How to Get Unstuck as an Artist

Narcissus on the a river bank painting by Chen Wen-Ching featured in her book Painting the Narcissus.

The Feeling of Being Stuck

Many of us who have engaged in artistic pursuits know the feeling of being stuck. Things do not flow, nothing is achieved easily, and the energy feels stagnant and stale. What is going on when this is happening? Most importantly, how does one most effectively work through it?

What is Really Happening When You Feel Stuck

There is a famous philosopher name Heraclitus who is best known for his quote "Life is flux," or in other translations "Nothing is certain in life but change." If Heraclitus is correct, how is it possible to even feel stuck? The answer is surprisingly simple.

We each have the power to create our own life experience dynamically and precisely. We do this by directing our minds to focus positively on the things that we want to experience in our life. The problem is that most of us are unaware that we have this power, and many of us who have the inkling that this may be possible, haven't really mastered how to do it.

When we get "stuck" what is actually happening is that our mind is creating the same experience over and over again because we are continuing to focus in the same way. Focusing on the feeling of being stuck causes the mind to create new but identical experiences. This happens over and over again until we direct our minds to focus in a different way.

So Heraclitus is correct, life is constantly changing and we are constantly evolving with each unique thought and point of focus. The problem is that when we encounter an undesirable situation or problem, we think the answer is to focus on the problem as a means to solving it. This seems logical but actually doesn't work. The more you focus on being stuck, the more you create situations where you feel stuck. Your thoughts can cue up similar experiences in a long queue and it can feel like you are stuck on a hamster wheel.

How to Get Unstuck

Often times realizing that you are creating your own experience with your thoughts and your points of focus is enough to get unstuck. If you feel stuck, the most important thing you can do is change your point of focus. Rather than working on the same problem in the same way, just stop and go for a walk in the woods. Often changing the subject in your mind will be enough to start things flowing in a pleasing way.

Have you ever had the experience of looking for something that you believe is lost? The more you look, the more worked up you get and the thought that keeps repeating in your mind is "Where is this thing that I have lost?" The problem with that point of focus is that is assumes that something is lost. It is a classic situation of focusing on the problem instead of the solution; the question instead of the answer. 

People who are good at finding things that they lose, develop of habit of saying, "oh well, I'm sure it will turn up sometime." Sure enough, after they give up looking, they will often find the lost item without even trying.

When you feel stuck as an artist, pause for a moment and examine your thoughts. Often times you will notice a repeating loop of negative thoughts that reinforce all the reasons why you believe you are stuck. It is an excellent habit to notice these thoughts and pivot to the opposite thoughts. Instead of thinking, "Why do I feel so uninspired," think, "I love it when inspiration is flowing."

If such a pivot feels so big that your mind rejects it, try something softer like "even though I am feeling uninspired now, I know that what I want, is to feel inspired. I am looking forward to the time when I feel inspired again!" This statement is not as powerful as simply saying "I am inspired!" but it is important to pick the most positive focus point that your mind will actually accept.

Help From Your OAS Family

As a practical note, for those of us who practice Chinese Brush Painting, we, your OAS Family know what it is like to feel stuck. Sometimes we suspect that many of our customers feel stuck at relatively early parts of their Chinese Brush Painting journey. To alleviate this we have begun to publish a Mastery Process which breaks down the skills that make joyful Brush Painting possible.

We are here to help! Whether it be directing you to better suited tools or instruction, offering practical tips for increasing your confidence or just offering some notes of encouragement, we are here to help you free yourself from the bonds of stagnation and to once again begin floating down the wonderful river of Chinese Brush Painting and culture to the many wonderful destinations that are waiting for you!

Do not hesitate to contact us!

Leave a comment