Creative Process

Artists and Self-Compassion

Watercolor flowers

Impatience, scatterdness, information overload, learning, learning, learning.
Who has time for creativity or even a little self-compassion when you can’t do it all?

One day off, but we need to do errands, clean house, eat, clean kitchen, eat again, clean kitchen again. Load the washer, fold the clothes, put them away. You see a spider in the corner, you look up, a web on the ceiling, you need to vacuum. In the midst of all this, you pass your small portable studio lingering in the corner.

You’ve managed to keep up the 100 days project, but nothing more, no exploration, no new finished works.

The night falls quickly this time of year, without natural light, painting becomes difficult.

The day job is exhausting.

Who has time for creativity?

The question is almost painful when you take a five minute break and you open Tumblr to find a photo of an artist is standing in front of her finished piece. You see her back to us, she’s touching her hair and she is wearing a stunning tunic.

Everything about the picture is perfect, most of all the gigantic painting against the wall, finished and signed. Immortalized by the, most likely, professional photographer.

True story. It happened yesterday.

The hope was that my schedule would make it look like that. Finished piece after finished piece.

This evening, I have two choices, considering my tiredness, I can sit in front of the TV and watch a movie or I can do my two hours of painting.

Do you coerce yourself? or do you practice self-compassion. What are the consequences of self-coercion?

If I force myself, usually I end up feeling like I didn’t do anything. The thing I made myself do doesn’t count much, it only counts because I checked it off, while if I manage to ease myself into thinking I should do at least a little, I wind up doing the full stretch and sometimes more.

So don’t coerce yourself, gently approach the task and begin something. The check-mark on the to-do list isn’t what counts.

Ideas for when you have no energy to create

Henry Miller said once: when you can’t create, work. This means you can do other things that will nourish your creativity. 

  1. Use the free Art Session Worksheet and take one or two of your works. Look at them and fill out the the worksheet. It’s a moment between you and your work. No comparison with other artists, no striving to make something better. Just asking your work what it needs.
  2. Create an inspiration board. Literally tack your favorite works on the wall. Washi tape is great for this because it doesn’t pull of the paint. Choose your absolute favorites and keep them in your sight. Ask yourself what you loved about them often. Then try to make things using the same elements.
  3. Look at an art book, but not a how-to guide. These museums are offering 2000 free art books! if you can’t go to the real thing. Be visceral and screenshot images that make you feel something intensely.
  4. Take a break. I know it seems like we have to take advantage of any little bit of time we can to create, especially those with families, but mental space is super important for creativity. Do something with your hands. Whatever you enjoy. Even colouring pages are great for stimulating ideas. While your hands are busy filling up colorful shapes, you can zone out and brainstorming. Just make sure you have a notebook handy.

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SELF-COMPASSION