In a previous blog, I talked about how creative inspiration comes and goes whenever it pleases. I gave some tips on how to coerce it out of hiding and into your life, but what happens when you have the opposite problem?
Sometimes, I have too many ideas all at once. There are so many things I want to tackle right then and there, but I don’t have the time or the materials to do it. I feel creatively overwhelmed.
It’s feast or famine, folks, and I can’t decide which is worse.
Is This Really Better?
You can sit, and sit, and sit, and sit waiting for creativity to sweep you up in its capricious breeze. But if it pleases, it can come as a tornado that tries to stop the rest of your life until you satisfy the creative urge. And when you inevitably can’t do that, you get cursed with a longing or a sense of dissatisfaction.
When I’m in that moment, I often want to get rid of my inspiration. I generally wish that I wasn’t feeling that way, and I decide I’d be more comfortable waiting around for it to come.
Of course, that’s the melodramatic approach. Sometimes, I’ll try to start my ideas one by one and take advantage of my inspiration, but it can be so hard to get past the sense of overwhelm.
Between Overwhelm and Underwhelm is…Whelm
Sensory overload is a real thing in my life. Listening to music for too long exhausts me, being in a crowded place makes me uneasy, and having too many creative projects that I want to get my hands on results in jitters.
But the thing about creative overwhelm is that it’s not really a negative feeling in the same way as regular overload. It’s like a warm buzz in your core, bumble bees in your tummy urging you to get up get up get up get up CREATE.
The warm buzz makes you feel alive, but you also feel like you’re power surging a bit. Whether it’s positive or negative, it’s definitely not sustainable. So how do we find that middle ground? How do we harness our creative power and make it something we can not only manage, but rule?
This is something I’m still working on, because I’ll admit that this creative overwhelm happens a lot less than creative underwhelm. But if I can learn to make the most of it when it is here, that could help me make some powerful things.
Tips for When You’re Feeling Creatively Overwhelmed
Here are some things that have helped me when I’m feeling overloaded with creative energy.
Write Down Your Ideas
When I’m feeling full of creative ideas, the first thing I do to help myself feel more in control is to write all of my ideas down. This past fall, I made a list of all of the crochet projects I had in mind and the yarns I wanted to use for each of them.
Having something to reference when I did have the time to work helped me feel more productive and like I wasn’t wasting my inspiration. Plus, this allowed me to keep track of what I was actually getting done for an added sense of accomplishment.
Writing down your inspiration could also help you to develop your ideas more. If you sit down and take the time to document them, you could realize how you want to approach your project or even if you’d like to scrap it for something else.
Have a Mindset of Gratefulness, Not Urgency
One of the first things I feel when I am creatively overwhelmed is a sense of pressure. I suddenly feel like I need to get every one of my ideas executed and I have to do so before I lose my spark or my sense of direction. The jitters come in and I’m not so happy anymore.
If this happens to you too, perhaps we need to be more aware of our mindset in situations like this. We need to stop that urgency in its tracks and ask ourselves, “Where is this pressure coming from?” If it’s a fear of losing an idea that you like, that’s when you can document it to make yourself feel more secure. Make a rough sketch, list out a process, or make a note of a concept.
The reality of creativity is that you can’t always keep yourself from losing the spark. I completely understand that some projects are best realized when they are executed at the time of inspiration. So while this isn’t a perfect solution, I think that we creatives just don’t deserve to torture ourselves as much as we do.
The phrase “tortured artist” comes to mind. Creative people feel pain about their creativity. But what if we started trying to turn that feeling on its head and instead be more grateful for the inspiration? Would it feel less like torture and more like a journey?
Know Your Favorite Materials
If your creative outlet requires a material component like paint, pens, yarn, or clay, try to keep your most preferred materials available in your home. Art supplies are expensive, so obviously this will not always be possible. But if it’s in your budget, having the supplies ready and waiting for you when your inspiration strikes can help you relieve the wave of creative energy.
If having a stock of your materials isn’t reasonable for you, get to know your favorite products and commit them to memory. Find out the best resources for you to acquire them so that you can once you have the means.
Dedicate Space to Your Creativity
Especially for those with creative hobbies that don’t have as much material component (like writers, for instance), focusing on your creative space can be a great way to be prepared for creative surges. Whether you have an entire studio or you create best in your favorite chair, be intentional about making your space friendly to creation.
Do you need the lighting to be just right? Do you need a comfy place to sit and melt for a few hours? Do you need pictures of loved ones to remind you of your support system? Surround yourself with things that will help–or at least not hinder–your creative process.
Creative overwhelm, while a wonderful thing, can be hard to manage. But if we change our mindset to invite these surges instead of being scattered by them, we might just be able to make more.