How to Overcome “Art Dread”
Are you afraid of the studio?
First of all, what is “Art Dread”? It’s a phrase that I have definitely made up–but it describes something all artists feel at some point.
“I don’t feel like creating right now.”
“Ugh, my work sucks.”
“I’m just going to waste time and look at other art on Instagram and hope for inspiration to strike–but then get sad, because all of these artists are so much better than me.”
*Eats feelings. Wallows in self pity. Doesn’t go in the studio. Doesn’t create.*
Art Dread: The hesitation to create, brought about by a variety of factors. Sometimes mild. Sometimes debilitating. Causes creative inaction.
I’m actually experiencing it at the very moment, so it seemed appropriate to write this post.
Causes of Art Dread
I really do mean it that all artists feel art dread at some point. Even professionals who look like they have all their s*$@ together. So what are the causes?
- Lack of confidence
- Laziness and fatigue: Let’s be honest–creating takes a lot of work.
- Lack of inspiration
- Nothing feels like it’s going right
- You’re tired of your current style
- Lack of discipline
At the moment–mine is caused by nothing feeling like it’s going right. A lot of my site traffic, and general success is in big part thanks to Instagram–but as some of you have noticed, the new algorithm isn’t doing artists any favors. Low engagement equals a really sad Kelly.
If I were to listen to my art dread, I wouldn’t go in the studio for a while, but this is no excuse to stop creating. There will always be more opportunities to succeed. It’s important to do the work in order for those opportunities to manifest.
*Update: I started this draft last week and after putting down my laptop, I went into the studio, created a few floral pieces, and BAM–the engagement on a few new Instagram posts went back up to normal, and I made a sale. Proof that following the tips below is totally worth it!*
How to overcome art dread
Some days will be easier than others to overcome your art dread or studio fear, but it always involves putting in work. Either preemptively or a huge burst of energy to get started when you already feel your worst.
This is a list that I come back to all the time to help keep me motivated and productive.
Create a schedule for making art and stick to it.
This is the preemptive solution, because it helps you make art a habit. I don’t always want to floss my teeth at night, but it’s such a habit now that it takes more mental effort to NOT do it. When you create on a regular basis, art dread will have less of an effect on your motivation.
Don’t compare yourself to other artists.
Especially when you already feel vulnerable. “How is that artist so productive? Look at how good they are!” etc.. I know it’s tempting to look at other artists for inspiration when you aren’t feeling it, but it you are prone to feeling a lack of confidence in your own work this is only going to make your art dread stronger.
Instead, look at your work from the past and pick out an element of design that you loved, then start a new piece around that. Only compare your skills and progress against your past self.
Don’t think about all of the big things you have to do at the moment. It will likely make it way worse. What’s something small that you can get into right now that doesn’t involve much effort? When I know I need to create, I go in the studio and start tidying up and looking at the supplies I have on hand. Sometimes, I tape down a new piece of watercolor paper, or mix up a new color of paint for later. These are easy tasks, but often they get me excited to actually sit down and do the work. So one small thing might lead to creating.
Build up momentum and prioritize.
I often have a long list of things I need to do each week and I randomly experience art dread with a few of the items. Like the tip above of starting small, I pick the items on the list that seem easiest to get started on and I tackle those first. This way, I am being productive even though I’m still experiencing dread for the larger tasks. Then, my brain gets lost in the work so by the time I move to the next harder task I already have enough mental momentum to overcome the dread and keep going.
Turn off your brain and just DO.
This is easier said than done at first, but you can develop the skill over time. Overthinking is your enemy when experiencing art dread. It means the critic wants to take over and smash the creative spirit. When you hear the negative thoughts start to flow, become mindful of the moment and clear those thoughts away. It doesn’t matter if they are true or false. The logical, judgmental brain has no place in the creative process. Stop letting it butt in. You can judge your work when you are finished. Right now you need to create.
Be mindful of your procrastination behavior.
Are you wasting time right now? Are you just scrolling Instagram? Are you thinking about all of the things you wish you had energy to do? Your brain wants stimulation, but it doesn’t want to work for it. Catch it when it’s being lazy and make a decision. Do you want to be motivated and productive, or do you want to give into your procrastination and just get nothing done?
Stop wasting time and DO.
Make it easy to do art.
Keep your studio space ready to create. Clean your brushes, have your supplies ready to go. Have a sketch book next to you. remove as many barriers between you and art as you can.
I often start batches of paintings when I am inspired so I have a place to start when I don’t feel all that motivated.
Believe in yourself. You have nothing to lose by doing this.
Create a “Pep Talk” for yourself to read on bad days. If you suffer from low confidence, write a list of all of the things you love about your art. Pretend you are a friend and write down every encouraging thing you can think of. Or ask a friend to actually write a list. Read it. Don’t question if the points made are true. Let yourself live in a place of outlandish optimism and positive thinking. You are awesome. You are an artist. You have to create.
The only harm from doing this is that someday you might not achieve what you set out to do–but turning off your internal critic will make the entire experience more enjoyable.
There you have it. My list of ways to overcome art dread! I hope it helps you as well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a huge list of things that I need to get to. Wish me luck.
As always, if you have questions please leave them below. If you are ever interested in one-on-one guidance from another artist (Hey, that’s me!) then check out my coaching services!
Now go get messy!
P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.