There’s no single right or wrong way to be creative. It’s what works for YOU!

I beat myself all the time when I hit a slump in my creative cycle.

I think, “What’s the use, nothing’s selling, everyone’s telling me I’m doing it wrong, I’m out of ideas, NOW WHAT??!!”

When I’m in this part of my cycle, it feels pretty hopeless, and I feel pretty useless.

Today I had an ‘aha!’ moment.

This. Is. NORMAL.

I’ve written before about my amazing experience in Lyedie Geer‘s Theory U workshop. (Theory U represents a business model, but Lyedie’s presentation focused on this also applies to our creative work.) (Also synchronistic: As I looked for a link to her blog, I found another great article that helped me today!)

In any creative cycle, there are periods of intense productivity. And also periods of intense confusion, frustration, trial-and-error, and self-doubt.

It’s only when we define ourselves by that second half of the equation that we lose hope. Lose faith in our process. Lose respect for ourselves, as an ordinary, often brilliant, sometimes lost in confusion as a human being.

During the Covid-19 shut-down, I went into a major productive period during the Covid-19 shut-down (my latest shrine series). I always want to figure out how to make something in my head. Does. Not. Work. Instead, I took a deep breath and went with trial-and-error. It DID work!











Then some exhibition deadlines came up. More inspiration! And I made two more Shaman necklaces.











And then the deadlines were met, the creative surge ebbed, and I was in a major period of lull.

I went into a major period of sifting and sorting through my supplies: Sorting my artifacts by size, use, and color. Moving on items that I will never use, and won’t need for classes. Organizing seed beads (yup. I KNOW.) was the biggie. And I’d berate myself for wasting valuable time when I could be doing something more productive.

The rewards of this period? I got a lot of sorting done! And it was very soothing indeed.

The downfall? Long periods of sitting and repetitive motor activity resulted in tendonitis, loss of muscle tone, and not much else getting done.

Finally, last week, I told myself, “ENOUGH!” My goal: Make one thing today. One horse. Or an owl. Or a blue bear.

And I did.

But it didn’t swerve me into full artifact-production-mode. I still felt “meh”.

And then, yesterday I had a huge insight/inspiration:

I want to make more Shaman necklaces. The really big ones, with big beads, big critters, statement pieces.

They don’t sell quickly, that’s for sure. And my goal has always been to make at least one a year. To remind myself that the MAKING is what’s important, not the selling. To encourage myself to “go BIG”, no matter what the outcome is.

But I made a big blue horse yesterday. And as I made it, intending it to be a small sculpture, I thought, “This would make a great Shaman necklace!”

There it was. There was my answer, my next step forward.

Today, I’m actually excited to get to my studio again.

Today, I can see that the “fallow” period was not a fluke. It was not useless. It was not a drain of my resources.

It was a period of rest, and restoration. A time to let the next inspiration find ME, instead of demanding it show up RIGHT NOW.

I’m feeling better today.

And I hope I’ve made YOU feel a little better today, too.

What is your creative cycle? Similar? Vastly different?

Do you recognize it when you’re in it? I’d love to hear what other creatives experience!


Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

11 thoughts on “MY WONKY CREATIVE CYCLE”

  1. You are awesome-sauce! They aren’t listed in my etsy shop, but heck, maybe it’s time I did. Thank you for the suggestion and encouragement, Rosemary, much appreciated! 🤗


  2. Wow, do I ever get ” the MAKING is what’s important, not the selling.” In the last several years, I’ve found myself making something while thinking “This will never sell…” And darned if those things aren’t the first to go. The times I create something where selling it is the first reason for creating it, well then I’m stuck with it for a long time.


    1. I love this! Thanks, Max! Er…Michael! 🙂 We all get caught up from time to time about the money. But when we chase the money, we’re also walking away from making what WE love, from making what means something meaningful for US. SO IMPORTANT to follow our hearts. I won’t add “…and the money will follow” because that can give us false hope. I also understand that some of us HAVE to make money doing this, or by doing something else. But it’s important to find a balance there, too: Do what you like/enjoy that makes money, and still MAKE ROOM for the work of your heart.


  3. I cycle too. And organize, sort and inventory. The bonus comes when I do come “back online” and a creative urge niggles it’s way in again with ideas that are like popcorn. Those little hard kernels need to move continuously, round and round in the hot oil until they burst…and when they start popping they are a riotous chaotic thing…which is why organizing was such a bonus. Now I can FIND that doohickey that my creative urge wants to do something with!

    Best to you! Hugs, Carla

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Maybe we’re not so much “out of ideas” as just bored by what we’re making. I stopped writing a few years back when I finished a trilogy and a sequel in two separate worlds; it seemed like a good place to pause. Real-life events took over – maybe I created a space for that to happen? – and now I’m starting to feel like there are more stories waiting for me to write them. (I just need to keep away from the internet: duh!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great insights on two counts, Lee. YES, sometimes it’s time to mix it up with our creative work. Going BIG felt like the right thing to do for me. And that’s a good comment about the internet, too. Years ago, an artist told me they hardly looked at other people’s artwork, because it distracted them from their own unique art. I’ve never forgotten that. It can be enjoyable, even; inspiring, to take a long k around. But it can also feel like our art is ‘less-than’ and lead to asking ourselves, “What’s the use? Everyone is better than me!” So just enough to spark an insight or idea, hut not enough to bury our own vision, ideas, and experience.


  5. I am in a very slow cycle right now. Going through a divorce. Let’s talk ups and downs. Paperwork is finally done and going to the judge. Now all I have to do is come up with the money to buy out my home! Well, and then my soon-to-be-ex will move out and on.
    I guess I understand this low. And I want to toss it aside and get back to my passion. It just isn’t happening. Thank you for giving me permission to sort my beads and clean my studio and what ever it takes until the next phase of my cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so attuned to exactly what you need right now! You are amazing to see that. You’ve reminded me of that chapter in The Artist’s Way, about how sometimes, when life is overwhelming and full of chaos and challenges, it’s perfectly fine to pull in the oars and let the river carry us downstream, with no self-judgment or castigation. And when you are ready, the work of your heart will be ready to flow with you again. I’m honored my words helped you, a little, today!


  6. I definitely have times like this. I kind of consider myself a projectaholic. When a project ( series, difficult painting or whatever), it seems I need a period of rest. No Art is done, I catch up on reading, cleaning, and tv shows. Then the new project idea starts bubbling up and hear we go again! I also am learning to accept this is who I am. I’ve also been working on accepting physical limitations due to serious health issues. But I’ve hard- learned that even a small shift in my thinking will allow me to take the next step in whatever direction I’m meant to take. Blessings to you Luann! I love reading your blog!


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