How to Get Back Into the Groove
Sometimes we experience a little less success and a little more struggle in our artistic lives. Fortunately, there are ways to ride out those rough patches and get back on track. Creative coach Dr. Eric Maisel answers our questions on how to cure art burnout, how to avoid being swallowed up by the never-ending news cycle and when to seize the right time to start creating once again.
Where Did My Focus Go?
Agitated in Atlanta asks:
I’ve been so mentally distracted by the news lately that I’ve had a lot of trouble getting motivated to paint and then staying focused when I do. What should I do?
ART BURNOUT ANSWER
Each of us has not just one life purpose but multiple life purposes. There are many things that are important to us, in other words, and not just one thing. Those life purposes might include creating and maintaining strong family relationships; being of service to our community; taking principled political action; and so on.
Remind Yourself That Your Creative Explorations Matter
Every day is a chance to live our life purposes — no matter what’s going on in or with the world. On one day, you may want to engage in some kind of civic action, but on another day, you’re completely entitled to do your art; indeed, you ought to do your art, so as to honor that life purpose.
To remind yourself, you might say, “This, too, matters.” This rich, rounded view of life acknowledges that you must care about what’s happening in the world, but you must also make time for other meaningful opportunities.
Do You Want Your Interests to Merge?
Another idea is that you might choose to marry your creative needs with your social activism by engaging in activist art — work that has speciﬁc political or social intentions, like the art of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). But no artist should feel obliged to marry their needs in this way. If you want to keep your art “over here” and your activism “over there,” that’s a legitimate choice. The point is the following one: The news of the day, however agitating it may be, must not keep us from living our life purposes; if it does, we end up with a case of art burnout, feeling passive and demoralized.
Only Thoughts That Serve You
If the news of the day continues to agitate you even at the easel, this is an important strategy to learn: Only think thoughts that serve you. If, while you’re painting, you hear yourself say, “That ﬁre in California is still raging out of control” or “I wonder whether I’ll still have health care tomorrow?” you must say to yourself, “No, that thought isn’t serving me.” If you can master this bit of cognitive brilliance — to only think thoughts that serve your work at hand — you’ll ﬁnd yourself much less distracted as you paint, and much more able to live out all of your life purposes.
Is Now the Time?
Too Busy in Boise asks:
I was hoping to have more opportunity for painting when my youngest child went to college, but I’m still having trouble ﬁnding time in my day. Any suggestions?
ART BURNOUT ANSWER
Time — in the sense in which you’re using the word — isn’t something that is found; it’s something that is made. If your art truly matters to you, you must make time for it.
This naturally will raise the question: Does your art truly matter to you? You might assume that it does, since it’s always tugging at you and always on your mind. It could be, however, that there are reasons not to create that actually outnumber the reasons to create, leaving you with insuﬃcient motivation to crack through the everyday distractions to get started.
How to Prioritize It
If you conclude that you really do intend to create, then your next task is to schedule your art-making as a priority. Ideally, it ought to come ﬁrst thing every day — before the routine tasks, errands and responsibilities of the day take over.
You may need to move another beneﬁcial practice — exercise or yoga, for instance — to another time of the day, or you may need to get up an hour earlier than you currently do, but there’s no better way to make time for your art than to make time for it ﬁrst thing each day.
Make It Daily
Even if you can’t make it the ﬁrst thing you do, it’s important that you commit to and maintain a daily art practice. Once we allow ourselves to miss a few days, huge swatches of time tend to disappear.
Your job, then, is to determine whether you really intend to make art and, if so, to make time for it each and every day — with the occasional day oﬀ (smile). Good luck to you in instituting a wonderful, daily art-making practice.
Time for Innovations
Another way to get your groove back and prevent art burnout as you pursue your practice is by combining your creativity and your innovative spirit. Pastel Innovations Digital Painting Guide was made specifically to support you on that path. With instruction and inspiration from top artists, you’ll have exactly the guide map you need to explore and create in a way that is uniquely yours.
Need Creative Coaching?
Dr. Eric Maisel is the author of more than 50 books, including Coaching the Artist Within and Fearless Creating. Widely regarded as America’s foremost creativity coach, Maisel is well practiced at guiding artists toward living successful creative lives. Have a question for the Creativity Coach? Send an email to us at [email protected] with “Creativity Coach” in the subject line. We’ll have answers to some of our readers’ questions in the next installment of “Ask the Creativity Coach” in an upcoming issue.