Bonking is one of the most dreaded conditions for the endurance athlete. It’s that point where every ounce of energy you had is expended and all you want to do is quit.
When bonking, your entire mental attitude goes south. You struggle with the most mundane tasks. Your thoughts turn to anything except continuing on.
You feel like quitting is your only option.
Creatives bonk just like endurance athletes. It may be writers block, procrastinating, doing more research, organizing your desk, not starting a project or just watching too much TV.
These creative bonks sap you of your creative desires and make it almost impossible to write prose, stroke the brush, bend metal or practice a piece one more time.
Why we Bonk?
For the endurance athlete, bonking is the metaphoric “hitting the wall” where they have used up all their energy stores and their body is telling them stop.
Bonking is your body’s way of telling you “I need fuel” which means that your blood glucose levels are abnormally low and need to be replenished.
Creative bonking is when you run out of creative energy. This can be for any number of reasons and all are valid (at least when you are bonking).
Like blood glucose, your creative energy needs to be replenished by training your mind and body to recognize when you need to feed yourself and to break through the bonk to achieve your creative goals.
Fighting the Creative Bonk
There are times when we just don’t feel like creating. These are the times when your creative energy is low and we just want to play Angry Birds. There are times when we just want to stop enduring and quit.
In order to replenish that creative energy, you can employ a trick that endurance athletes use — just make it to the next light pole.
The Next Light Pole
Bonking is both a physical and mental process. The physical process is a mechanism to protect your brain from starving by diverting blood flow from your muscles to your brain. When this happens, you feel tired and lethargic. You may become confused and disoriented. Control of your emotions flies out the window and you will find it hard to focus on anything. A flood of emotions overtakes you such as anxiety, hopeless and the feeling of being unable to carry on. This is your body telling you to slow down and replenish you fuel or it will shut down to protect itself.
To fight this, endurance athletes play a mental game called make it to the next light pole or aid station or bend in the road or whatever small goal they can easily obtain until they can replenish their fuel and get back in the race.
The game goes something like this: You pick a marker that you can make it to. It’s a simple goal but an important one to achieve. Once you achieve that goal, you pick another one, just as easy and continue on.
By doing this, you give yourself time to refuel and collect yourself to continue on.
This takes a tremendous amount of willpower because emotions are running high, you fell really bad and refueling yourself is really the last thing on your mind.
Your Next Creative Light Pole
Most of us (okay, all of us), have bonked creatively. It’s that point where you struggle to keep moving your creative project forward for whatever reason or maybe you can’t start something because the last thing stalled or failed.
It’s tremendously frustrating, depressing, harrowing and frighting to stare at the unfinished canvas, blank page, chunk of metal, lump of clay or bag of work out gear knowing that you want to get something accomplished but feel you can’t. That’s why it’s important to get to that next creative light pole so that you can break the bonking cycle.
To fight the bonk and achieve your creative goals, consider these getting to your next creative light pole techniques:
Set a micro goal: Micro goals are like those light pools — easy to see and achieve.
Practice your craft: Sometimes the anxiety to create something wonderful gets to us. That’s why you need to step away and practice. Practice will help you get back in the groove.
Slow down: If you push too hard, you may end up burning out. Step it down a notch. Slow down your mind and focus on just one thing.
Help others: Reaching out to other struggling creatives will not only make you feel better but also inspire you to create. Seeing others struggle may be the thing you need to put things in perspective.
Get inspired: Take a walk. Thumb through a book. Watch a little TV. Any of these things can inspire you to get back to creating. Don’t do them too long or you might end up procrastinating more or quit altogether
For each of us, the creative bonk looks different. It might be the fear of failure that drives us to quit (or success for that matter). Whatever it is, just be assured that we all face it, you can work through it and you will create more once you learn to fight your creative bonks.