When creativity is lacking

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life46 Comments

During the past two weeks, I’ve been experiencing something that hasn’t happened in a while.

That something is simple: a lack of creativity.

But it’s anything but simple when your livelihood is in large part due to the creation of new things.

New products. New designs. New classes. It’s all about the new, my friends. And sometimes, when I’m reaching into that bag of tricks, I’m surprised to come out empty handed.

This comes in cycles. It always has. Most of the time, it really doesn’t phase me, but I like to share it because while I love how I make a living, it doesn’t always come with automatics and a steady stream of good ideas. There is always an ebb and a flow. Right now, I feel the ebb and so I thought by writing about it, I might shake something loose.


My mom recently told me a story about my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Heidman. He was one of my favorite teachers and it was he who instilled in me a love of stories. I remember being so engrossed in his class during story time. I can still remember sitting with rapt attention in a large circle of students on the floor as he read aloud from a book which became one of my childhood favorites, Me and Caleb. I remember, too, reading Where the Read Fern Grows around that time, and connecting to the fact that a story could make you laugh but it could also make you cry.

Back to my mom. We were talking about Mr. Heidman because I recently tracked him down to send him a letter of thanks, to thank him for lighting the flame of creativity in me at such a young age, and my mom said, “You remember what  he said about you, don’t you?” To which I replied, “Um, no… I was 10.” And she told me, “He said, ‘boy, if she ever figures out what she wants to do, look out!'”


Writing, taking photos, designing things… this stuff has been a part of my life since I was young. I don’t think of creativity as something that is necessarily bestowed upon a person but I do think of it much like any other hobby or passion: you cultivate it because it feeds you. Sometimes, when it seems that it has run its course, you just have to remember the ebb and flow and understand that it’s not an endless stream. That sometimes, you have to give back to the process in different ways. You have to fill up and recharge to get it flowing again.

As I was working the other day, literally designing ugly templates, I had to just get up from the computer and walk away. Last week, I did other things like go for walks, watch an Alien marathon while flat on my back during the middle of the day. I played with some card making supplies, but didn’t make anything that looked any good. I felt guilty for not making stuff and not having any really fresh ideas.

I was trying to make and realized there wasn’t anything in the tank to pull out and mold.


There are days when I think of a different career path. I think of my early corporate years from 1991 to 1999, working as a graphic designer in a corporate setting, with a salary and health care benefits and office banter and appropriately decorated cubicles. I never hated that world. I was good at my job and I made some of my closest friends there.

If you had told me, “Oh yeah, and then you’ll quit your job, take about 9 months off with a baby and then all this will follow,” I would have shrugged it off. This amazing career was not remotely in the plan.


I need to recharge. I need to get some balance. I think that even writing this post will help because that is what writing has always done for me. It has helped me. It has guided me. It has allowed me a way to make sense of all the stuff that makes up life on the big blue ball.

Thank you for following along all these years. Or even if you’re new to this little corner of the web, just know it ebbs and it flows. At least that is what I am reminding myself of today.




Cathy ZielskeWhen creativity is lacking

46 Comments on “When creativity is lacking”

  1. #1

    Trust your heart (and your Mom). Corporate American needs people like you who have soul. It’s just a thought…that in this time in our country (the world) we need authentic people to balance the shit that is out there. People who do solid work, no matter then venue. You’ll know…

  2. #2

    I can’t imagine having to come up with new ideas all the time. For real. When you take a hobby and make it a career, that has to be part joy and part sadness. Thanks for sharing with us that lulls happen.

    1. #2.1
      Cathy Zielske

      One of my freelance jobs is designing Scrapbook & Cards Today magazine, and I swear, it is my saving grace. Not only because I get paid to do it, obvi, but it is a job that has more of a framework. After three years of doing it, I know what I’m doing. I follow a map, so to speak, and I love, love doing it. But sometimes, coming up with other things to create… well, therein lies the challenge.

  3. #3

    I know you will get this worked out…believe in yourself. You do amazing work and it will come to you.

  4. #4

    For those of us who truly do this creativity thing as a hobby, your honesty means the world. I hope it comes back sooner rather than later, but it helps to know that it WILL come back. Remember, six (?) months ago you weren’t a cardmaker!!!

  5. #5
    Amanda M.

