Trauma can trap your creativity. Here’s how to release it

unblocking creativity

There may be periods where creative ideas are landing in your mind consistently and others, where you don’t feel inspired to do anything but get through the day. Here’s what do do when you’re not feeling creative but want to be…

Words: Annie Ridout

When I was in my early 20s, I was having a coffee with my ex-boyfriend and he said: what’s happened to you? You used to be so creative. Now, you don’t do anything creative.

He was right. When we first met, I’d written him love poems and ran a project called ‘Dear Someone’, leaving anonymous poems in envelopes around the UK.

But I was no longer feeling inspired.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that this had happened, I simply wasn’t having any ideas for new poetry and so I wasn’t writing anything.

It didn’t bother me until he highlighted this change and suggested I was becoming boring, without my creative productivity.

What I know now, that I wish I’d known then, is that trauma can block your creative flow. When you’re going through something difficult, you might not feel inclined to create.

And that’s ok.

Sometimes, it’s enough to get through the day.

Back then, I’d been through a trauma that had shaken my world. And while I tried to push the big feelings down; to make them disappear – they didn’t.

They stubbornly stayed put, blocking me from being creative and – actually – from feeling happy, for an entire year.

Eventually, as I worked through the trauma and completed my English degree, I started writing again. Ideas would drop – in that magical way – and I’d catch them.

Since having children, I’ve felt more creative than ever before. I have so many ideas about poems and novels to write, non-fiction books and articles to pitch, content to share on social media.

But there are two differences between then and now:

  1. I have very limited time now, which helps me to be more productive in the time I do have available.
  2. I’m under no pressure to ‘create’.

I paint and draw, write poems and build sculptures. I cook and plant flowers and make music and dance. But I don’t do any of that every day. Instead, I do it when it takes my fancy.

If you’re feeling creatively blocked, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Identify what it might be blocking you (eg. tiredness, trauma, busy-ness, fear of failure).
  • Think about how it would feel, to be creative again.
  • Look at the time you have available.
  • Think about one creative activity you could do in that time, with no specific outcome.
  • It doesn’t have to be something you’ve done before.
  • You could doodle, journal, plant a seed, pick and arrange flowers, make a sculpture out of found objects, bake, sing, dance, take photos.
  • Make a pact to yourself that you won’t share this with anyone; it’s just for you.
  • Decide on a day and time that you are going to try this activity.
  • But remind yourself that you get to decide whether or not it goes ahead, you can change your mind.
  • When that time arrives: close your eyes, take a deep breath in through your nose and ask yourself how you’re feeling.
  • As you breathe out, imagine all the self-criticism, self-doubt and negativity flowing out from between your pursed lips.
  • Breathe in again and imagine the most beautiful, creative light entering your body (is it rainbow coloured? Silver? Something else? You decide).
  • Now, are you ready to try that creative activity?
  • If yes, go ahead.
  • If not, that’s ok. You can come back to it when your energy levels shift.

Let me know how you get on, in the comments below…

Author: Annie Ridout