There comes a time when, in even the most prolific of creative lives, artists, writers or musicians, feel they have run out of ideas. Try as they might to search the ether, the next big idea eludes them. I found myself momentarily facing that invisible brick wall of blackness where once ideas poured in, where, on some days, there were too many ideas to pin down. Where did they go? That’s typically when we sensitive types open the door and welcome in the demon we usually fight so hard to keep ‘out there’.
I kid you not, imposter syndrome is a very real thing and can leave you feeling as though you are a fraud in your own life – despite any success you may have achieved. Imposter syndrome comes guised as self-doubt – it’s when you begin to wonder will I ever have any great ideas again, or maybe that was a fluke … and so on.
If imposter syndrome is something you can relate to, you might be interested to learn there are five ways it shows up like an unwelcome guest in your life. Perhaps you are a perfectionist (like me), or a subject matter ‘expert’, who feels like a fraud because, despite being an expert in your field, you feel you don’t know everything so feel like a fraud. If you are a natural genius with imposter syndrome you refuse to believe you are naturally gifted, however, if you happen to take a while to learn something new, you berate yourself and see it as proof you are not a genius. There are those who see it as a failure if they need to ask for help when they’ve done everything themselves before. Finally, there is the ‘superhuman’ who believes they must work non-stop to reach the highest level of achievement, and if they don’t, well – they must be a fraud. Exhausting, isn’t it?
But let’s rewind a little. What can a creative do when they reach into great beyond for ideas and find they have run out? What can they do to keep Imposter Syndrome at bay if the invisible brick wall appears unexpectedly?
Give yourself permission to let go of perfection
I’m lucky to have family and friends around me to ‘jump start’ me out of this state before I spiral into any significant negative self-talk. Having two munchkins helps keep you grounded, and it only takes a moment for them to completely change the energy in my world. In fact, it turns out, changing the energy around you is the key to dismantling that brick wall and it could be easier than you think.
First, consider whether you are just exhausted. If you are juggling work and family around your creative endeavours, it’s no wonder the creative brain goes on strike from time to time. It could be you simply need a good long nap and just maybe you will wake up feeling it’s not the end of your creative life as you know it. Everything is better after a nap.
If you are trying to draw or write but the ideas are not flowing, do something completely different. Get out in the garden, go for a walk, maybe paint some rocks – get out in life – talk to people (even if you are an introvert). If you are a perfectionist like me, it may help to let go of trying to come up with something fully formed and perfect … just doodle, scribble, or colour in. You will be amazed at how effective this is. You could even try meditating (if you have the time and a quiet space). If you enjoy words, read some poetry, or look at a painting to see if it inspires a flow of words.
In addition to the techniques mentioned above, I tend to grab the kids and take them on our favourite walks along the Coastal Path or through the parks, woods and forests of Fife. There is so much in nature that calls to you from the textures and colours of leaves and berries to the way the Oyster Catcher ‘peeps’ as it wades along the shore. The kids will often return home from our adventures with woodland treasures safely tucked into their pockets. On our more recent walks I’ve noticed an abundance of pine cones which got my creative mind working – just by looking at how a pine cone is formed. You see, your ideas don’t have to be a huge complete project, but by noticing the seemingly little things around us – that’s where the magic is.
So, my advice is – don’t sit there overthinking things or trying to force it – give yourself a break from time to time. Give yourself permission to do something else. By engaging in life, you feel inspired again – but just remember the importance of letting go too.
You’ll be pleased to know I did eventually find inspiration. In this instance, it came from a combination of that woodland walk with the little bumbumbees and a chat with my sister. Let’s just say, over the next few weeks you will see the fruits of that conversation. Goodbye brick wall … until next time 😉