How To Turn Your Career Slump Into A Creative Opportunity

by Niki McGloster

My creative well dried up.

I'm usually an early bird, starting every day with a fresh pot of that obnoxious positivity you hear about in yoga classes. But suddenly, my usual excitement for rushing to work was gone. I chalked it up to quite a few changes in my professional environment.

You see, after a three-year stint at my dream music magazine and holding down noteworthy freelance gigs for two years, I was ready for the next phase of my career. I figured I could get a full-time job again to stabilize my finances and write about my most genuine, authentic experiences as a black girl.

However, I didn't quite factor in how my writing would change.

There's an expectation in white media for black writers to write for a broad audience. As someone who typically writes for predominantly black audiences, that pressure weighed heavily on me. I began watering down the flavor in my writing and ideas in an attempt to make them fit neatly into a box.

I did my best to eliminate black colloquialisms and steer clear of topics I felt were "too black." That constant battle to toe the line of some unspoken assumption stifled me, and the output was a glaring indicator that my creativity was ebbing.

I wasn't offering anything to my job with excitement or pride. Furthermore, the lack of confidence I was feeling began seeping into my everyday life. My usual carefree attitude turned downright bitchy. I was in a professional wasteland of my own creation.

For weeks, I dwelled on that dark side of creativity. It was in a creative depression, if you will. The equivalent of lying on a cold bathroom floor in fetal position after a heartbreak, where you have no real will to pull yourself from the tiles. You'd much rather stay there and feel sorry for yourself.

Every day at 5 pm, I'd attempt to shake off my bad mood with trashy, entertaining reality TV and text messages to my BFF. But, when 9 am rolled back around, that cloud would return, chipping away at my spirit and reflecting its shadow on my work ethic.

I was distant, detached and desperately needed a creative revival so I could show up to work, both literally and figuratively.

In order for that to happen, I had to start fresh. I threw away ideas I didn't feel 100 percent passionate about and zeroed in only on topics and projects that mattered.

In an effort to find inspiration, I searched everywhere to get my groove back.

I started with a clean slate.

On Friday night, quite literally, I did nothing more than lay in bed.

Aside from swaddling myself in blankets, I wanted to be unbothered by any outside distractions.

I turned down the chance to toss back shots at happy hour and turned my iPhone off.

Getting back to my old ways (and my old self) was going to take a personal staycation-style retreat into my own thoughts. And that's where I stayed for several hours.

Those uninterrupted hours of silence and sleep gave me the necessary time and space I needed to find some zen and refocus.

Then, I vented to my sister about my frustrations.

The next morning, I called my sister, ready to slowly reconnect to the world and finally face the fact that I was unhappy at work. Up until then, I was silently suffering, trying to mask my bummed out mood (and sucking badly at it).

Where did I go wrong? What choices had I made that led me to this feeling?

Using her infinite wisdom, my sister reminded me to push through. This creative stump was merely a small obstacle in a much longer race.

She convinced me to double-check my professional goals and maintain them, even if that meant taking a personal day (or three) to reignite my creative fire.

Being able to unload all I'd been holding in was therapeutic, allowing me a clearer headspace to start anew.

I went to the Brooklyn Museum to find inspiration.

Whether it's a Picasso or a ugly-but-adorable piece your goddaughter draws for you, art inspires life.

While I usually wouldn't endure an hour-long subway ride from Harlem to Brooklyn on a Saturday without a party to attend, desperate times call for desperate measures.

I'd decidedly perused the African art galleries and KAWS exhibit to will my bold, larger-than-life attitude back to my work. This innovative and unique art stood as mental stimuli that helped piece my creativity back together.

Finally, I felt a spark and started jotting down ideas in my iPhone notes. I felt like a virgin experiencing her first orgasm, excited for that shock to my system.

As these artists, I imagine, took pride in their work. I promised myself to create things I could be proud of.

And I read HRDCVR to change how I was approaching my work.

The reality is that my creativity was never lost. I simply wasn't feeding it.

Instead of constantly satisfying my curiosity, I stopped seeking fresh, new ways to tackle my job and allowed myself to stay professionally stagnant.

I had to change my perspective, so I turned to HRDVCR, a creative journalism magazine that features news and happenings from both popular and relatively unnoticed corners of the web.

My excitement to create was revived by flipping through unique stories about religion, culturally specific foods and how social issues define pop culture.

Reading things that are relevant to my life inspire me. In the same way, learning new things give me newfound energy to use in my work going forward.

I closed out the weekend by watching a Michael Jackson documentary.

By Sunday, I was bingeing on everything from Beyonce's "Life Is But A Dream" to Kobe Bryant's "Muse" to Spike Lee's "Off The Wall" documentary on Michael Jackson's debut solo album.

Spending considerable amounts of time studying the nuances of the greats, I realized my work should always be authentic and genuine. There's no box for my work, because individuals weren't made for creative boxes.

Watching rare footage of MJ's early years, those moments he first pulled away from his record label, reminded me how important it is to do what you love every single day. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you.

I can't lie, pulling yourself out of a creative hole is exhausting. It takes self-evaluating and mental reseting to get back to why you do what you love in the first place. It's always easier to blame someone else for your professional missteps or find a scapegoat for your problems, but it's your creativity and you should fight for it.

It's up to you to hold onto to the talent and imagination that makes you wake up every morning. And trust me, it's worth it.