How I Get Out of a Creative Rut

Let’s get serious about some inevitable aspects of jobs and more specifically, creative jobs. It’s inevitable that you’ll experience a creative rut here or there. Now, I’m an oddball to work in the fashion/creative industry. I’ve got more of a business mind than artistic mind and am organized, almost to a fault. I book my photographer a year in advance and work on my editorial calendar in the same fashion. I treat my schedule as if it were my boss. That’s not to say creatives don’t do that, in fact most do! It’s just to say sometimes my structure can get in the way of my creativity and I experience a rut. You may experience exhaustion or heck, even boredom. It’s bound to happen, so what do you do when this issue strikes?

I experienced a huge rut when I had Maxi. Now, I wouldn’t call this a 100% creative rut. I’d call it a hormonal rut as all my mom friends [from lawyers to boutique owners] have expressed it. Then once the hormones calmed, my mind felt blank and that’s where the creative slump snuck in. You create a life, you birth it and then you realize everything else is well….just not that important. I had to think long and hard, “Do I want to keep doing this? Can I even do this?” Then after the realization that yes, I want to keep doing this, I struggled with how. Now I have a diverse audience, which I’m more than grateful for. I’ve got college girls and high school girls that e-mail me and then I’ve got chic grandmothers that comment as well! But I would say a bulk of my audience is women under 24. That version of myself felt like a lifetime ago [even though I’m close in age!] and so I didn’t know how to write for those women. I can’t even believe I’m typing that as that is nearly blogger blasphemy. But I want to be honest. As a mother, your freedom is stripped. Creating a lifestyle blog is all about freedom and lifestyle choices. You read blogs for inspiration. You scan Instagram to see where to get the latest and greatest green smoothie. You watch Snapchat to see where a girl is off to next. But that girl? She wasn’t there anymore. I don’t get dressed every single day and I don’t jet set. I had girls message me asking the simplest questions and I felt absurd I couldn’t answer them. Girls would say, “What is a great book you’ve read lately?” I’d think, “Does reading pumping tips on Pinterest count?” I felt like I was failing my audience as a source of inspiration. I’d have brands e-mail me asking me to go to Europe for a campaign shoot and I’d think, “But who would watch Maxi? I don’t have a nanny.” It was this weird scenario where I didn’t know how to write a blog post on creating a nighttime routine because my routine is more like, “Breastfeed, wash face, face plant into bed- but don’t get into too deep of a sleep because baby will wake soon!” And while I know I could write about that, I’m not a mommy blogger. I love mommy blogs, but that’s not what I do and not what I want to do.

Fast forward to today. Do I still feel this way? Absolutely not. Sure, there are days! I have my moments! I think that’s just the experience of motherhood. But thankfully, I got out of my rut and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to share how. I’ve hinted at this process in some blog posts, but today feels like the perfect time to spill what worked for me!

How to Get Out of a Creative Rut

  • Break Up With Your Rules

I’m such a regimented person, that I had to break up with my rules. My general rules are that I post to the blog M-F and the posts go live at 5 a.m. Central Time. That had to stop. I started to feel defined by this. Now, this is what I do 99.9% of the time, but I recognized that some weeks I just can’t post on a Friday. In fact, I looked at research for months before giving myself this luxury. In general, Friday is the lowest day in terms of inspiration sourcing on the internet. Girls are busy! They are finishing reports at work, preparing for the weekend or traveling to get away. Fridayss receive about 60% less internet traffic for blogs. Then, I looked to my own analytics which backed it up. I could post anything in the world on a Friday and most readers catch up on it Sunday night or Monday morning. Time is so fleeting as a mother, so I recognized that it would be better to work on creativity for future posts on Fridays as opposed to getting a blog post up every single week. Blog posts take an hour to shoot, then of course you must write and prepare for SEO. It can take about 180 minutes total to do all of that. Instead, I chose to take those 180 minutes and either enjoy them with Maxi or spend that time diving into things that inspired me. Of course, I don’t adhere to this rule every single week. But when you’re a very regimented person, breaking up with a rule is so freeing. It’s almost as if breaking up with the rule is the most healthy thing to bring you back to yourself.

