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Tips & Tricks

Six (Non-Photographic) Ways To Get Out of A Creative Rut

By Hanssie on January 31st 2016

Creative blocks can seem insurmountable when you’re in the thick of it. As artists, we will all face a road block to creativity from time to time (I’m in one right now). This can be frustrating, disheartening, and completely unmotivating. The lack of inspiration could be the result of not taking care of yourself artistically, having too much on your plate, not allowing yourself a personal creative project or it could just be ‘one of those days.’

If you find yourself lacking inspiration, bored with taking the same photos all the time, and unable to come up with fresh ideas, luckily there are some strategies to dig yourself out of the rut and on the road to creating something fantastic in no time. You may notice that none of these ideas have to do with photography – like trying out a new lens or starting a personal project (if you’re looking for something like that check out this article with ideas that may help). Sometimes to get out of a creative rut, we must focus on ourselves as a whole, not just as a photographer.

First and foremost, if you find yourself in a creative rut…

Beautiful young woman holding blue scarf on the wind

1. Put Down The Camera

If you find yourself in a creative rut, seemingly doing the same poses, in the same spots, of all the same things, put the camera down and slowly back away…

What I mean here is take a break. Don’t force inspiration just to appear after you’ve been staring at the same photo in Lightroom for the last hour, trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Unplug, turn off and do something else for a while. Come back to whatever you’re working on later (of course, this is not an option during a shoot, but do what you can to take a break at least and recharge – even for a minute or two).

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2. Exercise

As photographers, we probably spend way more time than we should in front of the computer. The hours of editing is not only a strain on our eyes but our bodies as well. Get up, get the heart pumping, take a yoga class, whatever. Even just standing up and stretching will release some of the tension in your neck, the arms that carry not only your camera with a 70-200mm attached and the shoulder that hauls your gear all the time.

For me, I get outside and go for long runs in the morning. Besides being able to unplug, I have found watching the sun rise while hearing the ocean waves crashing in the background offers a well of inspiration.

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3. Read a Good Book

No, not a business book, not a book on better SEO (though we have a good one here!), or a book on Bokeh, get a book that you can read for pleasure. Something that will take your mind off work. What’s your favorite genre? Science fiction? Autobiographies? Mysteries? Romance? Grab a good book and let your mind wander off.

A book I would definitely recommend for all artists is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a 12-week process to access and harness your creativity.

4. Express Your Creativity In Another Way

If you’re in a creative rut, perhaps using a different medium will kickstart that creativity. When I found myself in a rut a while back, I signed up for one of those Paint Night classes. I am a terrible painter, but spending two hours with a paint brush (and a glass of wine) was incredibly therapeutic and allowed me to express my creativity in a way that I was not used to. Some of you may also be musicians, or cupcake bakers, or knitters; instead of taking photographs, find another outlet. Who knows? It may cause your mind to think differently and jar you out of your current rut.

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5. Declutter Your Mind and Your Workspace

When I feel like I’m stuck creatively, it almost always is because I feel overwhelmed; there’s too much on my mind, too much around me, clutter everywhere! This is when I will do a “brain dump;” an exercise which I write down everything on my mind either in free flowing text or in lists (usually lists) of things I’m thinking about, things I need to do, things I’m worrying about, etc. Then I spend 15-20 minutes cleaning up my workspace, my emails, or the environment around me.

Having an environment where good energy can flow freely in my mind and body does wonders to get the creative juices flowing.

 

museum-creative-rut-hanssie6. Go On A Field Trip

When I am in need of inspiration or creativity, I go look at other people’s art. Every month, there’s a local art show on Main Street full of very talented and eclectic artists. I love seeing how others see the world and express it – be it through paint, clay, pencil, etc. Taking a half day and going to a museum, unplugging and enjoying the masterpieces that surround me is also a great way for me to find release and absorb the creativity of others.

Sometimes getting out of a creative rut just means taking a breath, a moment and a break before it all comes flooding back again. Embrace your rut as part of the process and rest assured knowing that it won’t last forever.

What are some ways you get out of your creative ruts? Comment below!

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
[email protected]

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Bill Bert

    What I do is cook a new recipe for the first time. If successful I am eating good for that day, have left overs and have something to add to my recipe list. There is a lot of similar things in cooking and photography. Planning, prework, execution and enjoying your results.

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    • Hanssie

      If I cooked every time I was stressed, two things would happen. 1) I would be 600lbs and 2) The probability of me burning down the house would skyrocket

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  2. Matt Owen

    I agree on finding another outlet. I started doing origami as a way to take a break. As a result, when I’m done I usually have something new to photograph, and I’ve even sold a few pieces.

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    • Hanssie

      That’s awesome! I have no patience for origami but I learned to make a crane when I was a kid and am a total expert on making those. Plus, I’m 1/4th Japanese, so maybe that the Japanese in me coming out :)

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  3. Shawn Kelley

    I had a good giggle regarding your painting experience. I got into photography because of a creative rut in oil painting landscapes! LOL!!

    Excellent article!

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    • Hanssie

      Ha! Who knows? Maybe I’ll become a painter…(if you saw my painting from Paint Night, you’ll know it’s not even a possibility).

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  4. Carolyn Dingus

    Good ideas!

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    • Hanssie

      Thanks! I was tempted to put #7. Lay on the couch, drink wine and binge watch Netflix, but I think maybe that only works for me?

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  5. Lauchlan Toal

    You’ve just inspired me to write “Bookeh: The Bokeh Book”.

    Nice article, all these points are spot on.

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