The Creativity Pill for Feeling Stuck

4 min read

Which came first? Depression? Or the depressed artist? Can an artist produce quality work when they can barely get out of bed?

Artists, makers, and creatives working in every genre need more inspiration. Writers often identify the malaise, or lack of creativity, as writer’s block. The wannabe novelist dreams of writing The Great American Novel and instead fiddles with Words with Friends or stares at the blank page or screen. One hour in, and they are still waiting for words to magically appear.

The creative person feels defeated, deflated, distracted, and depressed

The oil painter dreams of hanging a one-person show of their landscapes. They can see the large canvases, each depicting the rolling hills of the Pioneer Valley, the peaceful seascape of Nauset Light Beach, the colorful orchards around Honey Pot Hill, or the white church steeples of the village of Hamilton.

The musician noodles on the keyboard, but never finishes the song. The gardener peruses the seed catalogs, but never orders. The designer buys the silk, the linen, the buttons, and the thread, but the pieces go unfinished, never to be worn.

The artist offers excuses for their blank canvases, their empty sketchbooks, and unused frames. Dr. Eric Maisel wrote The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression to highlight some of these challenges. “Virtually 100 percent of creative people will suffer from episodes of depression. Why virtually 100 percent? Because every creative person came out of the womb ready to interrogate life and determine for herself what life would mean, could mean, and should mean. Her gift or curse was that she was born ready to stubbornly doubt received wisdom and disbelieve that anyone but she was entitled to provide answers to her own meaning questions.” The gift of creativity challenges each artist to find the balance between the doing and the not doing.

Today, more than ever before, people—not just artists, makers, and creatives—struggle with achieving optimal mental health. Technology constantly bombards our senses, distracting us to: Like this. Buy that. Do the thing.

The pervasive, depressed feelings of Why Bother? circumvent the artist, creative, and maker attempts to even get started. Finishing their art product, be it a novel, a painting, a weaving, a garden path, an end table or vase, or a tasty baked treat feels overwhelming.

Pharmaceuticals support the wandering mind of those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder; however, these helpful drugs are often in short supply.

According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, 97 percent of independent pharmacy owners reported shortages of Adderall in early 2023. Other generic amphetamine mixed salts are predicted to be in shortage until the end of 2023 (Kuntz, 2023). In fact, recent shortages of Adderall and Vyvanse are widespread throughout the country.

The barriers to receiving these medications sometimes include stigma, lack of health insurance, and physical hindrances like drug interactions. The band-aid cure of pharmaceuticals offers a solution for some, but is there a better way? And some question whether creativity suffers from over-medicating (Farah, Haimm, Sankoorikal, and Chatterjee, 2009).

The very act of creating offers a solution, but start small

Try just twenty minutes. Set a timer and then set yourself to work. Like an athlete preparing for a marathon, they never run 26 miles on their first day.

If you’ve heard of runner’s high, you can also imagine the artist’s high when the words start to appear and the sketch begins to emerge.

Artists, makers, and creatives working in all genres will experience a healthier mental outlook when they engage in their passion projects.

Engaging in art is easy to do, and drug-free, and the outcome benefits the creator and those who witness the art

  • A muralist paints cement pylons near a highway exit. The artist enjoys the endorphins of creativity, while the passing motorists enjoy the colors and shapes of the installation.
  • A writer pens a poem and shares it on Facebook or Instagram. Their followers share the peaceful image conveyed through simile, metaphor, and rhyme.
  • A home cook throws a pop-up dinner party at their friends’ farm. The lucky guests enjoy the delightful delicacies of steaming butternut squash soup, flaky rolls, vegan pasta, and an apple pie topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

The artist, creative, and maker revel in the creative process while their audience reaps the benefits of their art

It’s a clear win-win.

When artists, makers, and creatives engage in their art, they benefit from improved mental health. At the same time, the world helps from lively literature, vibrant art, splendid garments, wall hangings, gorgeous gardens, songs, plays, videos, fine furniture, and scrumptious cuisine.

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