Many visual artists have no particular trouble starting pieces but lots of trouble finishing them. Why is finishing a work of art problematic for so many artists? In this series we’ll look at twelve reasons. Here’s reason number ten:

Reason 10. The fear that this is your best idea.

Let’s say that you’ve been working for months on a large, complicated narrative painting. You’ve figured out how to take a mythological subject and put it into modern dress and you’re both proud of and excited by your idea.

Naturally enough, your brain has organized itself around this idea, is focused on this painting, and isn’t allowing neurons to fly off and think about other paintings and other ideas. This natural phenomenon of being focused has a shadow side, however: it can make you believe not only that you don’t currently have another good idea but that you won’t have another good idea … ever.

Your brain can fool you into thinking that this excellent idea is the last excellent idea you’ll ever have. You can get weighed down by the feeling that since no other idea will ever come to you, you had better nurse this idea—so as to have something to work on and so as to put off what you feel will be a terrible moment of reckoning when, with this painting done, you face the void and discover that you have nothing available to say and nothing left to say.

The antidote is simply to say “No!” to this half-conscious thought that this is your last good idea ever. Even if no next idea is currently present, that is no reason to presume that an excellent idea won’t percolate up when the time is right, after this painting is completed. Remind yourself of the following: that it is wonderful that you are enjoying your current idea but that it will likewise be wonderful to encounter your next idea, which is bound to be available once your brain has completed its thinking on this painting.

Opt for an abundance model rather than a scarcity model, announce that you will never run out of ideas, and finish up this painting so that your next painting can have its chance to arrive!

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