artistic development

The creative slump

At some point or another just about every artist hits a point where it feels like their pexels-photo-171198creative gears seem to seize up.  You might find yourself standing in your studio surrounded by all your tools and supplies but you just can’t seem to find the motivation to actually do anything.  Or maybe you’ve just got so many ideas swimming around in your head that you just can’t figure out where to start.  There are a lot of reasons artists find themselves unable to get their creative gears back in motion and when it happens to you the most important thing you can do is to not panic!  Take a step back and figure out what the root cause of your slump is – once you determine what’s holding you back you’ll be able to take steps to deal with it so you can move past it.  Here are a few situations you might find yourself in and some strategies for dealing with them.

The inner critic
The inner critic can be one of the biggest and most difficult roadblocks on your creative journey. You know that voice that nags you with things like:

I don’t think that anything I make is any good
I will never be as good as (insert name here)
I don’t have an art degree so I’ll never make anything as good as someone who does
The last piece of art I made was awful so why bother to try againself-esteem-1566153_1920
I can’t get the results I want, I’ll never figure out how to make this work. I’m just not good enough.

Here’s the thing: your inner critic doesn’t know what it’s talking about. I can easily pick apart each of the statements above and give you reasons why they’re not true. You have to learn to ignore your inner critic, kick it to the curb – you’re better than it is and you don’t need it! Think your art has no worth because you have no formal training? There are a lot of artists who make beautiful work, teach, exhibit, write books and lead successful careers as an artist all without having an art degree – in fact I’m one of them! Take classes and workshops with artists whose work you admire. Find a mentor to work with who can help you set goals and provide guidance and feedback to help you develop a roadmap to achieve them.  I offer several options for mentoring here.

Too many ideas
Yea I know what you’re thinking – how can too many ideas be a problem?  In theory too pexels-photo-269448many idea sounds like it is a gift but the flip side is that it can become overwhelming and you find yourself unable to figure out what to do next.   This is why I tell my students to keep a sketchbook.  Use it as a place to list and keep track of your ideas.  It’s easier to prioritize and work through your ideas if you have them all in one place.

Failure & rejection
stamp-1726352_1920Failure is part of the process and you can’t avoid it. You submit a piece of your work to an exhibit and it doesn’t get in. You spend weeks working on a piece of art and you don’t like it. You submit an idea for an article to a magazine and they reject it, your book proposal gets returned and so on and so on…Fear of rejection and failure is a tough challenge for an artist to overcome but it’s part of the process that you sign up for when you become an artist.  I wrote about dealing with rejection here. 

Not enough no’s
Are you getting enough quality studio time or is your calendar filled with appointments and commitments that keep you from being able to spend time creating? You can’t get no-1532840_1920into a creative flow if you’re only allowing yourself is quick short bursts of time in the studio.  Be picky about the projects you say yes to. Don’t get caught into the trap of thinking that if you don’t say yes to whatever the current opportunity is that there will never be another one if you decline. Sometimes the best gift you can give yourself is permission to say no.

At some point you may find yourself in a situation when you are just feeling a lack of motivation to work on anything. You’ve had your nose to the grindstone for so long, been burnout-2161445_1920churning out one piece of art after another and suddenly you just don’t feel like making anything. You go into the studio but all you can muster the energy to do is sit and stare at the pile of materials. The desire to actually do anything with them just isn’t there. Or maybe you’ve just finished a piece of work that is so fantastic that you think you’ll never make another piece of work that’s anywhere near as good. It happens. It’s time to take a break! Take some time off, catch up on your reading, visit the library and take out some books on an artist that you want to learn more about, clean up the studio, spend some time outside gardening or pursuing some other hobby. Play in your sketchbook, break out the crayons, watercolors or markers. The important thing is not to panic! Trust me when I say that it will pass and your motivation will return. Don’t try to force it, let it run it’s course. It may take a few days or it may take a few weeks but it will pass.

Want to give mentoring a try?  I have a pay by month option just for you!  Get all the details here.


2 thoughts on “The creative slump

  1. Pingback: When I didn’t feel like making art.. |

  2. My art school friends & I used to call it “creative constipation”! Ha, ha! I also have experienced fear of success. Sounds weird, but I’m sure there’s others who may have had this too. This is a really good article, Sue, thanks!


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