  • Give Yourself Time To Get Inspired

So let’s talk about these free 180 minutes. What did I do? I chose to dive into what inspires me. I read. I watch Youtube videos. I look at magazines. I grab Maxi and go get an iced coffee so we can people watch. I read blogs outside of my usual bunch. I fill up notebooks with blog post ideas. I take time to go through all my Instagram comments I miss and write down requests from readers.I think the most important thing I did was take note of what inspires me. I don’t look at themes in blog posts, in fact I like to do the opposite. As opposed to studying what a girl is writing about, I like to study how a girl’s tone of voice on her blog makes me feel. Do I feel calm? Did I laugh? Do I feel as if I just left dinner with a girlfriend? Do I feel inadequate? I wanted to make sure my tone of writing was serving girls in the way I liked to be served. I also dug deep into my editorial calendar with inspiration. I have my own personal percentages [and definitely find your own that works for you!] that I like to adhere to. For example, 10% should be campaigns with brands [sponsorships in which you grow as a blogger and your blog is able to grow], 15% should be beauty reviews, 5% lifestyle posts, 30% fashion, 10% personal posts, 20% readers’ requests, 10% home decor. I wanted to really make sure I adhered to those percentages and then get as creative as I wanted!

  • Welcome Failure

This is a hard one for me and never fun. Paul and I were reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that was saying how if you always follow the same pattern of success as a business you’ll find that your long-term growth will have stagnated. Sure, you keep your consumers happy and you ride the wave, but you don’t strengthen yourself to go deeper in the ocean. In order to evolve you must try new things and those things will lead to failure, especially when you try new things on the internet! I have a percentage for my Instagram I like to follow in terms of post scheduling and I’ve completely changed it. I booked a few studios with one of my photographers to test out editorial shoots instead of street style. I’ve got some campaign ideas that are in the works that I’ve never done before. Is it scary to think people won’t like it? Of course. I’m a people pleasure by nature and any blogger WANTS to make their readers happy- that’s why we blog! So to think I work on a new project and girls hate it terrifies me. To be honest, I’ve got sweaty palms for this post to go live. I always worry someone will misconstrue words or not be able to read my heart and to me that is failure. But if I don’t welcome failure, I’ll always tread water. By getting out of my comfort zone [whether you notice it or not] I’ve become more inspired by the process than motivated by the results.

  • Change How You Work

The best thing for me after Maxi was finding a new way to work. I’ve always been an early bird as I work best in the mornings, but I didn’t know how early I needed to work. I do my best work at 5 a.m. That means I can’t hit snooze. I can’t just get up at 5. I can’t stay up late. I’ve started to really force myself to go to sleep early and get up on time. I want to be at my makeshift desk, with a warm cup of black coffee and laptop in hand at 5. It’s funny because I started going to bed so much earlier than I used to and so my girlfriends kept thinking I was mad at them! They know they could always text me at 11 p.m. and I’d respond. Now I turn my phone on airplane mode between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. My friend Britany even told her husband, “Do you think Katey is mad at me? She always responds and isn’t now!” She cracked up when I explained I put my phone on airplane mode so I could go to sleep! Before baby, I’d finish a blog post or e-mail in bed at 10 p.m. Now I don’t do that because I know it leads to exhaustion and exhaustion doesn’t nurture creativity.

  • Hone In On What Your Rut is Teaching You

When Maxi was 2 months old I got the nicest e-mail from a brand. In fact, at any other point in life I’d have called Paul at work to tell him about how thrilled I was. But this e-mail made me cry. The e-mail reached out to me to say they were so appreciative of the work I did before baby to make sure my blog didn’t skip a beat. They even gushed about how thankful they were my blog posts were always up at 5 a.m. As a brand, they appreciated they knew what to expect from me. How nice is that right?! Well whatever I was going through [can we blame breastfeeding hormones, please?!] I cried. And I didn’t just cry. I balled. For an hour. I called my friend Haley and told her I had to quit blogging. I said that I was defined by my routine, my regimen and I wasn’t that routine anymore. I felt like a failure because I knew eventually we’d have more kids and it would be a good week if I got 2 blog posts up. I told her that the blogs I faithfully read aren’t routine at all. Sometimes they go weeks without posting! I was inspired by their content, not their content schedule. I felt like I had failed as a blogger and just saw impending disappointment in the future. At this point my child was still sleeping all day, what would I do when she was 2? I told myself I just couldn’t blog. Poor Haley listened to me cry and as a faithful friend told me none of that was true. But at the very end she said, “What do you think this is trying to teach you?” I listened for a few moments and thought, “Well.. I don’t know, exactly?” She told me that she thought this rut was a process of me being able to grow in my work identity.  She told me I needed to be honest with my readers and I needed to define myself in a different capacity. She was right. I broke up with my rules and I started to create new rules I defined my blog with, and none were associated with being Type A!

