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Freya Dowson is an international documentary photographer based in Dubai.

About Freya

When the place where your creativity and enthusiasm comes from just breaks down. I took these photos of a broken down and nearly abandoned palace in Morocco last December, and today they seem like the perfect photos to accompany a post about creative ruts.

Fez, Morocco

Who doesn’t live in dread of those days where you wake up and all of a sudden you just don’t feel right. You sit down to work, full of ideas but none of the confidence and enthusiasm you had the day before. Maybe it’s an off day so you get up and get out, get through some mindless admin and come back to it all later. But still nothing. The next day it’s the same, and the day after that.

Personally I have a really hard time recognising a creative rut for what it is. I usually tend to panic and spiral into thoughts about questioning myself and my life in general, the choices I have made and the ones I have put off making. Everything gets crazy big in my head, and very quickly too.

I start to feel this panicky sense of running out of time, and that makes me feel desperate because I love my life so much and I’m afraid to change anything and let go of any bit of it the way it is.

With love and gratitude for all that you have comes a sense of fear of losing it all – but the only thing to do really is live every second of it and love as much as you can. And accept that nothing is permanent. So you sit down and think of all that you want to do and you put your ideas to paper, and then suddenly you’re up against that invisible wall again. Because it’s a rut, for goodness sake it’s just a creative rut!

Please tell me I’m not the only person out there who panics though…

After a while I do what I hate hate hate doing, I ask for help. I talk it thorough with friends, try to explain it all and while some people get it, others don’t – even though they try to. But that’s ok, no one can be on your wavelength all the time. But finally you find someone that says “yea, me too” – and sometimes that’s all it takes.

Other times, these things help too:

Sitting down in your rut and enjoying the view. I find it so frustrating that I can’t just get stuff done all day every day. I have all the dreams and none of the ability to prioritise, so burnout is inevitable. Accepting every part of me is a personal goal of mine, and if that means hanging out in a rut for a bit, I’ll accept that time of mental rest if it’s what I truly need.

Laughing/wallowing with a friend who is going through the same thing, or one who is amazing at empathy. I had to make a few phone calls before I hit on someone who sounded just as tired and just as defeated as I did. But when we finally met up serious chats pretty soon turned to laughter – a rut is just a rut after all, and thank goodness it’s nothing more serious. If it helps to laugh, I’m all for it.

Diving into something that isn’t your usual kind of thing. Lucky for me I have a film to edit and a looming deadline. It’s been about a year, maybe two since I’ve edited a film and I usually shy away from working with footage I haven’t shot myself. But diving into this edit and getting lost in a creative process which is so different from my own, that has helped.

Creative ruts are the worst, but they’re part of the process and you can get pretty comfy down in that hole while you wait for it to pass, especially if you have Netflix.

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