3 things I did to overcome self-doubt and a major creative block

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A common misconception about artists and creatives is that they can simply turn their creativity on and off like a faucet; but, that’s not even close to true. It takes really hard, consistent work to maintain it. You have to challenge yourself continuously, and push really hard to have creative breakthroughs. To be honest, it can be exhausting. There are times when you just lose your confidence and feel uninspired. If you have felt this way before, you’ll be happy to know that it’s 100% normal, and something all creative people have to go through. I would even go so far as to say that feeling uncomfortable is a necessary part of the creative process, but unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier. I experienced my first major creative block two years ago when Elsie was born, and it took me a full year and a half to break out of it.

Becoming a mother was such a major lifestyle change, and I struggled so hard in every way imaginable. I was constantly tired, and every ounce of energy I could muster up was directed toward figuring out how to function in this new reality. I felt empty creatively, and this might sound dramatic, but it was heartbreaking for me. That was always the one thing about myself that I have never had a doubt about. I am a creative person; it’s been part of my identity since childhood. I knew that everything about my life would change when I had a baby, but I really wasn’t expecting to lose such a defining piece of who I was.

For the first six months of her life, I stuffed my personal feelings away so I could focus all my attention on learning how to be a mother. Then, my wedding season started, and I was so excited to get back to doing what I love to do! I showed up to every wedding with so much love and gratitude in my heart for the people I was photographing, and I gave it my all, but I just felt…different. Something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was; all I knew was that I wasn’t who I used to be, and I was literally mourning that loss. I felt awkward in my new post-baby body, which led to a complete loss of self-confidence and a creative void. When I finally acknowledged that I needed to move forward and start the process of reinventing myself, things started to feel a little bit less awful. I researched “how to bust through a creative block,” made a list of action steps that were relevant to me as a photographer and business woman, and started following through with them. Slowly and surely, I rebuilt my self-confidence and creativity, and made a full return to joyful living. I will never be the same person I was before I became a mother, but that is as it should be. It really was a full transformation that made me into a much better person, artist, teacher, and friend, but it was not without growing pains.

There were three things that really helped me break through my creative block, and these things can be applied to any one in any creative field:

1. Reach out to people outside of your industry. I needed a source of inspiration that was outside of the wedding realm. Don’t get me wrong, I love weddings. I love weddings because I love people, and emotion, and the intricacies of relationships. Weddings are my comfort zone, and I needed to get uncomfortable in order to grow. So, first, I reached out to a friend and did a “no rules” shoot with her just to get my creative juices flowing. Then, I reached out to a couple of local fashion bloggers. Fashion shoots are NOT within my comfort zone. I’m not a fashion oriented person; I’m a people person. I don’t think too much about what I wear, and I don’t typically read fashion blogs, but these ladies were so awesome to work with. It was challenging for me, and made me feel uncomfortable, but I pushed through it and created a few images that I’m really proud of, AND I made some really good friends in the process.

2. Take on a new creative hobby. This is kind of hilarious because I barely have time to take a shower, but I decided to give hand-lettering a try. I purchased an online course, bought some special paper and pens, and would practice every night after Elsie went to sleep. Spoiler alert: I never became good at hand-lettering. BUT, putting my creative energy into something that was not photography or related to photography really helped me find my way back to a place of self-confidence.

3. Make time to breathe and meditate. I am a person who loves to work, so believe me when I say that I had to FORCE myself to do these things, and it was not easy. When I say “time to breathe,” I mean I put the baby in the stroller, put in some headphones, and went for a 30 minute walk. I listened to audio books, I brainstormed ideas for shoots, and sometimes I even talked to myself. It was great. As far as meditation, I did some actual meditations with chanting, but it also came in the form of journaling, free writing, collaging, and reading. “Meditating” can be anything that helps you work through the “stuff” that is holding you back. I had some of my best creative breakthroughs during these sessions.

One of the most important lessons I learned through this awkward transitional phase of life is that creativity is tied to our emotional health, and that self-doubt is the driving force behind creative blocks. If you’re feeling blocked or “stuck,” don’t fret; it’s only temporary. There are many ways to break on through to the other side and find your creative spark again. If these three things worked for me, then I’m willing to bet they would work for you, too. Self-doubt is a tough thing to overcome, but it’s totally do-able. It’s always worth it to do the hard work that gets you to where you want to be. Motherhood is an incredibly beautiful blessing, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity; but I think a lot of people just walk away from themselves when they have a baby, and in my humble opinion, that’s not okay. For me, becoming a mother doesn’t mean putting my dreams on hold until my children are 20; it means that I now have to fight even harder to go after them, because someone else is watching every step I take. My daughter just turned two on Sunday, so it’s been two full years since I started this journey, and I’ve finally made my way back to a place where creativity flows freely. I’m sure there will be more self-doubt and creative blocks in my future, but I know I can overcome those easily now.

Have you ever experienced a creative block? What did you do to break through it?

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