Most artists experience at least some resistance getting to the canvas, in part because creating can feel risky. This resistance is of course mental – but it is also has a physical part!
Always remember the physical part of dealing with resistance, especially if you are ‘in your head’ a lot of the time and have many excellent ways of talking yourself out of painting. Not painting has, along with its mental component, a physical component. Not painting feels like something in the body. It may feel like tightness, heaviness, physical upset, and even encroaching nausea. We are embodied creatures and our challenges get expressed in physical ways, including our challenges with resistance, anxiety, and worry.
What this means is that we should think of physical solutions to not painting: for example, that sometimes just getting up and moving in the direction of our studio will break the not-painting spell and move us from dis-motivation to motivation. Try it this week in addition to whatever else you are doing in order to get your creating done: when you don’t feel like creating, do something physical in the service of your creating, like standing up and moving in its direction!
We feel varying degrees of physical and emotional resistance depending on the task in front of us. We may feel no resistance to sketching but overwhelming resistance to turning those sketches into a finished painting. Sometimes this resistance is about the inherent difficulty of the task; sometimes it is about the enterprise mattering so much to us. Think this through the next time you feel strong resistance to some aspect of your painting life. Ask yourself, “Why exactly am I feeling so resistant?” Even if you can’t land on the exact answer, just asking the question may release something and help a lot.
We must motivate ourselves. This is known as “intrinsic motivation.” If we lost this intrinsic motivation or never had it, we must find the way to get it back or to acquire it. How can you acquire “intrinsic motivation” and become a person who goes to his creating because he is always (or at least regularly) motivated to do so? One answer is by saying, “I matter” and “my painting life matters” and “I care about my painting” and other related phrases and ideas, by saying these things every day (and even all day long), we begin to actually feel like our art matters!
This is the cognitive piece—and if you add on a physical piece, like making yourself get up and turning yourself in the direction of your studio, you may actually crack through your resistance and show up at your canvas!
Don’t miss Eric Maisel’s new book, MAKING YOUR CREATIVE MARK: