5 Ways to Get Unstuck
Are you feeling frustrated, stuck, or generally lacking in creativity right how? It happens. You may be hard at work inside my 8-week Academy program and need a breakthrough. Or you may still be dreaming about surface pattern design and putting your own beautiful designs on real products but you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’re just not feeling well due to allergies or June gloom, that Southern California weather pattern with cloudy, overcast skies.
Let’s talk about 5 ways to get unstuck that involve a combination of mindset shifts and tactical actions that will help you move forward towards achieving your goals. I come back to these again and again and they resonate every time. I hope they’ll do the same for you.
#1: Get Comfortable with Feeling Uncomfortable
Feeling stuck from time to time is not always a bad thing. It can be if you’re eager to embark on a new creative endeavor but can’t find the time to explore it because of family obligations or routines that take over your life. However, I’d ask you to consider whether you are staying in a place of perceived safety because it’s more comfortable than putting yourself out there.
If you’re deeply entrenched in something new, perhaps exploring something complex like surface pattern design, and you reach a stage at which you feel stuck, you need to listen. Your mind and body are telling you something. Take a breather. Let what you’re learning seep in. It may need to percolate a bit before it signals to you that it’s okay to move forward again.
I heard this expression on Amy Porterfield’s podcast several months ago and it really stuck with me: “If you don’t get uncomfortable, you will not move to the next level.” She loves to tell this story about her time working for Tony Robbins when he was galvanizing a big audience by saying: “Burn the boats and storm the island!”
Most of us don’t live in a reality where we can leave everything behind and seek out new adventures. However, we do have the ability to push ourselves and embrace new goals. In doing so, we have to get comfortable with that feeling of discomfort that arises when we’re trying or learning something completely new.
#2: Let Go of the Comparison Game
This is hard! Especially in today’s world that seems to revolve around social media, it’s very hard to stop comparing ourselves to others. We think: “She’s farther along than I am. I’m a loser because I’m behind. My designs will never be any good. I’m too old to learn this.” The negative comparisons go on and on and on.
It’s critical to put blinders on and not judge yourself based on what others are doing. One of the most insidious parts of social media is that you are only seeing a tiny fraction of reality. And most of what you are seeing is either staged or who knows what level of production went into making a post look the way it looks.
It’s fine to set expectations for yourself but make sure those expectations are supported with goals and processes to help you achieve them. Don’t set false expectations rooted in comparing yourself to where others are. Everyone’s journey is different and we need to fight the urge to be so hard on ourselves.
#3: Embrace Systems and Processes
This is not very sexy but if you have good systems and processes in place, you’ll get unstuck faster. Let’s dive into this one. The world today seems a bit obsessed with goal setting. In January, in particular, everyone is setting their goals for the year or turning over a new leaf, or embarking on a new weight loss plan. However, those who succeed in reaching their goals generally have really strong systems in place to support them.
I’m leading a 100 Day Challenge right now, and I mentioned recently that the process of creating something every day for 100 days in a row is what is sustaining me in the challenge. I love the way Jeff Walker talks about this. He is always emphasizing progress not perfection. Taking baby steps. Just keep moving forward.
What might your system look like? It might start with a morning ritual that supports your creative practice. It might be checking in with your favorite, supportive Facebook community for engagement and encouragement. Maybe it’s posting your work once a week to break down the fear of putting your work out in the world. Focus on systems and processes that will support you making progress and getting better every day.
#4: Try Something New
This is probably my favorite “go to” solution when I’m personally feeling stuck. I love learning new things, which honestly, was a bit of a problem when I was re-inventing myself several years ago. I couldn’t decide on ONE THING to focus on. However, the time I spent experimenting with different things was incredibly valuable.
Give yourself space to experiment and try something new. If you normally start your surface design work with hand-draw sketches, try sketching on the computer instead. If you love to work in pen and ink, switch over to watercolor or gouache. How about trying something completely different like wood block printing or pottery! You’ll move your hands in new ways and your brain will switch gears to focus on this new endeavor.
I’ve used this analogy before but I think it’s really apt here. When you are learning something new and feel like you are stuck in a rut, it’s because you need to let what you’ve learned simmer a bit. Recharge your batteries by trying something new. When you return, you’ll feel refreshed and realize how much progress you are making.
#5: Take a day off
If all else fails, take a day or several off. And I mean completely off. Put all of your creative supplies away. Turn off your computer and don’t check emails or social media. Let it all go. Take the time to clear away your supplies and tidy up your workspace. Don’t leave it a mess. It’s mindless work but very satisfying to rearrange your supplies and/or throw away what’s no longer needed.
Sit outside in the sun and read a book. Or stay in bed and re-watch a favorite mini-series. Take a drive or go on a long hike. If you can’t get away, do simple self-care with a lovely cup of your favorite tea. If possible, move your body. It’s always great to get outside, breathe in some fresh air and go for a stroll. Don’t take your phone with you.
I’ve started a new routine recently where I don’t take my phone with me when I leave the house. We didn’t use to need to check messages 24/7, right? Try it. Walk down to your local coffee shop with just a few dollars in your pocket and the keys to your house. While you wait for your coffee or tea, listen to the music or strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line. It’s so refreshing.
Do you have your own set of techniques when you need to get unstuck? I’d love to hear them. Tell me which of these resonates the most with you.
It’s Never Too Late to Create
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My creative inspiration comes from a lifetime of observation. I grew up in Paris on the Place St. Sulpice and walked to school through the Luxembourg gardens. And that was only the beginning… Learn more by watching the video on my About page.