The best thing about college was being truly be steeped in art. It was my job to read, write, attend literary events, and there were always plays and panels happening on campus. I was constantly inspired and coming up with new ideas. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to devote all of my time to writing poems and essays without wasting any time on assigned papers after graduation. But that dream quickly evaporated after I began working full time outside of the creative field. As soon as 5:00 PM hit, I just wanted to make my hour-long commute back home, watch Netflix and relax. I was caught in a weird paradox where I felt empty without creating — which had been the whole reason I moved to the city — but felt uninspired and unmotivated. Something had to change, so I took action to ensure I was living a life and not just earning a living. If you’re in a similar predicament, try these seven practices to reawaken your creativity:
1. Give Yourself A Deadline
Sometimes the best work is produced under the weight of a deadline. When I began creatively writing again, I was so frustrated by how rusty I was, I kept giving up after a few sentences. So I started giving myself deadlines just to get something down. I told myself I needed to have 2,000 words about anything, even if it was garbage, written by the weekend. If I didn’t meet my deadline, I was grounded — no brunches or birthday parties no matter what. I held myself accountable, and having a reward/punishment system made starting back up again far more easy.
2. Artist Date Yourself
Whether your passion is writing, painting, singing, or photography, schedule one day a week to take yourself on an artist date. It’s imperative you pencil this into your schedule and treat it like any other obligation that can’t be cancelled. My artist dates have included attending poetry readings, checking out art show openings, and going to directing thesis debuts at a nearby college. Whatever I’ve attended, I always go home with a reminder of the importance of self-expression and often inspiration for a new project.
3. Get Some Class
After graduating, I was surprised by how much I missed learning new material and regularly discussing ideas with other people. I enrolled in a class on the history of higher education that was unlike any course I took during undergrad, but being able to re-engage parts of my brain that had gone dormant.
Whether you choose a class centered around your chosen medium or try something totally outside of your wheelhouse, one great way to tap into your creativity is by learning new information. Taking classes can also be a tool to sharpen the skills you need if you choose to pursue your passion full time.
4. Digital Detox
This is a great practice to engage in whenever you need to really buckle down and accomplish something. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I have spent my fair share of Saturdays in bed checking ‘just one more thing’ on social media until half the day was gone, and I had nothing to show for it.
During my first digital detox, I read an entire novel in one sitting—a feat I hadn’t accomplished in years. Engaging with a text without having the opinions of hundreds of people steaming in my mind was a beautiful experience that I couldn’t believe I had gone so long without.
But when you do need to plug back in…
5. Follow Creative Accounts
After I forwent pursuing a full-time writing career, it wasn’t long before I began feeling isolated from the literary community. I forgot people who spent hours arguing about the meaning of the red room in Jane Eyre even existed. To remind myself, I began listening to podcasts that discuss literature and culture and following various writers on Instagram and Twitter. Even if I can’t attend every conference, I still feel in the loop.
It’s nice to commiserate about epic cases of writer’s block and stay in the know about events happening in my community.
6. Meetup with Fellow Creatives
Search for creativity-based Meetup groups in your area. I attend a monthly general Meetup for creatives at a bar in my neighborhood. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by people with similar interests. If there aren’t any near you, create one! You can create a group through the site or put up flyers in a coffee shop to start a monthly meeting.
7. Make the Most Out of Your Lunch Break
I had heard about the importance of writing everyday several times, but until I read an interview with Tommy Pico where he said even just writing for twenty minutes a day was an accomplishment, it never sunk in. After I heard this, I started committing at least 15 minutes out of my hour-long lunch break to sit alone and write my thoughts down. Even if it’s just a nonsensical brainstorm, I have a starting place for when I have a larger chunk of time. Using your daily ration of free time to write, sketch or compose — whatever helps get the creative juices flowing!
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.