Are You Stuck?

So far, all of my blogs have been about what I’m doing art-wise, exhibit info., creative guest bloggers and the like, but today I’m doing something different.  How many of you, artist or otherwise, feel an intense need for changes in your life but you feel stuck?  Well, that’s me!  I’m in my 40’s and don’t feel like I’m close to where I’d hoped to be by now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be doing art full time and am very grateful for the successes I have had…and I know that times are especially rough for artists to make full-time living earnings…but yet there’s still something gnawing at my gut that things aren’t where they should be in many ways.

Behind Every Fear There's A Wish

Behind Every Fear There’s A Wish
Digital photo collage (c)Lauren Curtis

So, I’M STUCK!  And it’s not for a lack of taking action…I’ve been told by many people that I’m one of the hardest working artists they know and I’m always looking for new opportunities, networking with and supporting other creatives, exhibiting my work, promoting it, working on new things…but it’s like trying to focus on one star in a sky of many…when you try and look directly at it,  it seems to become fuzzy and disappear.  When you avert your gaze it’s,  back again.  The “big ideas” are right there…you can almost taste them…but when you try to pin them down they fade, become hard to materialize.   Has this happened to any of you?  If so, I’d love for you to post comments and share your experiences…that’s part of what blogging is about, after all…to connect & share.   🙂

All I know is there needs to be some major changes in my life to get “UN-STUCK”…and then maybe some of the creativity that’s lurking like a fuzzy star in my brain will shine brightly!

35mm digitally enhanced photograph

“Enlightenment” 35mm, digitally enhanced photo

29 thoughts on “Are You Stuck?

  1. Lauren, as they say great minds think alike. Yesterday I revisited an old article I wrote about getting out of a creative rut with 21 ways to help. Take a look I hope it helps!

  2. Carolyn says:

    Hi Lauren. Believe it or not one of the best things I can do when I get stuck is….do nothing. I know it sounds too good to be true. But it is those times that things begin to flow again and all sorts of ideas, opportunities etc make themselves known to me. Try it…. You really don’t have anything to lose and it may just work !

  3. G. Wood says:

    Lauren, it’s a little difficult to tell if your stuckedness is all about art, or if it’s a broader feeling about the circumstances of your life. But I’ll just comment on the art bit. The main thing is…Join the club! How many fabulous, talented, creative musicians do you know who never got past the local scene, or even floundered there? This is a very common syndrome that artists of all kinds suffer from.

    This is what tries the artist’s mettle. Will you go on creating in the face of unmet ambitions, or will you lose the desire? is art, ahem, Art, an end in itself, or is it a means to another end (self-fulfillment, $, pride, etc.)? Personally, I write, record and sometimes perform music because it’s in me and it has to come out. So, in a way, it’s like an infection (or maybe something else that comes to mind).

    But hey, every artist, every *person* goes through these feelings of self-doubt. I’m sure you, a sensible, mature woman, will resolve your trepidation, slay a few demons, and click. Right? Right.

    If, on the other hand, it’s marketing tips you’re after, I’m sure you know way more than I do about that.

    Luv ya.

    • laurencurtis says:

      Excellent comment, Gary, & very perceptive…in a few ways! And you’re no way am I or would I give up my art…like your music it’s what I do, no matter what! This isn’t the 1st time I’ve felt this way but I figured with this blog I could address it, get others opinions and just share in the crappy feeling that is “stuckedness” so we can all not feel so isolated when it hits. And it seems to be working…I’ve gotten more responses to this post than many others so it’s good to know we’re not alone with these feelings…I think creative people tend to over think and over feel sometimes so nice we can all support each other. Thanks!! XO

      • Jill C says:

        Lauren & Gary: I soooo relate to all you’re saying. I ask myself sometimes, “Would I create in a vacuum, if no one ever looked at another piece of art I made?” The answer is always YES!
        It really does seem like an infection sometimes. Or an addiction. Just can’t quit it. Sometimes dealing with the business end of things gets discouraging for me. I have to get back to that pure joy that comes from creating, and not give a care to what will sell or be popular or topical or thought provoking or WHATEVER!
        Just creating for the joy of it and because it’s something inside that needs to come out. I always find when I don’t “over-think” I do my best work. Or at least have fun doing it.
        Hope you’re not too down Lauren. Your work is great! Thanks for opening up this discussion. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot.

      • laurencurtis says:

        Hey Jill,
        Yup, having to focus and worry about earning a living from our art is very stressful and can detract from the actual making of art…but I try to remind myself that I’d rather be doing this for my career than anything else so I have to get thru the tough times. This topic seems to have really struck a cord with many people so I think I’ll continue blogging about it and see how it progresses…hopefully it will bring support and encouragement to other creatives as it’s done for me! 🙂

  4. Susan Gainen says:

    Hi Lauren,

    I am lucky enough to be a Protege in the WARM (Women Artists’ Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protege program. While we work individually as artists and work closely with our mentors, we also have some group activities (tomorrow’s pot luck, for instance). One upcoming activity is a book club discussion of “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking” by Bayles and Orland. I’ve got it on my Kindle and it is comforting, challenging, exciting, and illuminating. It is also an easy read. I think that many artists will recognize stages of creativity (including stuck-ness) in this book. I strongly recommend it.

