Confessions Of A Funk’d-Up Creative

26th June 2015


I need to get something off my chest in a not-so-glossy, perfectly presented and styled within an inch of its life kind of way. This is a post I wasn’t sure about publishing, because it’s not a glowingly positive one, there aren’t any words of wisdom or top five tips today, I think above all, I just need to offload and connect with some of you. So I could really do with your ear (or your eyes if I’m being pedantic) if you have a minute?

For several weeks now, without any sign of letting-up, I’ve been at the bottom of an all-consuming funk. Wish I was talking about it in the musical sense, rather than the crippling inability to find any sort of inspiration. Sure, it’s all part of the creative process and something we will all go through at times, but right now I can’t find my mojo, I am done. I’m just back from a ten day break in the south of France and I feel nothing – no amount of reading or ‘pinning’ is going to jumpstart it.

April was a ridiculously crazy month for work and I was preoccupied shooting our home for inclusion in a book coming out in September (more on that very soon) so it snuck up on me quietly in the way that it does, disguised in too much Netflix watching when I should be doing something more constructive than relaxing. In the blogging community we call it “bloggers burnout”-we all fear those phases and this for me is the worst yet. But it’s not that I’ve run out of ideas completely, it’s just that they’re not good enough or I’d just be repeating myself. My ideas are not inspiring enough, or aspirational enough or real enough. And when you’re faced with daily visual inspiration and stimulus and other people doing it already and far better than perhaps I think I ever could, I wonder what the point is. And that’s ridiculous isn’t it? The world is full of writers, stylists, designers-you name it, part of a similar vein or discipline, yet carving out their individual paths – there’s room for everyone, right?

A few weeks ago I headed to Blogtacular which I’d booked several months previously when my head was in a good and positive place, hoping to pull myself out of “this”, to rediscover or maybe even reinvent myself. During a conversation I was having with friend and designer Silkie Lloyd, she said “sometimes you just have to give yourself a break. Particularly where you are in life right now with two small children, it’s ok to give yourself permission to slow down.” She was, of course, completely right, but I was never going to do that. As my own worst critic, the inner whip-cracker is always at the back of my mind reminding me “that’s not good enough, do more, be competitive, go bigger”. After a while that mindset would break anyone. Do you ever find yourself stuck in that loathsome cycle of inactivity, whereby everything needs to be done to perfection, but perfectionist tendencies require that you never actually do because it won’t be exactly right? So then nothing gets done…

France, I thought, would be the chance to clear my head, recharge, have space to breathe and come home inspired and invigorated. One morning last week with a very nearly two year old using me as a trampoline, I woke myself up to this article on Design Sponge on ‘Finding Your Quiet: Listening To What Really Matters’. Yes, I was checking my email on holiday. As Grace described herself as a former angry driver and point-proving workaholic, I shrunk further down under the duvet as I realised that that person is me now. Every day is a rushed routine from nursery to home, work for an hour, back to nursery, the supermarket, the park, shoot something for an hour, make dinner…What is the point? What is the goal? My children have to share me with my email, an iPhone, a DSLR and whilst that’s not always the case, I feel as though it’s impossible not to when our home is my workspace and I’m doing my best to navigate working freelance with parenting. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I am just trying to do far too much all at the one time with the exact same amount of intensity and is why I’m not finding that creative flow right now. Perhaps you really do have to let go of some things in order for other areas to grow?

So that’s how it is and this is me. Quietly doing my best to keep going.

How do you cope with periods of inactivity like these? Do you just ride them out and let them pass on their own, or row against the tide? If you have the master plan, perhaps you could let me in on it…

Photography © Tiffany Grant-Riley

Take heart dear Tiff, you are an amazing wife, mother and creative. Have sent you an email, big hugs and see you soon! xx

Joi, your email made my day just that little bit easier, thank you. Such a lovely feeling to have your support. xx

Hey Clarissa, you’re feeling it too huh? I know it’s because I feel the need to be “switched on” all the time, it’s inspiration over-load but nothing that you can hold onto to make your own. Maybe a bit of an online detox is the answer for both of us? Hang on in there. xx

I can totally empathise with this Tiffany. Blogging has changed hugely over the past year or so. So many bloggers are now producing amazing content that is styled and photographed to a really professional standard. I sometimes wonder how they do it, and often feel overwhelmed when I compare my own output to what others are doing. Added to this is the pressure that comes from realising that it’s now no longer enough to just update your blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds – bloggers are increasingly expected to be active on platforms like Youtube and Snapchat too.

It feels that the bar is now set really high. On good days when I’m feeling positive this spurs me on to raise my game by learning new skills (& improving existing ones) or embracing platforms I don’t currently use (I’ve just joined Snapchat). But we all have dips when it’s hard to keep the momentum going, particularly when you work on your own, and it’s easy to worry that you are going to be left behind and wonder what the point of it all is.

I don’t have any answers, I just wanted to let you know that I sometimes feel the same way. Slowing down, letting go of a few things and easing the pressure on yourself sounds like a good idea.

