What To Do When You’re Overwhelmed and Your Creativity Disappears

In the depths of grief, horror, and panic, are you finding your regular paths to creativity closed? Even when you actively search for a way in, are the gates unassailable?

Unfortunately, that is natural. Usual. Boringly normal. Join the club. Here’s a comfy chair! Would you like some lemonade?

Yep. When confronted with these overwhelming emotions, our brains just Can. Not. Even.

As creative people, we know our greatest solace is our creativity. In troubling times, our usual creative paths are the ones that we want to travel. We want to see the normal road signs, eat at that little diner with the barbeque chicken caesar, and enjoy that rest stop with the park where people always walk their dogs.

But these sad emotions block those usual creative paths. The nice little park fills with sketchy travelers. Crews repainting the road signs leave us doubting our course. A sign reading “Closed for Repairs” sits in the large window where you viewed other travelers and ate your salad.

Last Saturday I watched an interview with David Byrne about his broadway musical, American Utopia, which reminded me of how every creative person has this issue. “I wasn’t able to write songs during the kind of depth, the depth of the pandemic,” he remarked. “I thought, I have not been able to process this.”

Even a guy who has made his career out of his creative endeavors found himself unable to perform creatively in the way he expected.

So how can we find a way back to our creativity? What can we do to find that solace that we need so much?

David Byrne allowed himself to rest and listen. He began to work creatively in whatever form showed up. And that form was little sketches. “After I’d done a lot of them, I realized that I guess I’ve found a way to express in my own way what we’re all going through at this moment,” Byrne said.

While most of us won’t end up with our pandemic art gathered in a show at the Pace Gallery, we can learn from Mr. Byrne’s experience. If you are grieving or panicking or just overwhelmed with sad and horrified emotions, a blockage in your creativity is okay. It’s normal. It’s natural. And everyone, even the most sophisticated professional artist, experiences it.

If you are dealing with this issue, consider, have you been in this situation before? If so, what worked to spark your creativity again? If not, what do you imagine might work?

Does nothing come to mind? Can I offer this option? I found it worked for me, and it might work for you as well.

Instead of pushing your way through the gummy air that surrounds your regular creative path, step back. Take a nap. Take a walk. Be in the silence. Listen for your muse.

When the creative urge shows up to play, play with it—no matter what game it wants to enjoy. Don’t make a plan. Don’t worry that it isn’t part of your regular project or being creative in the way you usually are. Don’t worry that it seems useless or wasteful. Just play along and enjoy it.

In my experience, once your creativity begins to emerge in this new form, you’ll find a solace there. Unfamiliar but pleasant paths will emerge. And those gates around your usual creative path may even crack open just a little.

How does that feel? Does that seem like something that you might like to try? If so, pick a small step to help you through this process. Perhaps you could choose spending five minutes every day-ish in silence or thinking about ways to be creative. And once something sparks that creative flint inside you, use those five minutes to experiment with this impulse.

Remember, this is just a suggestion. Select a small step that feels natural and easy to you, and let your intuition guide you as you move forward.

Feeling distanced from your normal creativity during times of grief and panic is natural. Know that your creativity will return in time. And know that, if you need support during times like this, there are people in your life, family, friends, and coaches, who are here to support you as you need it.

***This piece, as with a lot of my writing, demonstrates my coaching style and substance and uses Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching Tools™. If this approach resonates with you, get in touch with me at la@labourgeois.biz, and let’s move forward together.

DAVID BYRNE