How To Shift That Creative 'Meh'

Being a small business owner, or creative person comes with many ups and downs, and sometimes it can feel like there are more downs than ups, but it doesn't have to be like that. I get it, I go there often, but always manage to drag myself away... eventually.

Some days you are on top of the world, creating to your heart's content and packing up orders or completing custom projects and things couldn't be better. Then, you take a break and look at Instagram or Facebook and BAM! Suddenly, you don't feel so great about your little business anymore because it would appear that someone else has it better than you do. Someone else has packed up more orders and there are pictures of huge piles of mailing sacks and all of a sudden your pile of orders feels inferior. Or perhaps they're off doing something that right now, you can only dream of doing or investing in equipment or space that you long for. Perhaps some days you just don't feel like doing anything creative, but then beat yourself up for not doing something productive because that's being lazy. Sound familiar?

Yep? Thought so. It's a perfectly normal part of running a small business or being a creative person. It comes with the territory, and is made even easier to feel that way since the invention of good old social media. But don't worry, you can shift that 'meh' feeling and get back on track.

When I'm feeling rubbish about the way my business is going, the fact I don't really like my latest design or when I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life, I stop and take a step back.

Closing Facebook and Instagram is usually the first step. Shortly followed by making a list and putting the kettle on. Making a list helps your brain dump everything that is tangled up inside your head onto paper so that you can begin to rationalise what's going on, whether it's an overwhelming list of jobs you have to do, a list of all the things that are troubling you or how your latest design is irritating the hell out of you because you can't finish it. Get it down on paper, helps because then you can try and work out what you're going to do about it and hopefully realise it isn't as bad as you're telling yourself.

Now, why are you feeling the way that you do and what are you going to do about it?

You want to work, but you're just not feeling it
I get this a lot. It's an odd one, you feel like you want to be creative and you're like 'yeah! let's do this', you get out your pencils and then nothing happens. The inspiration just isn't there, you've lost your mojo. Perhaps, it's a design that you've been staring at for the last few hours and no matter what you do with it, it just doesn't feel finished or hasn't gone to plan (my engagement cards were in my sketchbook for 2 years. It took my best friend getting engaged to finally finish them off!) Or you know you need to work but end up procrastinating instead and then you beat yourself up over it because nothing got done. When I'm feeling like this I find it's better to just walk away and do something else and let your brain work its magic in the background, fresh eyes are a game changer. If you have that easy job list, hit that up instead. Think of it as 'productive procrastination'. Or, if it's really one of those days, walk away from it all. Take a break, find time to relax and come back to it later. You can't turn on creativity and brain power on like a tap. If it's not there, then it's not there.

Social media
You've spent too long looking at what everyone else has and are now comparing your life to their highlight reel? Well stop right there my friend. That isn't going to get you anywhere. You can't see the stresses and strains that got them that success. You can't see the staying up all night worrying about money or how they're going to pay the next bill. You can't see all the sacrifices they've had to make to get to get in a position that they're in now or how long it took to get there. Remember, they were in your position once. Rather than beating yourself up because you don't rate yourself as highly as these people (which is naughty because I think you're great), sit there and make a plan. Use them as inspiration, something to aspire to. How can you up your game to help grow to the next 'level'. Don't set yourself an unobtainable goal though, because that will only lead to disappointment. Start off with small steps that are actually achievable and work your way up. Being successful or mastering a new skill doesn't happen overnight.

