Article Art by Juliet Towner

Breaking Free from the Rut

Posted by Promise Tangeman on December 01, 2012.

Author: Promise Tangeman

The life of an artist is unpredictable. It’s like a roller coaster ride at times. There are days you feel full of inspiration; where you feel like a design super hero, wearing a Photoshop cape, and conquering the world with your color choice and innovation.

But then there are times when it just doesn’t seem to come together. It’s just not there. Early mornings, late nights, and nothing… You feel intimidated, beat down, tired, creatively drained, and desperate for a breakthrough.

Sometimes these frustrating moments last far too long.

When I’m really down in the dumps, it’s time to completely reboot my thought process, change my creative perspective, and modify my outlook on life. Here are a few things I do.

Detox

In a regular day we take in thousands of different stimuli. Our minds become cluttered and toxic with whatever comes our way. The first stage of overcoming the designer’s depths of despair is detoxing.

The first stage of overcoming the designer’s depths of despair is detoxing.
 Before we can hit the restart button and get back in the game we must truly start with a new foundation.

When you move to a new home, for example, you most likely purge the junk hiding in the corners of your existing home first, so you won’t clutter the new home with old, unwanted items. We need to do the same with our life as we prepare to get back on track. We need to detox the old junk from our lives.

Detoxing, in the simplest form, is figuring out what you’re doing that makes you feel down and simply stop doing it. Take a break from whatever or whoever is bringing you down – whether it’s a family member or friend with a negative attitude, a fellow artist you’re comparing yourself too, or a bad thought cycle on your own part. Whatever the reason, identify it and simply take a break.

Reevaluate the information you’re putting into your mind and how it affects your thoughts.

Be Thankful

Now that you’ve taken a break from negativity outside, it’s time to learn to see the world more clearly with gratitude and thankfulness. By changing your thought process you can change your life’s trajectory. Melanie Beattie says:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t know what it is, but I just have that glass half empty type of outlook. I always see more that can be done or how much better something could be. I’d like to think that the never-good-enough perspective is part of being an artist, but using artsy-perfection as an excuse isn’t worth sacrificing my mental stability long term.

Using artsy-perfection as an excuse isn’t worth sacrificing my mental stability long term.

But I’ve found that when I start my day in prayer thanking God for the people, opportunities, experiences, and things in my life, I begin to see the big picture. Seeing the big picture encourages me to not get caught up with the petty things of my everyday life. As I see more clearly, I know what’s important for the day ahead.

When I don’t start my morning off prayerfully thanking God and finding clarity, my mind is foggy, unconfident, and my focus for the day is swayed by my emotions and inspirations. This leads me to believe that redoing my entire website is the top priority for the day. It’s not.

Being thankful and thinking positively is a daily exercise for me. It doesn’t come automatically, but it changes my day and my life.

When your mind is full of positive thoughts – when you’re grateful for the friend that supports you, the new client you just got, or the experience that you’ve gained – there’s no room for negative thoughts.

Napolean Hill observed, “Positive and negative emotions cannot occupy the mind at the same time.”

Positive and negative emotions cannot occupy the mind at the same time.

Encourage Others

We are made and put on this earth to love others. So it feels good, healthy, and natural to do so – for the other person and for you.

As artists, we can get caught up in our own dreamland of inspiration, projects, work, life, and self-scrutiny. But recognizing others’ successes (in a healthy way) helps pull our minds outside ourselves.

recognizing others’ successes (in a healthy way) helps pull our minds outside ourselves.
This act of encouraging others helps us view other people as part of our team instead of assuming that they are against us in some way or another. And surprisingly, it just feels right. Even encouraging someone else when you just aren’t feeling so great will end up encouraging you as well.

Identify Your Strengths

Knowing who you are and who God made you to be is a really important part of getting your creative juices back on track. When you have confidence, your mind is clear, you can make quick discussions, and you have that feeling in your gut that this is how it should be. When you have confidence, you feel like you can tackle the world.

There are many ways an artist can rebuild their confidence, but I suggest thinking back to why you create and do what you do. Start rebuilding your confidence by identifying your unique strengths that make you, you. And let the other clutter in your life go. You can’t do everything and you can’t be all things to everyone.

Focus on your strengths instead of stressing or spinning your wheels about what you aren’t doing right.

Focus on your strengths instead of stressing or spinning your wheels about what you aren’t doing right.
The great thing about focusing on your strengths is that when other people are succeeding or setting new goals you don’t have to feel like you’re competing with them. You can just say, “Great for them,” but you don’t have to focus on it. This will help you stay focused, positive, and confident about how you are uniquely wired.

Find Your Rhythm

You probably want your creative career long-term, so it’s important to set yourself up for success so these cycles of despair don’t happen often. You must guard your heart and protect your inspiration.

You must guard your heart and protect your inspiration.
You have to understand why you work the way you do.

Studying your creative patterns, making adjustments to your mindset and schedule, and then cultivating disciplines in your life are important factors in a long-term creative career. For me, this required analyzing when the most productive time of day was for me to do my most important work, eliminating distractions, and prioritizing my workflow more appropriately. In this season of my life and creative journey, I’m really working on building my discipline muscle – doing certain things daily that bring balance and sanity to my life. Have you noticed any key rhythms in which you work? What can you adjust to create a better working rhythm in your life?

I believe these simple practices can help you rebuild your confidence as an artist – resulting in better work, a more positive outlook, and a more inspired life.

About the Author

Promise Tangeman
Promise is art director and graphic designer for Promise Tangeman Creative and the founder of Sitehouse Designs, a customizable website shop. She's the daughter of a pastor and wife of worship pastor Brian Wurzell living in Chandler, Arizona.

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