Being creative means keeping the inspirational fuel source coming. I don't know what inspires everybody else, but for me, it's things that are encouraging, positive, aspirational, uplifting, and so on.
Every few months I encounter a slump in inspiration and motivation. I go deeper into self doubt and cynicism. But my most recent slump was particularly bad in terms of cynicism. Feeling ungrateful, irritable, losing perspective. It was largely due to burnout, having taken on some pretty ambitious and all-consuming projects (which I completed, thank God). But something else was lurking beneath it all and I couldn't quite put my finger on it until one evening at home.
I was watching a political video — a guy I wasn't really a big fan of talking about something I felt was complete garbage. But I was watching to just learn about some issues. But then I realized that I had this precious little time to recharge and here I was watching something that made me anxious and which was not uplifting. I was spending my irreplaceable, unrecoverable time with this guy. There is a time and place for doing this, but I had been doing this a lot — watching lots of youtube videos and following lots of twitter accounts that are very political. The issues are important and I believe it's good to stay up to date on current events and debates, but I was going overboard. Around a quarter or more of the people I was following on Twitter were political types, and in spite of being a minority in terms of quantity, they were inundating my feed with mostly critical and reactionary things. Over the last few months, so much of my day has been dominated by political punditry, whether in the form of podcasts, articles, tweets or videos.
I've heard it said that we are the product of the five people we spend the most time around (or something like that). Given I spend so much time working alone and listening to these things or just seeing them passively in my feeds, the negativity must have been profoundly affecting me.
In that moment, realizing I was giving my time to people whose content was not building me up, I decided to unfollow every political twitter person and delete my YouTube and Twitter apps on my phone. This alone has drastically reduced the amount of encounters I have with the kind of content that was getting in my head. Suddenly the noise of opinions and woeful cries of apocalyptic doom was gone. My attention can now be turned to good things — and it already has been. I've started listening to more positive things online and actively seeking out more visual inspiration — stuff that fell by the wayside in recent months.
To be clear, I still let myself check in on the political stuff, because it's important to stay informed and balanced, but I've put it in its place. And I'm working on bringing the balance thing up a few notches. So much information is going into my person all day — even into my sleep. I cannot fall asleep without something playing in my ear (otherwise I stay up all night thinking about everything). So with all the information coming in and having no time to process it, I think I'm just brewing up a toxic storm inside my soul. My aim now is to give myself ways of digesting and processing the information. One way is journaling. I've returned to keeping a journal (you know, with a notebook and pencil) just to let my thoughts and feelings come to the surface. Writing things down releases them from building up and creating anxiety — the anxiety of having many thoughts without really understanding them. Writing helps me organize feelings, thoughts and anxieties, and that alone somehow creates more room for positivity and creativity.
Another thing I'm trying to do is to let myself fall asleep without the headphones on and just listen to the things going through my head. It's really hard because it's mostly things that make me anxious, but there must be a reason our minds do this when our heads hit the pillow. So I guess I'm just being more mindful of what goes into my head and how I process it.
As for creativity, I've realized it doesn't really do very well on a diet of pure cynicism. A little bit is actually good — critical thinking has always been part of my process. But mostly, creation is about potential and problem solving, and these need to have hope and a healthy disregard for obstacles. The most inspiring people I know are realistic about life and challenges, but they are also profoundly, inexplicably positive. They don't fixate on problems or simply observe them for sport. Most importantly, they are thankful and generous (which are two sides of the same coin). My aim from now on is to allow more people like this to enter into my life, whether online or off, and to steer my own life toward a more constructive path.