You are doing great! xx

Helen, I’ve ALWAYS admired you and your blog and connected with your beautiful style, I consider Design Hunter as one of the UK’s leading design blogs and really hope that one day Curate & Display can stand alongside it. There is just so much to try and keep up with these days, isn’t there? You’re absolutely right in that it’s important to use these periods to learn something new or brush up, if you stand still you’ll never progress. So I’ll take that advice and work on it! Thank you xx

Oh Tiff,

I’m sorry to hear that you’re suffering with bloggers-burnout. We’ve all been there and it is tough. I think by nature we’re workaholics – always going at a hundred miles an hour and doing several things at once. Sometimes it’s good to some extent to embrace it and take a (longer) break. Maybe meeting up with likeminded blogger mums and share your experience, visit other exhibitions, talks and events to help shift your focus. That experience might go some length to help kickstart your mojo. We all get to that point and it’s not something to be ashamed of or shy from. We all empathise with you in the blogging community as we’ve all lived it too.

Hope this helps in some way.

Mary x

Hey lovely Mary – you were one of my first blogging friends when I started out in interiors 🙂 I do find it difficult coping with the isolation of living outside of London sometimes-I can’t make a lot of events I’m invited to unless it’s planned weeks in advance. Your suggestion of getting out and socialising might just be a necessary part I need to build into my life. Thank you for stopping by and weighing in. xx

I understand how you’re feeling as I have this frequently.
For me I feel it’s a combination of spreading myself too thin and being completely overwhelmed by all the content I see on blogs, Pinterest and the like. Plus the need to feel like everything has to be perfect (myself, my work, my social media, etc)

Sometimes, if I shift my attention by looking after myself & enjoying my kids moment to moment (and by doing this I have to totally accept and surrender to the fact that things just aren’t happening for me, which is the hardest part). Eventually inspiration seems to find me when I least expect it.
I guess it just breaks the negative thought cycle which is a killer for creativity.

I also find it hard working on my own and not having anyone to bounce ideas off of.

I hope you find your way again soon. I think it’s great that you are sharing your honesty with us. There is not enough of it out there in my opinion.

Good luck xx

Hi Lou, thanks for stopping by. It’s incredibly hard to switch off to the online world when so much of your working life depends on your ability to be a part of it. You are absolutely right in that sometimes switching your attentions to home life completely for a while can give you a new focus. I spent this weekend mostly offline just out and about with my family and although things aren’t much different right now, I can already feel a new sense of direction coming through. No idea what it is yet but having a little breathing space to allow it to come through helps. Perhaps I need to start a regular support group for when we go through those creative slumps?! xx

I think that would be a fantastic idea and I would definitely be interested in joining in something like that. Supporting each other in a positive way can only be a good thing for us all.
Especially for us creative, stay at home mums. It can be incredibly isolating at times.
Keep me posted!! 🙂

Thank you Guilia, sometimes these moments need to happen to help us grow, right? I’m just hoping it won’t last too long! Great to meet you at Blogtacular 🙂 xx

Ah, the dreaded blogger’s burnout. I’ve been suffering from this on and off for nearly 3 years now. It was never ever an issue for me before I became a mum. But having my first child made me realise I can’t do it all, I just can’t. I’m also a real perfectionist and unless I can dedicate myself wholeheartedly to something and make it the best it can be I often don’t see the point. I found myself exhausted during pregnancy and unable to keep to my blogging schedule. It wasn’t lack of ideas or inspiration holding me back, just a lack of energy. Things improved once the baby arrived and we’d settled into a new routine. But now I’m expecting again and I’m back in ‘that place’ again only deeper this time as I have even less energy having to look after a toddler too.

I also completely understand how isolating it can feel if you don’t live in London. I’m in Devon and can rarely make it to all the events I get invited to. I simply can’t afford all the travelling and I would need to take time off work and arrange childcare. So I often feel like I’m really missing out and that my blog could be so much more successful if I could take more opportunities.

I also beat myself up about the fact I’m rubbish at photography and totally useless when it comes to styling. I’m constantly thinking I should do a course but where would I find the time?

At the end of the day I try to tell myself that it’s no good punishing myself for things I cannot change. As a perfectionist I have concluded that what is more important to me right now is being a perfect (I know this doesn’t exist) mum. My blog can wait. I’ll find my mojo again one day and my blog will still be there. But my children? They won’t wait and I don’t want to miss a single second as you can never get that back.

I see this post is a few months old so hopefully you’re back on track now. Try not to give yourself a hard time if this happens again. After all we’re just bloggers, we’re not indestructible. Xxx

Hey Tiffany, I’ve stumbled upon this old post of yours just when I needed it. It’s kind of amazing to see that someone I look up to so much and have followed for so long thinking, “I wish I could be as good as her” has at times felt the same as I do right now. I’m looking around at everyone thinking how are they producing this content/ getting these collaborations/ being invited to these events etc. and I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing and how to make it work as a real living!

I live up North in Leeds which can feel very far away from all the buzz and happenings of London! I’d really love to be able to connect with more like minded people more often. I wonder if you ever still feel like this or whether you feel very much on track now? Either way I love your work so much and you inspire me to be better!

Hi Lucie, thank you for taking the time to reply with such a lovely comment. I do indeed still feel like this from time to time, I think its part of the process of growing and developing your skills, style etc. I took a lot of time away from things over the winter and used it to reaccess, learn new skills, look back on the previous year and give myself time away from the echo chamber of social media to evaluate things. Sometimes you need that space to grow and sometimes when you spend so much time with other like-minded people you can end up sounding like everyone else! So yes – I do still relate to this post from time to time. Give yourself time, that’s the thing that’s easy to forget – progress takes real time. Keep doing what you’re doing! x