    Take a creative field trip! Museum, cool store you’ve been wanting to check out, a road trip…..go to the ballet or the opera…something you don’t do normally. It might relight a flame!

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Wait, you mean laying on the couch watching an Alien marathon doesn’t count? ; )

      Great suggestion!

  6. #6

    Working professionally, in corporate america as a “creative”, I completely understand where you are. I am a one person marketing department (I do all of the “creative” plus the administrative for my department). Some days the ideas flow easily and other days, having a root canal would be easier than trying to come up with something creative. Some days I leave work 100% happy and can’t believe I got paid to create things all day. Other days I leave in tears because I have to come up with creative things and don’t have one single thing to show for the days work. I agree with the person who said to go to a museum, or go to a store that you’ve been wanting to check out. Sometimes stepping away from the computer and the supplies you have staring you in the face, is the best thing you can do to get the ideas flowing again.

  7. #7
    Deborah P

    I’m amazed at all the ideas that you and others I follow come up with, so I completely get that there’s an ebb and flow in the process. Somehow, I seem to be always in the ebb! 🙂 Thanks, as always for keeping it real.

  8. #8

    It’s so cyclical isn’t it?
    We are still all here for you cheering you on from the sidelines.
    Wishing you the best.
    The sun will come out again and the neurons will all spark with creativity.
    You’re the best!

  9. #9

    In our world today, the negativity and the”state of affairs” definitely creates an underlying feeling of being less than hopeful. I feel like that definitely takes a toll on creativity. Taking a break from all social media and news…and focusing on music you love, walks in the beautiful weather, and photographing the people and places you love might get the creative edge going. What would you tell your kids if they were experiencing a low ebb…..I am guessing that it would be something like….”don’t be hard on yourself….let time have a chance to refresh you and hang in there, tomorrow will be a different day. Thinking of you!

    1. #9.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I feel like that has been part of it. What happened in Vegas… the state of how angry people are at each other… the frustrations people feel socially and politically… I am not going to lie. I’ve shed a few tears over the past few weeks.

      Still struggling with it a bit.

  10. #10
    Tammy B

    I feel ya! Normally, at this time in October, I would have a good chunk of my Christmas cards finished and all of the birthday cards done until the end of the year and into the next. Hasn’t happened. Lots of inspiration. No motivation. I make so many cards throughout the year, I think I’m just a little burnt out right now. I hope that you find your flow again soon. I love watching your card videos!

    1. #10.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Tammy. I did just record a new one and that felt good. Hope to have it posted by tomorrow.

  11. #11
    Annet M

    Have you read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. If not, go get it right away. It will be both inspiring – it’s all about how we find creativity, how ideas find us, etc. It might be what you need to read right now!

    1. #11.1
      Cathy Zielske

      It’s good? She’s tricky for me. I had some issues with Eat, Pray, Love. : ) It wasn’t a book for me, so I have been leery of Liz Gilbert. Maybe I’ll give her another shot.

      1. #11.1.1
        Annet m

        Oh my. So good. I also didn’t love eat pray love and I had the same concerns before I read Signature of all things. Big magic is non fiction but gets all the 😍
        I promise.

      2. #11.1.2

        I wasn’t a fan of Eat Pray Love but Big Magic spoke to my soul. I’ve given it to several other creatives and they’ve loved it too.

  12. #12

    I think you are so incredibly brave. I’ve been following you for quite a long time and can’t even imagine how you think all of this up. It’s incredible and if you know you need to restore your tank then do what you need to do because at some point it will come.

    What you were saying about trying to make things instead of it just coming is exactly how I feel. If it’s not there then I do something else or I waste time just making ugly stuff…although sometimes the ugly stuff turns into something cool but it takes so long to get to something I like.

    I apologize for bad grammar, it’s not my strong suit. I’m a numbers girl that is good at scrabble and boggle though. 🙂

    I love your posts, you always say it like it is with humor and insight. Thanks!

    1. #12.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks for your post. I wish I were more of a numbers girl at times. I might run my business smarter. 😉

  13. #13
    Judi church

    Thanks for sharing, Cathy. I believe that when you write something down, a shift takes place. There are a lot of suggestions here. Your mojo will return when it’s supposed to. In the meanwhile, believe that you help us with our creativity all the time.