  5. I agree with Carolyn. When you’re well and truly stuck, you’re not listening to your inner voice. Just relax about it and open yourself up to that voice. Don’t try to beckon it. Just listen. It will sing to you.

  6. Yeesh ! Snap out of it, Curtis ! I knew you when you had nubby finga’s ! You came into my flea market paradise and I told Jude, “We’re gonna adopt that chick !” Remember Paris ? Yeah,well, I don’t either…but that’s besides the point: If you could see what we’ve seen in you, and how you’ve grown you’d say “Who’s dat gurl ? Dat ain’t me, izzit?” I say “Get back on that table and dance some more !” You’re not even half-way done, chicka. See, it’s the curse: ya got sum’in special like…an itch. Ya scratch it and , man, it feels good ! Ya get that dog-face and ya itch harder, tearing up that skin, digging deep. Hmmmmm….ya know ya shouldn’t ’cause it might get infected so ya leave it alone. Then it starts to itch again. Just a little scratch. Hmmmmm…dog face again. And ya screeeee-atch a little more and a little harder, a little deeper. Can’t be sastisfied, kin ya ? Nope. So how ya gonna get rid of that itch without tearing up sum skin? But the pleasure of the screee-atch ! Now, that’s the rub ! Ain’t no pleasure, wid-out da pains.
    Yer amazin’, creative, beautiful, loyal, and a best friend like only a best friend could be. Kin only count best friends on one hand and you’re one of the finga’s…(you know which finga, smart ass !) Anyway, luv ‘n’ kisses, and keep smearing the canvas because there’s a billion of them there stars and they ain’t fadin’ for you anytime soon ! Lunch ?

    • laurencurtis says:

      Vray, you always know how to put a smile on this goth gal’s face even when I’m feeling down! And you always have that, uummm, special way with words (as I’ve always said, ya shulda been a writer! 😉 ) No worries about me giving up anytime soon but sometimes we all need a boost and just to know there are people out there who get it! And right back at ya on the compliments…you’re extremely talented, a great friend, a funny grumpasaurus and a wonderful person! And hell yeah, lunch….been waiting on you!

  7. […] If you are in the same boat, check this out and see Lauren’s point of view: Are You Stuck? […]

  8. Hey Lauren! You are so so talented and creative and I think that part of being creative is sometimes stopping to take a look around! Most creatives go through many ups and downs in their lives but what can happen is that we move into a new place after a down! I keep on scribbling no matter what…and I know right now that I am moving towards something new but I don`t yet understand what it will look like. I just have to keep going and allow the process to unfold. As long as we keep making marks (or in your case also taking photos) the new form will reveal itself! So please, keep going…..just play and give yourself permission to make anything, anyway you want to! Sending you lots of Love and Light! Laara

    • laurencurtis says:

      Hey Laara,
      I always appreciate your wise words and your talent. You’ve been such a supportive friend and a great artist so thanks for being there! You’re right…as artists we have to create what we want to and try not to worry about the responses from others but that can be so difficult to do sometimes, especially when trying to earn a living from our work….but it is important to stay true to our own visions. Love & light to you too!

  9. Lauren-
    You have so much talented, skills and drive. You work so hard at being an artist! Sometimes pushing your self can make you feel stuck. The pressures of making work, deadlines, blogging – all that. When I feel stuck – the first thing I do is switch to play mode. Forget making art to exhibit and sell – make work just for fun. For example, I would pour on paint instead of using a brush; or lay paper on the floor to work instead of an easel. Another trick in my bag, is to use new materials together – like wax and yarn, or gunpowder and paper. I usually make a mess – but I find the process liberating. Taking a workshop is really helpful. I took a glass blowing workshop at Hot Sand in Asbury Park. It did wonders for me! It was so hard and challenging to make a glass cup! The process of learning again opened new brain waves for me creatively. Lastly, sometimes you just need to get away. Not think about what is for dinner, laundry, emails – just go and make art. Here is a link for some very cool places to make art on a residency.
    I have all the confidence in the world that you will overcome this momentary feeling and back in the saddle – so to speak. Keep us posted on your progress!

    • laurencurtis says:

      Thanks so much Laura…I’m overwhelmed by the amazing comments of support and great ideas that have been posted to this blog! It helps to have support from other artists and friends and I agree that just playing and not always focusing on work related art is important…I’m itching to travel again and hope to do so soon as it’s a big source of inspiration…and fun…for me! Hope to see you soon!

