If you’re feeling resistance towards your craft, I feel you. You want to draw, but it feels heavy. You want to paint, but it feels like a chore. So you tell yourself you’ll get it done “tomorrow”. The thing is, whatever you resist persists. And the bigger the project is, the bigger your resistance will be. If you find yourself resisting making art, it’s probably because of one of the following reasons:
- The art project is too big and you don’t know where to start.
- You lack the skills or knowledge.
- You have high expectations.
- You’re not completely sold on the art project, or it doesn’t excite you.
- The process is repetitive which, in time, becomes boring.
Regardless why you feel resistance, sometimes you just have to do the work. Maybe you committed to a project and it’s too late to walk away from it. Or, the artwork is important to you and others.
Here are some tips to overcome resistance, and make art when you don’t feel like it:
If I experience resistance to starting a dog portrait, for example, instead of striving to finish it in one day, I focus on the sketch/outline on the first day. The next day, I color the eyes, and the following day I work on the ears, and so on. Once the drawing starts to take shape and leaves the ugly phase, I gain momentum, which makes me want to work a bit more every day.
You can achieve big results from baby steps. Think about how you can simplify a big project into many actionable chunks.
Lower your expectations.
Setting internal deadlines is good, but when you’re feeling resistance, it’s better to create space in your calendar and be flexible with your time. If you’re working on a commissioned piece, and the client didn’t give you a fixed deadline, take advantage of it! Maybe you told yourself that you’d finish the artwork in one week. Lower your expectations by giving yourself an extra week.
If you have a pressing deadline that can’t be pushed, lower your expectation you have in your mind of the finished product. For example, instead of expecting your artwork to be like a previous piece you’ve made, or another artist’s piece, let your artwork be unique and beautiful in its own way.
It’s like when you go on a date and expect everything to be perfect, or expect to begin a relationship on the first day. You probably won’t enjoy the moment. But when you just relax and go with the flow, you end up having a great time.
Change your perspective.
When I approach making art with the lens of hard work, guess what? Making art feels like hard work. If I tell myself that making art is a pain in the ass then, of course, I will avoid painting. But when I tell myself that making art is fun and relaxing (because it is), resistance loses its power. It makes me want to grab a cup of coffee, put on my favorite playlist, and enjoy my drawing time. Changing your perspective is all about seeing art with the lens of fun, rather than the lens of hard work or perfectionism.
Make it fun.
Ask yourself, “How can I make the process more fun?” Having a Netflix series in the background does it for me. Even if my eyes aren’t completely on the show, I love hearing the soundtrack and dialogues while I render portraits.
Maybe you can listen to a podcast or audiobook, or you can take hot chocolate breaks! Whatever feels fun for you, do it!
Act like a pro.
In his book Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield encourages us to do the work and act like pros, rather than amateurs. “The amateur tweets. The pro works.” It’s a simple but powerful concept. Whenever I’m feeling resistance, I think of my favorite artists. World-class artists who have an extensive body of work. Then I ask myself, “Would Heather Rooney choose distraction, or would she do the work?” And that question instantly gives me the nudge needed to start working.
Watch this interview with Marie Forleo and Steven Pressfield to know more about overcoming Resistance and turning Pro.
Make a small twist.
Many times when we lose our art mojo, it doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like making art anymore. It might just mean that our art needs a twist. Perhaps all you need is a little change in your environment and a new place to make art. If changing your environment isn’t possible because you can’t transport all your art supplies with you, that’s okay. There are other ways to spice things up. You could change the medium you’re working with or maybe use a different technique.
You could also decorate your space, maybe hang some Christmas lights to make it more cheerful. Other ideas are changing your playlist, or changing the frequency in which you take breaks.
Give yourself some grace.
If none of the tips above work for you, and you can’t get yourself to make art, give yourself some grace. Sometimes, you have to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, why is this resistance coming in the first place? Maybe your heart isn’t in a specific medium or subject, and you need a change. Or maybe you’ve been burned out for a long time, and you need some time to recharge batteries.
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Lastly, I’d like to recommend some reads that have helped me overcome resistance throughout my art journey (click on the image to shop). I hope you find value in them too.