  14. #14

    Take it from someone who works a zero creativity job…..you are so lucky! 10 years into this gig that makes a very decent second income and I’m looking for ways to make money on the side while exerting my creative muscles. I always loved scrapbooking and card-making so I’m so glad there are people like you that are still out there making those products!

  15. #16

    Another vote for Big Magic. I had some issues with Eat, Pray, Love too, and she makes some odd life choices imho, but I found that book really helpful. Your local library is bound to have a copy, so you can read a chapter or two and if you don’t like it, no worries!

  16. #17

    I’m an artist, letterer and card maker trying to make a living from what I love, which is difficult because essentially it relies on people buying my ideas. I’m also a wife and mother who stresses about being able to pay for stuff. My twins start high school next year, which means new uniform, new computers, fees, etc – plus there’s all the sport they do and the shoes (size 11 at 12!!!). So I freelance as my other profession – an Instructional Designer. It’s a different kind of creative and when I do this type of work I find it actually frees up the creativity for my watercolour and lettering. Sometimes doing something that uses a different part of the brain (that pays really well per hour) frees up the other part of your brain. When I’m having a creative block I use different materials or paint different subjects. Maybe you could go all boho instead of clean and simple.

  17. #18

    Cathy I have been a creative soul all my life – knitting, cross-stitch, scrapbooking, photography, cardmaking, genealogy and patchwork are my main and constant loves. Interestingly my patchwork mojo has been absent for all of this year – and believe me I LOVE making quilts!

    I have just returned from a holiday in Scotland where I met and stayed with a one of life’s most beautiful souls, a gorgeous lady in Pittenweem. Suddenly I have this deep and powerful urge to create a quilt and send it to her!

    I can totally relate to your post Cathy – and I just wanted to share this experience with you. Of course your mojo will return – sometimes in the most unexpected ways!

  18. #19


    While I don’t make my living being creative as you do when I find I just can’t take it anymore (or come up with ideas or whatever I need to do) I work on other aspects of my business – you know the paperwork or stuff like that (the stuff I really hate) and I also get of Dodge-either literally or figuratively. Sometimes it means read a book or watch a tv show, sometimes it is a road trip or plan a trip to visit someone. You will get back there-the world is pulling for you! Also I LOVED the book Where the Red Fern Grows when I was a kid, but I found I could not read it to my children I just couldn’t it was too difficult to get through. Thinking of you!

  19. #20

    I just want to thank you for the scrapbook your year class. I was super excited in January (as I usually am for PL) and set it all up and finished my first month. Then the winter blahs set in… And for some reason this year between the blahs and busy-ness I didn’t scrapbook a thing. Not one. Until 2 weeks ago. (Talk about a slump!) But with your templates I was able to catch up and have now completed up through September! (Minus the journaling but I have my mind made up to get that done this weekend 🙂 Thanks again! Now what to do about our summer vacation to England and those 1000s of photos???

  20. #21

    I have been struggling with my creativity since oh, around November 2016. I seem to only have enough for paid client work and beyond that, my words have been zapped and there isn’t much left over for anything else. I only recently put two and two together on this timeframe. PLEASE ADVISE. : )

    1. #21.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh man, Elizabeth. I definitely feel that. I think it’s hard to get back. I have loved reading the comments on this post (even while my website is not showing any of the image right now). Hang in there!

  21. #23

    Totally. Get. This. As a graphic designer in corporate America and a scrapbooker in my hobby world, I can 100% relate. And yes to the today’s affairs playing into it too. Seems like many of us are struggling together at this point. Sending good vibes your way.

  22. #24

    Well, as a digi scrapper, I would like to add that I love your templates over at DD! So when you feel drained, just remember that there are scrappers out there that would hate if you stopped creating! I also get blocks sometimes in making layouts. I do like you and just take a break. Oh by the way, I also lay on the couch and watch tv at those times. I turn on something that makes me laugh- Andy Griffith, Mash, stuff like that. Take care!

  23. #25
    Haku nellies

    Aloha !
    I wanted to thank you for your amazing clean scrapbooks ideas! I was a graphic designer for about 8 years too! I have always been creative but never liked all the busy scrapbooking out there. Then I found you and the music played! I have made so many uncluttered scrapbooks for family and friends and they are all beautiful!

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