5 reasons your creative muscle is losing strength — and how to fix it

If you are ever faced with the feeling that all your creative juices have dried up, there is one question and one question only you need to ask yourself:

Who are you studying?

I am such a believer of “input” and its role in staying creative over long periods of time.

Do you know why you feel so inspired after seeing live music?

Or going to the theater?

Or watching a really great movie?

It’s because you are allowing yourself to “take in,” instead of being in output mode.

And if you stay in output mode too long, that’s when the infamous “writer’s block” appears.

1. You aren’t making time for input

Like I said above, if you aren’t constantly studying your craft and learning from others, where on earth do you think all your brilliance is going to come from?

Your desk?

In your empty apartment?

You have to, have to, have to make time to not only study the work of others, but also to take a break from focusing on “output.”

It’s just like going to the gym. You can’t lift weights for 10 hours straight without eating.

In fact, eating is the most important part!

2. You aren’t sleeping

Trust me, I know that sometimes sleep deprivation can lead to some pretty incredible “a-ha” moments — like a vision quest in the desert, or something — but 99.8 percent of the time, sleep is your best friend.

And more than that, it’s not just about sleep, but allowing your brain a chance to rest. Again, this goes back to always being in output mode.

You have to allow your engine a chance to cool down.

3. You aren’t surrounded by creative people

You are the product of the environment that surrounds you.

You are influenced by those around you.

You are inspired by those around you.

You learn from those around you.

Environment plays such a monumental role in our development as human beings.

If you want to be truly creative, you need to be surrounded by others who are also creative in their own ways, and will push you outside your conventional patterns of thought.

4. You aren’t mastering your emotions — your emotions are mastering you

At first, I was going to say, “You are not in a positive place emotionally,” but some of the world’s greatest art has come from tragedy and heartbreak.

I think a more true statement, when it comes to creativity, is to be aware of how you feel and to use that as inspiration.

It is one thing to be depressed.

It is entirely another to know you are depressed, witness that emotion, and then transmute it into something incredible.

That is, and should always be, the goal.

5. You aren’t practicing

And finally, the simplest but most easily forgotten habit of all, the importance of practice.

You might be naturally creative, but if you aren’t actively practicing, that muscle will become weak. Oddly enough, you will still hold yourself to the same standard you once performed at, but will not be able to replicate the same success because you aren’t practicing.

Creativity is a skill.

It must be practiced, diligently and with focus, in order to be honed and cultivated.

This article first appeared on Medium.