6 Tips for Staying Creative in a Soul-Crushing Job

Is your career crushing you? Does your creative soul groan under the strain of uninspiring work? These 6 tips will help.

Mind-numbing jobs are tough for anyone, but for creative types, they’re soul-syphoning. But don’t panic. You’re not alone. Most people have been there. According to a survey conducted in 2012 by Right Management, 65% of Americans are unsatisfied with their jobs. In June of 2015, the London School of Business and Finance reported that 66% of young people in Great Britain wanted a career change. That’s over half of the English-speaking world.

So how do you stay creative in a job that squeezes the life out of you every day? Here are a few tricks to get you through the day, and help keep your creative flame burning:

1. Keep a journal

Joan Didion once said that the difference between being a writer and not being a writer is the ability to make a note. This advice holds true for any creative type. Keep a notebook with you at all times. Jot down interesting facts you learn, or confusing references you want to look up later. Record your creative ideas, even if they seem silly at the time. You’ll be surprised at how many brainwaves are saved from oblivion by a journal like this.

2. Don’t work through lunch

Seriously. Stop being a part of the machine just for that half hour. Bring a book to work, browse an online periodical (like this one), or learn a foreign language; anything that interests you and reminds you that there’s more to life than work. Your lunch hour is a great to time to remember that you do own some of the time in your day, and you can use that time creatively.

3. Take advantage of your commute

I spend my hour-and-a-half commute listening to audio books. Most libraries now offer digital streaming through apps like Overdrive, so you can borrow audio books on your phone. If you don’t have a library card, Librivox.org offers free downloads of public domain works read by avid amateurs. If audio books don’t appeal to you, explore music that’s new to you. If you love the Beatles, try Stravinsky. If your favorite music is Bach, listen to Fleet Foxes. Whatever you choose, make sure you that expand your horizons while you make that morning and evening drive.

4. Use your off-time wisely

Learn to play the piano, join a book club, or take up knitting. Whatever it is, make sure you like it, and make time to do it. Being creatively productive in your off-time can help you stay positive during your working hours. When I worked as a secretary, Wednesdays and Fridays seemed to go by more quickly because I knew I was going to the local fencing club after work.

5. Make time to pray

Or at least meditate in silence every day for a set period of time. If you do, you’ll find you’re more centered and more able to organize the rest of your life. You’ll also be able to accept your present situation with more peace. Peace is great, especially if you’re looking for a new job. Nobody wants to hire a frantic person.

6. Don’t be a victim

This is so important. Remember that you chose your job in the first place. Maybe you even wanted it at some point. Accept that you are responsible for the job you have now, and realize that the only person keeping you from improving your quality of life is you. You can either complain about your job, or you can accept that you chose this job, and if you want out, that’s your responsibility too.

Don’t give up, and don’t give in. Creativity is a choice. It’s a craft. It takes practice and an act of free will. If you want to blame your job for your waning creativity, you can. But it’s much more rewarding to be creative in spite of difficult situations. As Robert M. Hayes once said, “Held in the palms of thousands of disgruntled people over the centuries have been ideas worth millions – if they only had taken the first step and then followed through.”

So go ahead. Be creative. The only person who can stop you is you.


Guest Contributor,Gren D’Arci, writes from her home in Butler, PA, where she lives with her husband and (regrettably) no cats. Her work has appeared in such periodicals as Gilbert Magazine and The Saint Austin Review. When she’s not writing, Gren can be found singing with the Pittsburgh Opera, or with a local musical group dedicated to Renaissance polyphony. 

Photo by Antoine Beauvillain

1 Comment

  • March 30, 2016


    Great article with good advice. Thanks!