Under the weather


  • Pro

    Hello everyone! I was wondering what you all do when you're feeling unmotivated?

    I'm usually a very high energy creator who always has a million ideas and works too much each day trying to get as much done as possible. Maybe because of that, once every month or two I seem to hit a lull so to speak, as if I've tired myself out. It's a period from a few days to a week and a half where I feel completely uncreative, unmotivated to do anything, and I'm tired all the time. I barely dragged myself out of bed at noon, and now I already feel tired at 2 pm without having done nearly anything. As someone who's usually so motivated and always going, it always feels extra weird when I get that way. Does this happen to you? If so what do you do when it happens? Should I just rest and sleep it off, or try to kick myself back into gear? Do I need to change my working lifestyle as a whole to avoid the inevitable crash every couple months, or just accept that this is my natural creative cycle and it'll come back around again in a few days? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.



  • @NessIllustration

    Yes. I have a funny relationship with the time of day as to say I plateau at 1-3 pm most days and I am wildly awake at 12-2 am. I have pushed through it today because I am back on the I want to create this and that, day.

    But when I am tired and unmotivated, I have to get away which generally looks like visiting friends and being out in nature where I don't expect myself to draw, just be, be wonderfully present. And if I draw I have no expectations.

    I also just recently, last week made a list of things I want to actually create and finish (final class work), and I will go through them and check them off when I am completed them. I don't want another year to go flying by and not make work I want and not try combinations I have been itching to play with.

    Your not alone by no means.

    If your in a rut, fill it up with some water, lay back and dream a little. 🙂



  • I understand (a little) what you mean. I have an autoimmune disease plus some mystery disease, and I have a terrible struggle with fatigue. I have to pace myself because what other people can do easily wears me out in a fraction of the time.

    Take some time for yourself. If you're crashing it's your body's way of telling you it needs a rest.

    You can try tweaking your work life and see if it helps. Pace yourself and see how it goes, etc.


  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I think everyone hits a wall and needs to recharge their batteries. I say listen to your body. Your mind might say go go go but your body is saying, I need to rest and catch up. I think you need to find your right balance. For me, its working the 9 to 5 job, making sure to exercise at least an hour during the day. Then at night if i feel like being creative, i will spend a couple hours doing so. Otherwise I will just relax and unwind. I make sure to make myself go to sleep by 12.

    The weekends are to let loose and enjoy the little things like beer LOL. Saturdays are meant to do all my house work and Sundays are usually spent being creative most the day.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that you will find what works best for you and your health. And it is ok to say, I am not going to create today but to recharge.



  • I say it's good to reassess your life balance. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating well? Exercising? Allowing your mind to rest, be bored, be in the moment? Maybe you need to set limitations on work, like not working after a certain time, or taking a day off in the week. Only you can answer these questions. With that being said, I really think that taking breaks is good and necessary! It may be a good time to go some place new, read a book, sleep, whatever. Don't feel like it's wasted time, think of it as refueling and inspiration for future work. It's awesome that you can recognize that it's a cycle and that you'll be back to your productive art self in no time. That's encouraging!


  • SVS OG

    Perhaps your down times are opportunities to refill that creative bank account, as Jake Parker says. You’ve been on “output” mode for awhile, time to switch to “input” with rest, nature, whatever fills you up again. We can’t be go-go-go ALL the time.



  • Whenever I get that way I do try to rest and "refill my creative bank account." Just make sure that even when all you want to do is sleep, that you are not over-sleeping as I have found that this can make the whole issue worse. If I'm feeling very tired and unmotivated but have already slept 8 hours I try to get myself up and go on a walk or a hike or ride my bike to a coffee shop for a drink. Getting yourself up and moving around - even if it isn't strenuous activity is often the first step to getting back into a creative mood for me.


  • Pro

    Thank you all so much for the wonderful advice! It feels really good and reassuring to hear that I should just rest and recharge, since I really don't feel up for anything else! Although I hear you @StudioLooong that I also shouldn't overdo it and oversleep, and some fresh air and a walk might be better.

    It can be a little tricky to figure though because freelance illustration is my full-time job, so I can't just put it down and not do anything for 2 weeks! The last few days I've been forcing myself to do the bare minimum I need to do to at least fulfill my obligations (3-4 hours of work everyday) but even that's been hard to squeeze out of me. But I can't just miss my deadlines! When this "down time" hits me, I really struggle to get the minimum done. When I'm back "on" again, I usually do all my required work early in the day then spend the rest of the afternoon + evening working on my own business.



  • When I get like that it’s usually a sign I need to rest or just do my own thing for a bit. Do you have something you can do which is less creative or maybe more physical? Just to give your mind a break!


  • Pro

    @peteolczyk I mean I could do chores and errands, home repairs and all that stuff. It does sound good right about now! The problem is that illustration is my full time job and while there is some stuff I can push back, some of it can't and has to be done nowish if I'm to meet my deadline... I have 3 book covers due August 27th for Scholastic UK, I can't just not do them 😕 It's tricky to find a good solution...



