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How I Stopped a Three Month Long Artist Block

sketching materials on desk

I had to pack up my dedicated art studio and say goodbye to it and all the benefits it brings as part of my move to Virginia Beach. I pared down to the essentials that I felt justified the cost of a small storage unit and headed further into the south to begin a new phase. What I didn’t expect was to take three months to begin to start creating again.

It wasn’t a planned sabbatical from work that many university professors’ schedules. This was an unplanned pause, similar to holding your breath, diving in, and wondering when to release your breath and exhale. Many of us find ourselves in the situation where we know that all we need to do is take one small tiny step forward, but we can’t.

I’m happy to say that I’m out of the mode of not painting or creating at all. I know I’m not as productive yet as I could be (or was when I had a studio). But I can say that I have gotten over the “fear of the blank page” or whatever you call stopping your passion. How did I do it?

First, I let myself off the hook for having to do something for the sake of doing something. When you are making a significant shift, all you can do sometimes is stand still and be. Allow yourself the time to be in that space, but don’t make any big decisions either. You may regret tossing all of the items in your art studio sooner than you think.

Second, keep up the bare elements of a creativity routine. I knew that I couldn’t have an art studio at first while down here. Maslow’s needs hierarchy was at work in my life and finding a secure source of steady income (read: day job), a safe place to live, and food to eat took priority over finding space and devoting time to think and create.

While I was getting everything settled, I still went regularly to the places I wanted to paint with all of my supplies. I didn’t paint anything, but each time I got closer and closer. First, I just celebrated getting the bag packed. Then, remembering to bring the bag in the car. After that, remember to take the bag out of the car and with me. Then, I slowly started to set up to paint bit by bit over the next few trips.

Third, I worked on a routine for clearing my mind and getting to where I could create. Every artist has their own rituals because, sadly, there is no one right way to start making art. Some just jump in, start to create something (anything), and the muse will find them. Others, like me, find their muse inadvertently by procrastination. Give me a business task to do in front of a computer (with the more numbers, the better), and instantly my creative muse will come to the rescue with a TON of ideas for me to do in a caring attempt to save me.

Noticing this trend has allowed me to modify my schedule to allow this to happen. Now, I break up my business time into short chunks or pieces so I can appease the creativity muse when she shows up. My muse is happy, and the accountants, planners, and lawyers who thrive on doing the things I don’t want to and have delegated to them are delighted.

Finally, when you do resume creating again, don’t have any expectations or deadlines. Unfortunately for me, I did have a deadline and missed an exhibit or two as a result. I’m not proud of it, but it happens, and I let them know (hopefully) with enough advance notice for them. When I started painting, it was only in my sketchbook and only for myself. I took it as seriously as if I were in front of my canvas, but let my intuition guide my work. I didn’t share it with anyone or post on social media until I was several weeks into a new rhythm.

Now that I am painting again, the overall quality seems to be higher than before. It’s similar to hitting a dieting plateau where we stop losing and sometimes gain back a pound or two. Occasionally, we need to pause and catch our breaths before going to the next level.

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