How to Stop Falling into the Creative Rabbit Hole

If you’re a creative person, you’ve probably dealt with the following problem: You get so engrossed in the creative process that you find yourself slipping away from reality. This might sound like a minor problem in the big sweep of life’s issues. But for creatives, it can suck up all of our time and leave us mentally, and physically drained.

I practice a variety of creative arts. Music is the one that can lead me into the rabbit hole, especially, electronic music. I’ll find myself returning to my iPad for hours on end. The digital sounds put me into a trance, yet I’m often unsatisfied with everything I’m creating. I overanalyze. So I wind up with nothing after I’ve spent five hours working. Does this sound familiar?

How to Avoid the Rabbit Hole

There’s only one way to avoid the rabbit hole. You have to be aware of it. When you find yourself repeating the same process over and over without feeling like you’re making progress, it’s time to back off. Next time you find yourself slipping into oblivion, try these five steps:

  1. Stop what you’re doing: This is easy to say but harder to do. And if you are successful in breaking away, how long should you stay away? There’s not an easy answer. Sometimes, a few hours is all that’s needed. Other times, you might need a few days.
  2. Do something physically active: When we get too caught up in creative works, we slough off on exercise. Getting active might actually help to stimulate ideas. It will also relieve the stress that builds in these circumstances.
  3. Give yourself time to process: Creativity is not always an immediate process. Many works are done in steps or layers. Taking some time away from your project might actually be exactly what you need in order to reach the next phase.
  4. Do something intellectually stimulating: When I catch myself falling into a musical rabbit hole, I intentionally stop and do something else. I’ll read a book. write a blog post, or watch a documentary. Anything to stimulate my mind with something other than what’s tripping me up.
  5. Revisit your work: Once you’ve stepped away for a period of time, you can revisit your work. Listen or view with a fresh mind and critical eye. Be sure catch yourself from going back into the hole.

This Lesson Applies to More Than Creativity

It’s not just creatives that find themselves hopelessly stuck in a rabbit hole. Television, social media, gambling, video games, and many other hobbies and vices can lead to hours of wasted time. It’s easy to say that we improve when we continually practice something creative. That might be true, but it also becomes problematic if we can’t keep a healthy life balance.

Next time you find yourself doing anything too often, try the five steps I’ve laid out for you. It’s my hope that you’ll always find a good balance between your passion and reality.