Change is exciting, but why is it so hard to get unstuck? None of us want to live a vanilla life, especially creatives and artists.
The creative life has many blessings as well as challenges, and one of the key parts of the journey is learning how to get unstuck. The feeling of being stuck can go by many names, but the most famous is “writer’s block.” No matter your creative field, there are times when you may feel a ‘block’ when composing a script, writing a play, painting a new series, or deciding where to start shooting your next film.
Hitting the Wall
All creatives hit a wall at some point. When we are pushing ourselves, we find situations we have never encountered before. Sometimes we enjoy coming up with creative ways to overcome new obstacles, and it is exciting. However, there are other times we just feel stuck – times we just can’t see a way forward and we can’t find a way to solve the puzzle that lies before us.
Be encouraged. You are not alone, and there are resources. There are three core areas creatives get stuck that I will address here. Each of these can bring other areas of our life to a screeching halt if we don’t deal with it. You can get stuck spiritually, professionally, or creatively. But you can also get unstuck! Let’s see how.
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress (amazon affiliate link) remains one of the best illustrations of the Christian life. We do not go from one mountain top experience to another mountain top experience. We all face challenges, setbacks, and discouragement. To encounter seasons of discouragement is not unusual for a believer. The good news is that you are not alone, and that God has a purpose in every season you go through.
Whenever we are stuck spiritually, it is helpful to start by refocusing our heart. We can do this with worship songs, reading the psalms and spending time in prayer. It is especially helpful to begin with repentance of the sins we know about. We ask God to search our hearts, show us any other impediment to our growth, and find our joy in Christ. Regardless of the reason you feel stuck spiritually, here are a few resources to help you get unstuck and back to growing spiritually.
How long has it been since you have drunk deeply from the word of God? Not a few minutes of devotions here and there, but really meditating upon The Word, letting it be a salve to your soul and an encouragement to your spirit. How long has it been since you have followed King David’s model of entering the Lord’s house with thanksgiving upon your lips?
Take time recount your blessings, and to be thankful for all the Lord has done for you thus far…going to Him in prayer with gratitude and thankfulness. Consider the cross, and the lengths to which God went to express His love for you. Wherever you are today, God can meet you there, and bring you hope and peace. There is no sin He cannot forgive, and no shame he cannot cleanse you from.
• Sanctuary & Solitude
We live in a distracted age. One of the most helpful habits is to strip away all the distractions, shut down all the notifications on your phone and laptop, and steel away some time for your soul. Maybe you only need an afternoon at the beach, the park, or some peaceful retreat center. Other times, you may need to get away for a weekend, and spend time in prayer and reading God’s word. A practice I have found very helpful in times of discouragement and feeling stuck is to also fast and pray. (obviously check with your doctor first, but the history of Israel and of the Church are filled with examples).
• Spiritual Leader/ Mentor
Christians are called to be in community with one another, and to recognize those women and men who are mature, gracious, and insightful. These older men and women in our churches are a tremendous resource, which are overlooked in a culture obsessed with youth. The elders in your church and your pastor should be people who have studied the Word of God and people who can give you spiritual direction when you are stuck.
So take time to find a mentor, or to meet with a pastor, or leader. This may be locally, but with the benefits of technology I have also found it helpful to talk to my old pastors and mentors who live thousands of miles away through video calls. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply to ask one of these leaders to pray for you in the midst of your struggle.
The best artists continue to grow in curiosity and creativity. Some artists have a natural ability to keep evolving and pivoting. And yet, we can all get bogged down with challenges professionally. The opportunities and challenges seem to multiply every year. Everything from creating our brand, to engaging our patrons and fans on social media, as well as finding new ways to raise money to produce our films or create installation art, etc.
• Coaches / Mentors
We need people who think differently from us and who have different gifts and expertise. We need the wisdom of mentors who have pioneered the way in our industry, and the wisdom of mentors who know us and can give us very personal advice and encouragement. If you don’t have either of these in your life, take the bold step now and start reaching out to those mentors and pioneers you wish you could spend time with. Far too many people never reach out to the men and women who could really help them. It may be out of respect or insecurity, but you don’t know what is possible until you try.
Simply start by asking someone you respect to coffee, or lunch, and tell them you would love to get their input and learn more of their story. Remember, if you ask them to lunch, you should pay for it – unless they are successful and offer to pick it up. It shows how much you value them and their time.
Remember those days in college or in a consortium when you could hang out with other creatives. You all had big dreams, were full of new ideas and enjoyed collaborating conceptually and practically. Take a few minutes and reconnect with those old colleagues. Find out how they are doing. Ask them how they deal with the professional challenges of being an artist.
You may even consider a monthly time to hang out in person over a beverage or through a virtual meeting. Never underestimate the powerful benefits of fellowship, and how encouraged you can be by others who have a shared experience. And you can be a part of our community by signing up for our email newsletter!
• Return to What Brings You Joy
Ask you yourself, “What made me want to do this in the first place?” Like anything, we can get lost along the way, wander down detours, and stumble through the rough patches. Over time, we can start living on autopilot instead of living and creating with joy. We forget to be thankful, and to remember why we started working in this medium in the first place.
So take an hour, or maybe a day, and reconnect with the core reason you started this journey. Remember the excitement, the joy, and hope you once had. Once you reconnect, ask yourself which detour has taken you off course. Maybe you took opportunities that sounded great, but they led to a daily grind that doesn’t match your gifting. Maybe you started working for people who are toxic, and they leave your heart weary. Whatever the problem is, we can often benefit from recovering that first sense of joy and excitement we once had.
Serious creatives don’t rest on what they did last year. They know intuitively they need to keep finding new ways to express themselves. Like King David in the Old Testament, they realize down deep that they must keep striving to “sing a new song” unto the Lord. Last year’s song may have been great for last year, but our culture keeps changing and the Holy Spirit keeps doing something new in our hearts. The question we must ask, is how do we keep growing creatively and overcome the times when we feel stuck?
Don’t get trapped by assuming all the new ideas and fresh perspectives will come while you are sitting in your studio or creating with the same old team. We can all get in a rut, and sometimes the best cure is collaboration. If we take the time to bounce ideas of other artists, and explore someone else’s process, new perspectives will emerge that would never have occurred to us sitting in our studio, or going through the same old motions and the maintaining the same old habits
Sometimes we are afraid. You may be afraid of failure. You may be afraid of success. It doesn’t matter what the fear is. You may need to finally dig deep, find the courage you need, and take the risks you have been avoiding for years. As a Christian, you can move forward with confidence because:
– You are never alone. (Matt 28:20)
– You are loved. (1 Jn 4:19)
– His mercies never end. (Lam 3:23)
Don’t wait for inspiration. Go find it. We live in a world overflowing with creative ideas and innovation. Step away from your studio, office or production for a minute. There are hundreds of things you can do to inspire your mind to come up with new ideas. Here are a few:
– Go to a Museum.
– Watch a documentary about something you ordinarily wouldn’t watch.
– Sit and talk with a 2 year old, and listen!
– Go out to eat at a restaurant where you don’t even speak the language and can’t read the menu….and tell them to bring out whatever they recommend.
– Leave Town! Even if it is simply driving 30 minutes away – go somewhere you have never visited and explore.
The Wonderful Truth
The reality is this: Everyone gets stuck! Welcome to the club. The good news is this: it is a reminder to find new inspiration, to explore and get outside of your creative comfort zone. This momentary discouragement is part of the creative life and a part which often leads to break throughs and innovation that we would not have embraced if we had not felt stuck. So don’t fret. Don’t worry. Take the time to try some of the recommended resources above and enjoy the journey of getting unstuck.
Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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