  10. Lauren, I’m so glad to have had a chance to read this and the other comments tonight.. as I stay up too late catching up on paperwork and bills, when I’d rather be working on my new painting! The freelance life can get rough, that’s for sure, but you are doing amazingly well. As you and I have discussed, this is how we make a living and that’s a whole lot of stress. Things just don’t flow creatively when I’m too anxious, and I sometimes have to work really hard not to let it rule the day (and night).. but if I can set worries aside, I find that I get “unstuck” quickly, allowing myself to become fascinated with (or at least reasonably interested in) a project, idea or people around me, things that puzzle me or get me thinking and feeling deeply. Questions like, What do I have to say? Why say it at all? What is that thing over there and why does it look so disturbing, etc., etc. (lol!).. these kinds of thoughts tend to keep me creating in unexpected ways with better results. So keep digging and exploring! I know you don’t stop at the familiar, that is why I like your art and attitude so very much. And your work ethic is far better than mine, so I need you to continue bravely on, please! Thanks for this great blog, an example of how you are sharing your talent with others. See you soon! Nancy

    • laurencurtis says:

      Hi Nancy! Yeah, what is that thing over there?? LOL Thanks so much for your kind and insightful reply…you always cheer me up when we talk about our careers and I know you get how difficult it is! Guess there’s been so much bogging down my mind…and I’m doing a lot of freelance work which I love but it must be what the client wants and not about my own artistic visions (although I’m lucky to have clients that are open to my ideas!). I enjoy our chats and am looking forward to hanging out again soon!

  11. Lauren, it’s so great to read this post. I feel the same way you do, but it’s usually at this time of the year. During the winter, I have a lot of down time and reflecting on what I’ve done in the last year and anticipation of a new year; it’s overwhelming, especially for those of us, who feel we have lost time to catch up on or want so much more for our lives.

    As I get older, I also feel the pressure of time running out, so that adds more of a burden on my internal pressure cooker! 🙂 But, I’m learning to take the big projects and break them down into manageable chunks, so I don’t overwhelm myself and the other thing I do is to write down every dream/idea I have, and then on days when I feel blocked or I’ve got nothing to stir my creativity, I actually take those ideas and run through a plan of action for them. Some of them are not feasible, sometimes fear holds me back or something else, but those ideas get aired on paper with some action steps or at least some thought devoted to them. This somehow, makes me feel like those ideas were at least aired and I also never run out of things to try, if I get stuck!

    I’m not sure if any of this made any sense, but I hope so. You’re such a great role model for the young people in your life and us, older ones, who still need real people doing the real work. 🙂 Hang in there, and baby steps. 🙂

    • laurencurtis says:

      That completely makes so much sense, Indigene…and you bring up excellent points about the fear of time running out playing a huge role in feeling the pressure…I absolutely agree with that and feel the same way! I also write down ideas for new pieces and keep those notes around my work area…and yup, not all of them are do-able but many are and as you said, they at least give me the sense that I have other projects I can work on, even if I procrastinate getting to them. Since this post seems to resonate with so many, I think I’ll continue the conversation in this blog so we can all gain insight and support from each other! Thanks for being there and your talent will take you far! 🙂

  12. Lauren, have you explored the site Let me know what you think if you get a moment to check it out. I have registered with them and they send me leads for commercial art projects, but I have yet to bid on any of them, being a bit skeptical about the process. I’d love your opinion since, I’d hate to overlook good opportunities though. Hope you are making progress, we must try to be “unstuck”, and not become “unglued” along the way, right? Again, great blog, glad you’ve got it going on.. Nancy

  13. laurencurtis says:

    Hey Nancy,
    I’m on Thumbtack but don’t like that you have to pay just to bid on a job so I don’t use it. I prefer job sites that take a small % AFTER you’ve been awarded and paid for a job…seems insane, especially in this economy, to pay to just look for work! Glad you like the blog…think I’ll continue this theme as it generated a lot of interest and great replies. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for that help, Lauren! Yes, that is why I have hesitated to pursue certain sites like Thumbtack. They also seem to put the designer/artist at a negotiating disadvantage from the start, not providing enough info about client, project, budget, etc. to bid on a job professionally or competitively. Most projects, in my experience, are rarely that simple to quote anyway..Glad to read the great replies and simpatico ideas, too!


  14. Judy W says:

    Lauren, I love your work and feel a bit inspired that someone as talented and motivated as you also gets stuck! Sharing your experience and the experiences of others who have posted here, makes it feel more OK to get stuck. It’s very generous of you to share your blog so we can all help each other get unstuck.

    It takes me a while to notice that I am stuck. Then I decide not to address being stuck – but to relax and take some photos of very random stuff. I tell my self “I’m not shooting, I’m not working, just playing.” Regardless of the weather I try to shoot outside. I also keep a lot of odd/silly/unusual things around for inspiration. My husband will see me draggin all kinds of crap through the house and ask “Where are you going with all that stuff?” I calmly say “I’m gonna take it out back and shoot it!” He always looks relieved.

    Sometimes we get so caught up in the business side our art and balancing how to market, make money, buy supplies, and have a life – that it squashes the very much needed “play time” our brains need to create. I am learning to trust it as just ALL part of the process in creating art.

    • laurencurtis says:

      Thanks for the kind words and those very helpful ones as well…you are also very talented and I’m glad this blog has helped some of us art-folks to realize we’re not alone in these feelings…and I totally agree that it’s easy to get lost in the biz side of things when you’re trying to make art for a living! See you soon!

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