I enjoy running my own business because I work well alone. I am a pretty self motivated human and very understanding boss! You will more often than not, find me in a satisfying flow state drawing up new ideas for my business and happily working away in my studio. However this cannot always be the case. What happens when the ideas are not flowing and the motivation to work is overcome by lethargy and a lack of direction?
At the start of this year I was feeling just this way and couldn’t face getting back into my work after the Holidays. Looking back, I think the cause for this was equal parts ennui and actual physical fatigue, although at the time I thought it was just a lack of inspiration. When you work for yourself, you have nobody telling you to get back to work; no boss giving you the eye. There is nothing else for it, you just have to pull yourself out of those doldrums yourself. But how? Here are some solutions that have worked for me:
Take a Break
It’s that simple really. In the words of my daughter when she was three years old “Mummy, People be tired, they need to take a rest”. BE FORGIVING TOWARDS YOURSELF. I think lots of small business owners don’t even realize how much they work. Working from home often means that you end up working in the evenings and on weekends and don’t count this as part of your work day. When you have overdone things, your body will let you know for sure. Give yourself a day off midweek and don’t feel bad about it. The world will not end. I had a really rough winter break and took a few days off after the kids went back to school. It made a world of difference and I was so much more productive, and a nicer human the following week.
Revisit Your sketchbook
Our bread and butter is creativity and innovation. So draw, write, paint, sew in a state of play. Create work without worrying about whether it is any good or if it will sell. This isn’t a waste of time, it is research. It is falling back in love with your work. Play the way a child would with whatever materials you want to use and don’t set a timer or make it forced in any way. Drawing is also a form of therapy for me. I should do it more often because it always sparks new ideas for me.
At art college I was surrounded by inspiring people, work and ideas all the time. It’s hard to replicate that environment now, but I really don’t want to create in a vacuum. When I’m feeling uninspired, I head out to a gallery and look at what other artists have made/ been making. If I can’t do this, just getting out of my house for a walk or going to a yoga class helps to stimulate me. Any change of scenery and a bit of human contact will do. However, the most helpful way to get out of this rut is the next solution…
Meet A Fellow Maker
Aah the Makerdate. Playdate, board meeting and therapy session all rolled into one. People in offices have water coolers (I hear), meetings, and Friday night happy hours. We can spend weeks without having any meaningful connection with another human during our working hours (no, the Amazon delivery guy and the sales associate at your local art store don’t count) so these meetings IN PERSON are essential. Connect with the people who form your work community and really understand what you are doing. I have a Makerdate every other week and I cannot begin to tell you how much they mean to me. We keep each other motivated, share ideas, plot out new plans and solve problems together. After every meeting I am 100% more excited about my work and more likely to try out new ideas. A BIG mood booster. This leads nicely onto the next solution…
This year, I am running an art/yoga camp with Mindfulnest Yoga, and team teaching with a fellow maker/artist at the Noctiluna Summer Camp. I’m collaborating on a range of bomber jackets with Scout & Indiana, and investigating ideas for a collaboration with Bennebokids. I have actual, real life colleagues! Being held accountable by this very inspiring group of people makes me want to work that much harder. It is very hard to stay in a funk for long. I highly recommend finding a kindred creative to collaborate with. It takes time, but if you open yourself up to it, it will happen.
At the risk of sounding like a British caricature, I think the ritual of drinking tea really does cheer me up. Just the actual act of filling a kettle, waiting for it to boil and then pouring myself a hot cup of tea manages to uplift me. It’s an excuse for a tiny break, and then you jump straight back into your work with a comforting mug by your side telling you everything will be fine. It’s not just me! Many cultures see the act of tea brewing as something therapeutic and focusing. There are actual ceremonies that center on tea making. Ever heard of a coffee ceremony? Nuh uh. There’s a reason for that. Try it. See if it helps you. There are teas for every instance. My favorite calming tea is Lavender Honey Stress Relief by Yogi, and I love a strong ginger tea in the winter to get me working, but my go to on days of low energy is a strong cup of cardamom chai (just strong black tea with a little milk and lots of ground cardamom). Still unconvinced? Ahem, tea can LITERALLY inspire you. Check out the excellent snippet of wisdom my tea gave me below…