  • @NessIllustration I feel your pain, my wife is full time freelance graphic and web design and often runs into this problem. She says that sometimes when she tries too hard the ideas don’t come.
    Just a few ideas.
    Would it help if you shared your wips with someone?
    Have you tried just doodling (thats a good starting point for me when I’m properly stuck)
    Watching or reading comedies also works for me and my partner.
    (Would making a ‘to do’ list help)
    Are you being over critical, over analytical? (I can get like this)
    Hope this helps in some way.
    Let us know how you get on 🙂
    ....and very best of luck 👍


  • Pro

    @peteolczyk Thanks so much for the ideas ❤
    I don't think I'm being too critical or analytical, just feeling tired and distracted. Getting the lines out of me feels like pulling hair, but once they're out they look just the same as usual. I think I'll definitely try your ideas of just doodling to start (haven't done this in too long!) and maybe putting on a comedy or show in the background to keep me entertained while I draw. Those seems like they could help! Thank you!



  • @NessIllustration
    👍🙂
    you make such beautiful art, would love to see them someday



  • @NessIllustration I understand the feeling of losing motivation and energy, especially when your work requires it. First I would advise to take a step back and look at why these lulls start to happen, is it work related or something else?

    Recently whenever I started to feel like I was heading towards a wall I would just practice speed drawing. Recently I have been using line-of-action.com to do 1 minute animal drawings, which puts me into autopilot mode and gets me loosened up. It's especially useful in the mornings when you don't feel like doing anything.

    Another piece of advice is to research other artists work, read their interviews and get inspired. I don't know if it will work for you, but when I find an artist I like it really gives me a boost to get to that level and make me want to get back into drawing again.

    It might be a case of feeling trapped in your workspace, for which I would suggest to go do your work at a starbucks or a library or somewhere surrounded by others. The freelancer life can take it's toll working mostly by yourself, but your never alone when you have a forum like ours 😛


  • Pro

    @Gary-Wilkinson Thank you Gary ❤ These are wonderful suggestions! I've never thought about going to work at a coffee shop, this might be interesting!



  • I've had the same problems. I think it can be a number of factors all coming together that could result in a slump. For instance for me when i sleep late, I feel more tired during the day, get annoyed with myself because I didn't get anything done that morning and then what I get done in the afternoon is rarely any way decent because I tend to not be relaxed because of sleeping on.

    I had a project on recently which had an extremely tight deadline, so there was no time for a slump so each morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6 and before doing anything else I would sit down and start working, no breakfast no coffee just start working for bout an hour to an hour and a half. What I found was emotionally I was much more relaxed and motivated and positive. I'm not a morning person so I was pleasently suprised when 10am rolled by and I'd already had loads done, from 10 till bout lunch I found I did some of my best most productive and creative work. To work longer aswell i'd start doing exercises and stretches for my shoulders wrists and back, I found I had a lot more energy and could work longer. I also listen to the same things over and over again, for some reason it helps me concentrate.

    All that being said, that was for a client. I've no problem being super motivated for deadlines but when it comes to my own work, I struggle to be that diligent. I've learned a lot tho about when I'm most productive and spot the signs of when I need to take breaks.


  • SVS OG

    I've been a minister for 35 years and have experienced what you are going through many times over in writing my weekly sermons. I can't just take a break from writing because they have to be done but some weeks it's like getting blood from a stone. Here is what has helped me:

    1. Most importantly, recognize and accept it as part of the creative cycle. You'll never figure out how to make it not happen. It just will. As you said, however, the work you drag out of you kicking and screaming probably won't look much different in the end than the stuff that flows out. Accepting that the process doesn't impact the quality of the work helps a lot in accepting the ups and downs of the process.

    2. As some people have mentioned, you can try changing the place or means of creating. In a really bad writing slump I have even sometimes written in longhand by candle light.

    3. No matter how you feel, get something down on paper. I have written garbage drafts that I was able to turn into decent sermons because editing garbage is less daunting than the blank page. I'm assuming the same goes for illustration. (I am an amateur artist so don't have deadlines with my art thankfully.)

    4. As others have said, build non creative activities into your schedule to recharge and if you have time to give into the slump do it without guilt even if it is lazing about in bed. If, however, you have a deadline and can't give in to the slump, apply #1-3!

    The slumps are the worst part of the creative life! I hope this and what others have said helps. Good luck.


  • Pro SVS OG

    I think you need to listen to your body and rest. Question? As a whole, are you eating well, sleeping well, drinking plenty of water and most importantly getting out in nature daily? There is something I read once about treating your body like you would treat a child; getting rest (to bed early) , eating well/fruit and veggies, limited sugar, and playing outside everyday! Getting outside is huge for me, we moved to the Adirondacks and I go outside EVERYDAY, it has made all the difference in the world for my wellbeing. I hope you feel better soon.


  • Pro

    @demotlj Thank you so much for this great advice, Laurie! This is so relevant to my situation and so actionable! I can't thank you enough ❤


  • Pro

    @lmrush I think I'm doing okay on eating well, drinking water and sleeping enough, although going out in nature might be the problem here. You're right I don't do it enough, sometimes it's even several days before I step out of my apartment... I need to do better with that to be kinder to my body


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