Overwhelming list of things to do
I've got lists left, right and centre. Lists of things I want to make, lists of things I feel like I should be making now, lists for each day, important jobs, not so important jobs and lists for things I have to go to. Some days, it's easy to get so caught up in all the things that we think we have to do, we just end up doing nothing because we just don't know how to start. Been there, done that? Yep, me too. I was actually there last week until my friends came to the rescue and rationalised everything. See that word again? So, what did I do about it? To begin with I spoke to someone about it and they helped to clear my mind. And how did I do that? I wrote a new list of course. I wrote down everything I had penciled in for that week. What jobs had to be done no matter what and what could wait. Was everything that I told myself I had to do completely necessary? Secondly, which jobs required brain power and which were a lot easier. Once I had that list, I knew which I had to focus on and which ones I could fit in if I had the time. On days where I don't have the energy for the jobs which require brain power I do everything on the easier jobs list. This way things are still getting done and you don't have to feel guilty about it. This is the result of last weeks 'meh' day when I labelled envelopes instead (a job from the easy non brain power list).

What are other small creative businesses saying?
Becka - Becka Griffin Illustation
I think sometimes you just have to roll with it. Take it easy. Do other stuff. You can only be creative so much of the time, and sometimes it is your brain's way of saying "slow down"!

Don't be annoyed at yourself! The more you beat yourself up the worse it is. Take a break, go for a walk, get some fresh air and try again. Or talk to biz friends as sometimes they can spur you on.

Frances - Halfpinthome
I have a day away or however long it takes... before I know it the feeling comes back. I never run out of ideas, but I do hit a block with the motivation to finish ideas I'm stuck with half way through the design process!

Chiara - Hoobynoo
I take some time off and do non work stuff, I read, go to the cinema, go for walks. Then it comes back.

Lindsay - Littlebirdydesigns
I think working in a different medium than normal can help, so if you normally use watercolour, having a go at collage or using clay for example just to get the inspiration flowing. Also I've been trying a new thing - it's only been 3 days, but it's working so far. I'm making myself spend an hour every morning doing drawing and painting, no matter what else there is to get done that day. Otherwise, I just keep thinking... well if I get this finished I'll do some drawing later, but of course I never get things finished so I never get around to the drawing. Not sure if that's quite the same thing, but I suppose I'm saying sometimes you just have to work through the 'meh' bit.

Jo - Adventures and Tea Parties
When my mojo is flat, I have to switch off my phone and laptop and get outside, either for a long walk, a long gardening session, a trip somewhere new or to go see my mates. By not focusing on why my creative mojo has gone and instead letting my brain relax and getting away from unhelpful distractions (the internet), I find it comes flooding back!

Charlie - Stitchsperation
When my mojo/sewjo has gone, I have a tidy up. A tidy studio = a tidy mind. Also switching to something different can help. Sometimes I lose my mojo because I can't work out how to complete the project I'm working on. It needs to marinate in the back of my mind for a bit, so like Jo says, do something else and stop thinking about it and usually my brain works itself out and suddenly knows what to do!

So, how are you going to shift that creative 'meh' of yours? Everybody deals with it differently so there are not any right or wrong answers, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Close social media and stop looking at what other people are doing
  • Make a plan, set realistic, achievable goals and celebrate your successes
  • Rationalise your thoughts and work out why you're feeling like you are
  • Make an organised list of jobs with a realistic time frame if it's jobs you're stressing over and split them into needs to be done and what can wait. After all, there's nothing more satisfying than ticking off a to do list.
  • Take care of yourself - are you taking breaks, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep? Are you pushing yourself too hard? Don't let yourself burn out.
  • Take time out just for you and do what relaxes you. A walk, a bath or reading your favourite book for example.
  • Walk away from it and come back to it later with fresh eyes.
  • Talk to someone about it
  • Exercise, it's good for stress relief and helps to wake you up and get you motivated.
  • Have a good tidy up. Tidy space, tidy mind. 
  • Put the kettle on, grab a little something to eat, change your mindset and plough on
  • Set a reward. 'If I get this done by X time I'm going to allow myself to do/have Y'.


  1. I love this! I was in a creative "meh" space today and I found I just had to plough through. Rewards are a great idea though. I should get myself some chocolate tonight. :]

    1. You definitely deserve that chocolate after ploughing through. I hope you're feeling better today though :)