I think one of the hardest aspects of a rut [no matter the catalyst] is the fact we really have to examine our strengths and weaknesses in order to overcome it.  We can skim Pinterest all day, but it will never fix the root of the issue if we don’t find it. Today I know my strengths as a mother, a blogger, a wife and a daughter. I also acknowledge my weaknesses. Divorce your rut, marry your new routine and accept change. Sometimes the thing that we believe gives us most successful [for me I THOUGHT it was posting daily at 5 a.m.] is the force that is truly holding us back.

As always, thank you so much for your loyalty as readers, your kindness as friends and your comments as encouragers. You’ll never know what it means to me to have you all here! No matter how many ruts, how many missed posts or how many failures, my entire aim is to serve you all. I started the blog out of frustration that I couldn’t find sources I needed as a teenager diagnosed with Discoid Lupus. And I hope that along the way I become a source in some small way to you! .

 

Jacket: Nordstrom [wearing S, but runs very large!] | Shorts: Nordstrom [runs large] | Tank: Old, Similar | Flats: M.Gemi, Similar | Earrings: J.Crew | Lipstick: Vegas Volt | Phone Case: Etsy | Bag: LV

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25 Comments

  1. Thank you for these tips! No doubt I’ve been having writer’s block with my blog content lately. I find it so hard to break out of my rules…

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  2. That phone case is everything! I am in need of a new one and really think I want something fun like that!

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  3. Pamela wrote:

    Great post! I too struggle with order and routine to an extreme degree and I am learning it is costing me in my relationship. This post was very inspiring and hopeful for me, regarding our possibility in adapting and finding more balance!

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  4. Cristina wrote:

    I love your honesty in this! I’m a newer blogger, and sometimes I find it hard to continually think of compelling content for my audience from my outfit to the actual content and the writing. My full time job keeps my brain occupied 🙂

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  5. Hannah wrote:

    Katie thank you so much for being vulnerable in this post! Pregnancy has left me feeling less than creative at times. But I have kept powering through. Thanks for the tips!
    Hannah
    glamlifeliving.com

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  6. Ellie wrote:

    This is so encouraging! I am without baby, however, I experienced something very similar when going through depression. It’s extremely hard to face the decision that what worked for you 5 months ago won’t work for you now and maybe in two weeks you’ll have to change it again. Change in general is not my strong suit, but it’s great to realize that I’m not alone and no matter what field a woman is in she isn’t alone in experiencing these feelings! Such a girl boss post!! xo

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  7. Katey,

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I love how honest you are! Finding time to do anything with an infant sometimes seems to be a struggle! I thought it would be a brilliant idea to start a mom blog with a 7 month old , on top of my regular full time job . This past week I have felt stuck on what to post about, when to post etc . I wanted to throw in the towel because of the added pressures. All of that to say , please don’t stop blogging anytime soon because you would be very missed !

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  8. Amanda wrote:

    I think change is a huge part of life. Without it, we have no “experiences” to draw on. I think you do a fabulous job of presenting different material that can relate to all ages. I’m older than and my husband and I don’t have children (I teach 3rd graders), but I love learning about all the areas you write about. And sometimes we all need to break away and rest our mind from one direction in order to be creative again in that direction (for you blogging). It’s OK!! We still love you, your fashion, and following you. So, as the old saying goes, don’t worry, be happy!! Enjoy this time with your family and your little one – it goes SO fast.
    Many Blessings, your Mississippi girl! 🙂

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  9. Yasmina wrote:

    Katey,

    As always, thank you for your honesty. We love you even if you don’t have a blog post on Fridays! 🙂 I, too, have felt myself married to the idea that I need to post on my own blog Mondays and Wednesdays religiously, and at times I’ve felt really constricted by that timeline. Life and love and work gets in the way, and then I felt like, “If I had given myself more time, would this content have been better? Am I giving this my all?”

