7 Tips for finding motivation to stop your inner fear and create more art
You’re sitting there, staring at a blank canvas, pencil in hand and literally no clue what to do. And it seems the more you sit there, the more unmotivated you become to make anything.
“This is stupid. Why am I even doing this? I’m not an artist. I don’t even care enough to draw a stick figure -let alone a landscape!”
In fact, you might be feeling that right now, and I am here to tell you that those feelings…..
…are completely normal.
At every point in an artist’s journey, you’ll feel the wobbly balance of the lustful dance with the inspiration muse with the creative dry spells.
Which is why we’ll talk about the 7 ways to find your motivation to re-spark your ideas and get you excited to paint again:
What causes our lack of motivation?
Remember when we were kids, and the world was so full of possibility? We jumped, climbed, laughed, made instant friends, and basically dove into the things we loved – because well – we were super curious and wanted to learn more.
Nothing was off the table in our kid minds, and we fearlessly jumped in. And THAT is the major difference between kids and adults.
A big reason why we feel we can’t be creative or find ourselves stuck behind an empty canvas for hours has mainly to do with fear of failure. We want things to look perfect – an instant masterpiece! But the truth is, that perspective is totally unrealistic and definitely not a part of the creative process at all. Many artists- even the big names- took years and years of just practice to get good at what they do.
Think of painting/creating like learning to drive a car.
If you have the fear of failing and of looking like an idiot behind the wheel, you wouldn’t just throw away the car keys and never drive again. Nope. You practice. You overcome your fears by first practicing in a small parking lot. Then eventually drive in the back roads. And then, onto the highway. And before you know it, you’re driving cross-country on a weekend spirit journey – because why the hell not?!
It’s all baby steps – and every mile you do is one step in the direction of your goal – to drive a car safely and get from point A to B.
Painting is very similar to this.
Every brush stroke and pen stroke is one step closer to improving. You can’t get good if you don’t put down the strokes first. And if I can use one more car reference, take your foot off the brakes and just GO!
So, with that being said…
How can you get yourself motivated to create art?
1. Identify your WHY for painting
ah yes. The ever popular question I literally ask EVERY struggle-bussing artist…why the hell are you even making art? Does it help you process emotions? Is it an avenue for income? Does it help you relax?
Understanding your WHY for putting all that time and effort into your art is a HUGE portion of what drives you to keep going – even in the times when all you want to do is die on your couch and watch The Sopranos (true story).
Related: Unlock your deep inner purpose as an artist
When thinking about your why, really dig deep. Everyone has a different reason for doing what they do, and it always always ALWAYS comes from an emotional place. In fact, my tip for you is to ask yourself WHY 5 times, until you really hit a deep, human need.
For example, I create art because it helps me process my emotions and check back in with myself. I also create art so that I can support my family and be a good role model of mental health. Notice I didn’t say, “because I want to make money” or “because I like it”. Nah, cut the fluffy professional shit and go straight for the emotional triggers.
2. Create a safe art space
Once you’ve identified your why and appropriately lit a fire under your bum, it’s time to create an environment that will foster your creativity. Our home has a second bedroom which we double as an office/studio. Here, I have a desk and paint supplies at the ready for my next adventure.
Notice how I didn’t say I assemble my work space every time I want to paint. We as humans have a lazy streak in us. If something requires even the slightest amount of WORK or set up, that is sure to be an inspiration buzzkill.
So, find a small space and set it up to be your creative art area. Keep your supplies in plain view and eliminate ANY CHORE associated with this activity.
You can see how I arranged my own art studio using the Marie Kondo method, making sure to keep all my craft and art supplies readily available for me to quickly jump in and use.
Once you got a set up you like, get comfy. Light some candles, play some music or even watch your favorite shows while you create. Creativity occurs when we are relaxed, secure, and feeling ready to explore. Sit in a comfy chair, wear your favorite cardigan, or make some tea to get your creative mood going.
And funnily enough, even though there are times when I don’t feel inspired, the very act of “getting my art mood on” really eases me into the creative process – because my brain associates those activities of habit with something fun. Any way to trick the brain is a-OK in my book!
3. Give yourself a schedule
Ah time. The one thing we as adults do not have the luxury of enjoying…or at least, that’s what we like to believe. True, life is crazy and our schedules can and will get busy with meetings, appointments, family obligations, mowing the lawn, cooking the dinner, cleaning the house….
But, amid all that chaos, we scream to the world and all who want to hear us that we don’t HAVE time to make art. How can I even be creative if I can’t even sit my butt down to create!?
And here is what I have to say about that….
If art is an important part of your life, you will MAKE the time to participate in it. period.
Set aside 5-10 minutes to draw or make art everyday, and STICK TO IT. Even if you don’t know what to draw, just sit your butt down and draw some lines.
