Are you stuck in artistic quicksand, unable to get going with your art, music, acting, or writing,? Perhaps you see yourself in the following picture:
You have conflicting emotions about your work. You procrastinate consistently through sophisticated techniques of diversion and distraction. You spend about ninety minutes this month on your work, but next month you promise yourself that you’ll dive into it every evening and weekend to make up for squandered time. And you keep wondering why you have such frustrating flaws when others seem to be so prolific.
Getting unstuck is no simple job, but there are some common tactics that many find helpful. First, understand that feeling trapped in artistic quicksand is practically a universal experience. Most people find digging deep and creating to be tough stuff, so don’t think you are unusual because you can’t get going. Writing a novel requires you to sweat and struggle far more than writing a business memo or a grocery list. Finishing your painting is much more demanding than helping your third-grader finish his homework. (Well, it’s supposed to be, but some third-graders can be pretty stubborn.)
Sometimes the answer is getting your mind back into practical things. It’s hard to work when you keep asking yourself, “Am I talented? Does my work matter? What if I’m choosing the wrong project? What if people hate it when it’s done?” Better to quiet down the mind and give yourself over to the task at hand. Turn off your super-busy thoughts, and pick up the paint brush, pen, script, or score. Trust yourself and submerge yourself in your work.
On the other hand, you might feel overwhelmed by the myriad little steps that lie ahead. You’re chugging along on your novel, and you keep thinking, “I’ve still got tens of thousands of words to write. I’ve been working on this for a year and a half, and my inspired feelings left me a long time ago. It’s enough to make Sisyphus pity me!”
The bored, uninspired times are to be expected, even when you have endless energy and an optimistic attitude. When you feel a deep doubt inside, it may be a good time to consider what you value most. Usually the answer is something like, “I keep forgetting how much I love my work. I’ve been so busy worrying that I’ve lost sight of my artistic heart. I have to remember that if I can work for ten hours a week, I’ll have this project done in maybe twelve to eighteen months.” If your inspired mind can cheer on your industrious, methodical side, then you have a good chance of getting through the dull days.
You might try investing in some non-creating time for renewal and strength. Like a tennis player who works out in the gym to improve her game on the court, you may benefit from some supporting activities. Here are some suggestions.
- Meditation and attention exercises to strengthen your mental focus
- Healthy diet and physical exercise to increase your stamina
- Attending workshops, reading books, and relying on the expertise of others to gain business savvy
- Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques to manage anxiety
- Taking long walks to refresh your mind and feed your imagination
- Investing a little extra time into planning and scheduling to keep your projects on track
- Loving yourself, being your own number-one fan and supporter
Artistic quicksand is no joke. When you’re stuck, it’s miserable. But almost all of us feel the doubts and worries that you feel. And there are practical things that might help you in your particular little patch of quicksand now. Push yourself, ask a friend to keep you accountable, find a supportive group of peers, or get a creativity coach. The path leading into the quicksand is well worn, but the path out is probably a lot closer than you think.