    You’ve inspired me to rethink the way I approach this, because there have been so many times where I have stressed by a deadline that I set for MYSELF. Why? Why did I do this to myself? Haha! It’s scary as a Type A person, but it’s probably necessary. This post is beautiful inside and out, and I hope I read your heart correctly! xoxo

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  10. Hey sweet girl, thank you so much for sharing this. I am a blogger as well, photographer, and creative type in general and I can completely understand how frustrating and frankly depressing realizing you are in a creative rut can be. Sometimes I feel my cycle (inspired to unmotivated back to inspired) is more frequent than others and that can be hard for me to cope with. These tips really helped me look at these “lows” in a different way. My two favorite quotes from the post are “Be inspired by the process and not motivated by the results” and “Exhaustion doesn’t nurture creativity”. I’m a morning person as well and prefer to get a day’s worth of work done by 11am so that last quote really brought me some peace. Anyway, I know this is a long comment and I don’t generally comment on blog posts, but let this be a testament to how good and helpful this article is. Thank you for sharing and I hope you continue finding new ways to work as Maxi grows so we can keep enjoying COF =)

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  11. Brooke wrote:

    Just so you know – I always feel like I’ve just left dinner with a girlfriend after I read your blog! I love it! 🙂

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  12. Lindsey Stroud wrote:

    I loved your blog before Maxi, but I am obsessed with it now. While I appreciated your perfectly scheduled posts, that is not what has driven me to continually read or follow your blog. It’s your authenticity, your willingness to learn and share your experiences with us, and your ability to connect with your readers, regardless of whether they are at the same stage in life as you. Thank you!

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  13. Oh my gosh, this post sums up so much of the way I’m feeling as a Type A person and gives actual suggestions of things to do when you feel this way. THANK YOU for being real and sharing! I needed this today!

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  14. Gemma wrote:

    Excellent advice! Something that happens to me more than I care to admit. Thanks for sharing!

    Gemma
    http://www.fadedwindmills.com

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  15. Karli wrote:

    Katey-

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for years, and I love how you always speak to your readers like a girlfriend! You are such an inspiration to other women, bloggers, and (I’m sure) mothers. I really loved how personal this post was, and that you have gotten out of your creative rut! It’s good to hear because it’s definitely something other creatives all go through, and it’s nice to see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This post definitely gave me a great midday pick me up!

    Much love to you, Paul, Maxi, and Peaches!

    Xx,
    Karli // KarliAlexandra.com

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  16. This is such a wonderful post! For my blog, I feel like I am limited in what I can post. For example, my house is outdated (moved in with fiance and it was his childhood home). We just got engaged and are getting married next year so renovating right now is not going to happen. That right there limits me to do posts in the house as no one is going to want to see ugly carpet and cabinets from the 80s! lol I try to come up with alternative ideas but sometimes I just want to show one of my fave recipes or something like that and it’s annoying that I can’t because everyone wants pretty pictures. Maybe I should do a post on reality and what it’s like to live in a house that’s no so pretty right now?! LOL

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  17. Whitney wrote:

    Katey, this blog post was exactly what I needed to read today! I always leave your blog and Instagram posts/stories feeling like I just spent time with a good girlfriend – so keep up the good work!! xoxo

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
  18. Jocelyn wrote:

    Katey,

    Would you mind sharing the post from Wall Street Journal? I would love to take a look at it.

    Thank you for sharing and highlighted the struggles all women go through when we become mothers. It takes a village to lift each other up and could not be more happy than to know I’m not alone in my feelings. Days are good, days we second guess ourselves, it’s just a matter of finding a balance that works.

    Published 17 Aug 17Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi Jocelyn!

      Absolutely! Paul and I were trying to hunt it down so I could include it so when we find it I’ll be sure to link! Thank you so much for your kind words! xo

      Published 18 Aug 17Reply
  19. Nikki wrote:

    These tips are amazing! I find myself “draining” my creative ideas and then I’m left stuck in a rut. Also, this outfit is to die for! So cute! <3

    XOXO, Nikki
    http://www.casualblonde.com

    Published 18 Aug 17Reply
  20. Katelyn wrote:

    Always so beautifully written! Thank you for always being so genuine with your readers!

    Published 18 Aug 17Reply
  21. Kiera wrote:

    Loved this post, Katey! I’m a teacher and needed the encouragement and inspiration to do something new. You write so well which is an advantage over bloggers. Praying for you And your continued success!

    Published 19 Aug 17Reply
  22. Lindsay wrote:

    Coming from someone who is very OCD and Type A it’s great to read how motherhood can help motivate change and that it can be done. This is so honest and so full of great tips!

    Published 20 Aug 17Reply
  23. I swear I run into this issue at least one week each month! lol

    BlondieInTheCity.com

    Published 21 Aug 17Reply
  24. Melissa Breden wrote:

    Katey, you are so inspiring! You remind me so much of myself. I am a total “Type A” and reading this blog post reminded me that it is okay to allow change; easier said than done, BUT I want to be better, one day at a time! XOXO

    Published 29 Aug 17Reply