Like I mentioned before, we as humans are creatures of habit, and art is definitely no exception here. The more you train your brain and muscles to respond to art as an integral part of your day, you will find yourself creating – and becoming more creative!
Once you form that habit of 5-10 minutes, eventually graduate to 1 hour per day. It’s totally possible, and many many many artists have reported feeling much more confident with their work AND feeling proud of the progression of their work.
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4. Make smaller goals with ZERO expectations
Ok, you’re in your safe space, you’ve made the time to sit down to make art, and as you’re sitting there, you have NO IDEA what to do.
This is actually a very common problem among artists- and some would lovingly term it as artist’s block. This usually occurs when the fear of failure mixes in with the high expectations we place on ourselves on what our work needs to be.
If you’ve ever started with a blank canvas before and could not get yourself to start, you are a victim of “it’s gotta be perfect-itis”.
Sometimes it’s seeing a big canvas that immediately overwhelms us and sends our creativity packing for vacation. So start small and take the pressure off yourself.
Instead of a 48″x36″ canvas that you spent a pretty penny on, start with a small piece of mixed media paper and go from there.
Instead of drawing a whole face, start by drawing eyes, noses, or lips. The point is…START SMALL, YO!
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Give yourself that grace to experiment and play. And you know what they say, with play comes creativity!
5. Take a Break
And of course, we sometimes can experience that wonderful feeling of burnout. No matter what we do, we just CAN’T EVEN with our art. If you keep pushing with those negative emotions, you will find yourself stuck and constantly frustrated, leading you to bottom out and negatively associate your art with having a bad time. That is high time for you and your mind to take a break.
Taking our minds off something we are struggling or working on and focusing on other things actually allows your mind to process and see the bigger picture. If you are feeling tired or stuck in a rut with your creative process, take a week off and do something different. If you never made clay pottery, go take a class and play. If you never tried gardening, go outside and start getting your hands dirty.
Companies like Hallmark does this very well with their illustrators.
They allow them to take breaks and make stuff that’s not in line with making something for the company. Folks have the freedom to play with mediums they aren’t familiar with, and spend time fucking up.
The company understands that creative play and experimentation is important to the mental well being and creativity of their employees. Sometimes some innovative ideas come from that play, that become products sold and money made, but that’s not the goal of giving employees this time.
Letting go of the constant inner critic allows for experimentation and play, which is why we started making stuff in the first place. It’s something we often forget as super serious adults.
6. Shift the Perspective
When I was a PaintNite instructor, a lot of the women I helped didn’t so much need help with their technique as much as they needed an attitude adjustment.
Many beginners feel that they NEED to create an instant masterpiece, and they CANNOT fail in doing so. Like, if they even made a small mistake, it meant they were stupid, clumsy, dumb nincompoops who have NO BUSINESS being an artist. This mindset is not only silly, it’s down right dangerous to your creative spirit.
The creative process is about the process – not the end result. Do not cut yourself short by placing this big ultimatum on your creative spirit. “Make this look good or else you’re not qualified to be an artist. Don’t you dare disappoint me, despite the fact I haven’t really done this before, but I expect utter perfection.”
Jesus, if we spoke to other people like that, they would definitely have some choice words for us. So why are you allowing yourself to listen to your inner perfectionist and succumb to that fear?
Instead, when you create, know that failing or not knowing what to do right away is OK. It’s not the end of the world, and it most certainly isn’t the reason to end your young art career.
See every line you make as a step in the right direction, a stepping stone towards learning more about your skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Basically this is me saying, just FREAKING go!
Plus, the hardest part of getting started is literally getting started. The brain cannot work and improve when all it sees is a blank piece of paper, so you gotta be OK with just starting – paint, draw, whatever.
The more you play, the more your brain can enter into its creative place and begin to improve.
7. Look at art you admire
If you have ever gone to a cute shop, an art gallery or even on Pinterest and found yourself fired up, you have been kissed by the ever-powerful muse of inspiration. When we are in the creation process, we sometimes may need ideas. And there is literally nothing wrong with checking out your favorite artist, local shop or museum and taking in the beauty of their work.
Now, what I do want to stress is that take this opportunity to soak, not compare your abilities with others. VERY IMPORTANT.
Comparison is the thief of joy. And lemme tell you that comparing your journey to someone else who is on a COMPLETELY different journey with different experiences and skills IS NOT a logical way to assess your skills. It really is like comparing apples and oranges. You are not better or worse than anyone else.
You are your own artist with your own experiences and stories to tell. You are enough, and people want to hear your story with your art. Don’t limit yourself or force yourself to be somebody you’re not. Trust me, people can smell that a mile away.
In the end, creativity takes work
If you want to grow as an artist, you gotta put in the practice and the work. Simple as that. However, these tips I shared with you are just ways you can ease your creative spirit and set you up for success.
What do you think about my tips? What ways do you spark your creativity to get your juices flowing? Comment and share below.