, brood and refuse to co-operate. This is also true with your inner creative child. Think of your inner creative child as a person with special needs - just like children - and you will be on the right track.

The skills you need to manage your artistic expression change when you become successful. Quite often an emerging artist has the time and space to develop their work. Slowly they build a reputation. Then the day comes when the long awaited success arrives. There are now the demands of others, where once there was space to develop artistically. These demands have to be managed by learning to listen to, nurture and protect the needs of your inner creative child.

I want you to take one hour to yourself and in a relaxed state, free of demands, write out what your inner creative child needs, in terms of ongoing support and a suitable environment, for her to come out and play regularly every working day. I want you to type out this list and hang it in your place of work as a reminder. Then with your increased awareness of what you need, learn to tune into your inner guidance to direct and structure your life for maximum creative expression. You will be amazed at the difference this makes.

Sometimes you will feel drawn to say no to the demands of others. You need to have the courage to follow up on these intuitions. Realize as you do this that people who place demands on you may not understand the special needs you, as a creative person, require to develop your art. Remember, it is difficult as a successful artist to be both healthy and popular! You may need to face unmerited accusations that you are being selfish, but recognize that, as long as your other essential duties are attended to, it is not selfish to nurture creative expression. Your happiness and sense of fulfillment depend on it.

To sum up there are 5 major lessons in this for you:

  1. Forgive yourself for making mistakes
  2. Learn the lesson these mistakes present
  3. Sense what your inner creative child needs
  4. Provide for those needs
  5. Have the strength of character to say no when necessary, in order to provide for your needs

Further Help and Resources
I suggest you order Julie Cameron's book "Walking in this World - Practical Strategies for Creativity" and work your way through it. It is a practical work book, as well as a good read, with lots of useful insights. I suggest you take a break from your work, go somewhere special where you can spend time in nature and take her book with you. When you come back you will feel completely renewed and be well on your way to regaining your focus and direction.

If you want help in living with personal integrity, I suggest my book, Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off. It is a book about transforming your life by listening to and following inner guidance. When you do that consistently in all areas of your life, your intuitions, words and actions are always coherent and you remain true to yourself in all circumstances. Reading my book would, I feel, help you know when to say yes and when to say no.

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