How To Break Out of a Funk: The Ancillary Activity Approach

How often do you feel like you’re struggling to break out of a funk?

Recently my friend Liz posted in a Facebook group in which we both belong that she’s been in a funk with her artwork.


Liz is an incredibly talented artist. In addition being a good friend, she's also someone I admire. Check her out here painting on ABC morning news, and tending to a popup installation she put together on Chicago's Michigan Avenue last fall.

Clearly, she's really fucking good at this stuff. When you look at someone like her, you probably think (as I do) that she’s always “on” with her artwork. That her ability to ply her craft comes naturally.

As her Facebook comment indicates, Au contraire.

The fact is, funks happen. Whether your passion is art, music, running, photography, baking, or anything else, it’s tough to always create. The problem isn’t the creation itself, though. And that’s where we start to get stuck.

In my life, creating music is a major passion. Being a rapper by hobby is one of the calling cards of who I am. I don’t know if there’s anything that puts me in the zone quite like writing and recording a new song.

BUT, and this is a big but, there are times when the last thing I want to do is make music. Sometimes I can let the funk ride out and resolve itself, but more often than not I have to make an active choice to break out of it.


This is key: Breaking out of a funk is an active choice.


Oftentimes we’re told to just make ourselves do the activity and we’ll get back in the zone again.

Writer’s block? Make yourself write"

"Feeling sluggish? Make yourself exercise.


You know as well as I do that it’s really not that easy to make ourselves just do it. Because these passions are so much a part of who we are, we care about the intent behind the work. We don’t want to create or consume if it’s uninspired. I can tell you that the times I have forced myself to sit down and write a verse when I really didn’t feel like it led to some of my worst lyrics and verses. I wish I could share a recording with you, but those lyrics and verses never made it onto a song.

I like to call those “Wastebasket Moments”--you look at what you’ve just done and aren't satisfied, you crinkle up the paper and toss it into the wastebasket. It's garbage.

                                          image from

                                          image from

Depending on your passion your wastebasket could be an actual trash can, it could be a delete button, it could be a bad workout, or in Liz’s case (depending on the size of the canvas) it could be an alleyway dumpster.

So, when the Nike-style “just do it” approach fails us and leads to Wastebasket Moments, what do we do then? How do we make the active choice to break out of the funk, and still be true to our brand? How can Liz get back to inspired, authentic art?

In those “forcing it” moments we’re not true to ourselves. I’ve talked to Liz about this and she has told me that it’s tough to make herself draw or paint when she’s not feeling that groove.

I’ve been there plenty of times, as I'm sure you have too, which almost always led to those Wastebasket Moments. I talked to some of our tribe members through email and here's what they told me their own Wastebasket Moments look like:


"I've been in a ultra-tired-funk lately...

Here's how it goes (WasteBasket Moment)...

8:00 PM: "Shit I forgot to write for my blog"

8:03 PM: "Why do Mac's still take like 5 minutes to boot up? What is this 1992?"

8:15 PM: ***Sound of keyboard clicks***

8:45 PM: "Yeah I got some bomb-ass words out YO!" (my inner early 90's Rapper comes out when I'm tired)


12:15 PM:"Mother of God? What the hell did I write? This doesn't even make sense? Hellen Keller wrote better than this!"

12:16 PM: ***Sound of Furiously pressing delete button***** "

"My wastebasket moment was drawing a bunch of sketches and throwing them all out. My paralysis moment was sitting down to work on (another) poster and not being able to figure out where to start."


"I am in a negative-attitude and personality funk! I was lucky enough to snag a friend/mentor this morning to chat and brainstorm ways to get out of it but have been seriously struggling for about 6 to 8 weeks with this and if not changed, could have some pretty negative consequences to my career and valued friendships. I know this isn’t a tangible art like painting or music, but my day-to-day craft is dealing with people and if not done the right way, can be detrimental."

After getting funked over enough myself, one day I stumbled into this simple yet effective funk-breaking method: The Ancillary Activity Approach. Learn about it in this short video.

Mindset is everything, and the key is understanding everything that we do is merely an output of a deeper rooted desire or interest. I may call myself a rapper, but at my core it's really about appreciating and sharing stories to feed my curiosity and desire to grow.

This understanding allows me to detach from the act of creating (It's OKAY to step away temporarily), and find an Ancillary Activity to get me back into a groove, instead of looking at that same sheet of paper and hoping inspiration will hit me.

The foundation for owning your brand and pumping life into your passions and side projects is understanding your own perception of you. Before you worry about the outcome of your work or how others might view it, you have to have a clear grasp on how you see yourself. 

When you get clarity around who you are, and see your passions as outputs of a deeper core, you can tell that funk to shut the funk up.


Take care and be awesome.

What up! My name is Rajiv Nathan and I'm the Cofounder of Idea Lemon. That banana peel you slipped on to land here came from me. That's because I fancy myself a human Curious George, and the yellow hat I chase is life's authentic moments. I share my chase one story at a time through this blog, our email newsletter, and as a rapper.

Oh and I'm a WWE fan 4 lyf!