What to Do When You’re at the Bottom of the Creative Roller Coaster


Sarah Spencer

Actionable steps to get you through your worst creative lulls. | SongFancy.com, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary songwriter

The creative roller coaster of emotions is totally a thing.

If you’re an artist of any kind, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Some days you love your work. You’re on cloud nine, and nothing can bring you down. You’re writing constantly, and every song feels like a huge accomplishment. It’s during these creative highs that you’re the most productive, inspired, and excited about what you write.

But then, once the high has peaked, you start a screaming descent into disappointment, anxiety, crippling self-doubt, and paralyzing perfectionism. You don’t like anything you come up with, if you’re even able to write at all. You spend your creative-low-days hating your work and yourself and wondering why you even write in the first place.

Sound familiar?

This is the plight of all creatives. There’s no escaping it, unfortunately, but there are ways to live with it, work through it, and help keep your creative quality of life at a high level. There are a few things to know about navigating the low points of your creative roller coaster ride:

Learn your rhythms.

Every writer or artist deals with this crazy ride, but we’re all different when it comes to timing. Learn your cycles. How long do they last? Are you up for a week, down for a week? Do your creative peaks tend to last longer than your lows? Are you most creative during certain points in the year? Does the weather affect your creativity? Pay attention to your creative ups and downs. When you lean how they operate, you’ll become much more aware of when and how they happen. Then, you can start to come up with strategies to get you through inevitable the low-creative times.

Learn what works for you.

Story time: I used to feel SO guilty whenever I was in a creative lull, and all I wanted to do was something else. Anything else. I wanted to try new recipes just for the heck of it, I wanted to start a new show on Netflix, I wanted to write my novel, go outside, do anything except be reminded of songwriting. I felt like I had to be spending every second of my spare time writing songs and growing my skills as a songwriter. But some days, I just had nothing left in me and needed so badly to step away from it to breathe. I still loved writing songs, but I was spent.

I learned in time that there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. Sometimes, we need to step away from songwriting to refill our creative souls. I found that doing other activities that my heart was calling me to do actually filled me back up with the energy I needed to write again. This is why you need to learn what works for you! You can write every second of the day and burn yourself out – or you can take some much needed time to step back for a bit, and do something else that refills your creative bucket. This is a much healthier way to ride out the lows of your songwriting roller coaster.

Give yourself grace.

What I mean by this is: forgive yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s ok it you aren’t feeling your best all the time. It’s ok if you’re not writing your best every time you sit down to write. You are not perfect. You are not a machine. You are a living, breathing, feeling, thinking human and you have needs other than being the best songwriter you can be.

Some days you may need a kick in the ass, but don’t kick yourself when you’re down. Learn what you need, take the time you need, and get back on the bandwagon when you’re in better shape.

Ten things to try when you’re in a creative lull:

  1. Step back from your art. Give it a few days. A week. It’s ok to take some time off.
  2. Have a hobby. Go do something fun you love. Cook, garden, read, work out, whatever it may be. Go do something for yourself that fills up your joy bucket.
  3. Hang out with a best friend. Go out for coffee or drinks.
  4. Have a date night with your boyfriend or hubby.
  5. Spend some time in nature. Go for a walk, a run, a hike. Go someplace new.
  6. Go see a show. Sometimes, watching other songwriters can introduce you to whole new songwriting “aha!” moments.
  7. If the thought of listening to music hurts, turn off the radio. Don’t listen to it for a little bit. Or change the station to something you rarely listen to.
  8. Binge watch some shows. Seriously.
  9. Have a “mental health day.” Stay in your pajamas, clean the house, pet your dog. Do absolutely nothing for a while. Feels good.
  10. Know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Forgive yourself, be kind to yourself, and hop back on the bandwagon when you’re feeling better.
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Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer is an award winning singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN.

Born in the Sunshine State, Sarah Spencer writes vibrant, shining americana/pop music. She works in Nashville TN as a singer/songwriter, as well as a UX designer for a marketing firm.

Follow Sarah on Spotify to get her latest releases.

You can jump on her email list at SarahSpencer.com or purchase her debut EP, "Freshman Year" on iTunes.