Recently, I was in a slump.
It is a bit embarrassing to admit because I often go on and on about how much I love painting and how great it is to play and make stuff. I truly believe this to be true but I guess we all have our bad days.
My bad day lasted for over a month. Painting became a chore (it hurts to write that).
A little doubt crept in and my critical mind got a foothold and had a heyday.
My stuckness began to effect my entire life. I started feeling tired and very resistant to doing anything at all.
So when I scrolled past an optimistic quote about trusting and believing in myself, you know the kind – in script font on some lovely blurred out stock photo, my hackles went up. Put politely, I just wasn’t picking up that vibe and it actually made me feel worse. It jolted me out of my social media haze and reminded me of my “slumpiness,” which felt familiar and not in a good homecoming, freshly baked bread kind of way.
I knew I needed to take action and fast.
What did I do?
2 things …
- I showed up in front of my canvas as much as I could. I’d set a timer. I’d put on my favourite music and promise myself that I’d only have to work for the length of the album (I still listen to full albums). I would bribe myself (I’m not proud of it but hey, sometimes a dark chocolate treat or a glass of wine at the end of the day worked). A few times I played Katherine Penfold’s powerful song, “Don’t Look Back” on repeat for an hour to give me the strength to remain committed. The most important part is that I continued to show up. I stuck with it. Now, I know that seems like a normal thing to do when you have a job or a task that you are not too fond of to do. Of course you stick with it until the job is done and you try to do it to the best of your ability. However, when you are forcing yourself to do something that you love (or call your passion) it feels strange and wrong because fear gets a hold of you, with thoughts like, “you’re such a fake, who do you think you are? You’ll never paint anything again that you will be happy with and painting from now on will be a struggle.” It was tempting to just walk away for a while but a voice inside told me that it would probably be very hard to come back. I’m so glad that I listened.
- I woke up one morning and realized that my painting time didn’t mean that I had to work with oils on a canvas and that I could switch things up a bit. I grabbed a stack of sharpies and a big pad of newsprint and began to doodle. I played. It was so freeing! I think part of my slump was that I was working through some new ideas and new ways of playing with paint and the results were less than delightful. The feeling I had the desire to convey wasn’t shining through. It was stuck and so was I. Working on the newsprint was loose and flowing and fun and I began to feel like myself again.
As soon as my little black cloud began to lift, my life took turns in very positive directions.
When I look back now, I realize I was going through a bit of a transition with my work. My paintings are flowing once more with freedom and joy and that is priceless. I think I was experiencing a growth spurt and well, sometimes those can be painful.
My big take aways these past few months, wait for it….. trust and believe in yourself for sure but when things are not feeling so rosy (and this happens to all of us) show up anyways and trust in the process, trust in the work itself, keep moving and look for ways to lighten up a bit and play.