How to Identify Where You're Stuck

October 6, 2014

When I look back at my creative path, an experience I've had at various times is stuck-ness-- a general feeling of not knowing how to move forward. Talking with clients and artist friends, I now see how common the stuck feeling is at one point or another. Stuck-ness is not always the same as being creatively blocked. You can also be stuck in ineffective work habits, around writing a mission statement that captures what you do, or even around figuring out what kind of work you want to make (now or in the future).

I talk to a lot of artists who have general frustration, but sometimes a really hard time articulating what the frustration is about in a concrete way. And, in my experience, concrete is everything. How can you fix a problem when you don't know what the problem is? I've created a list of many of the places I've seen stuck-ness in myself and clients. You can move through the five work areas below, and take note of which of the following statements you answer true or false to.

1) Connecting to the Work:
+ I have creative work that I regularly put into the world 
+ I have a pretty good idea of how my work ties together my strengths and past experiences
+ I have ways to make the work/have a creative practice (at least on some level) without outside funding or grants

2) Sharing the Work:
+ I know what my work is (and isn't), and so does my audience
+ I have a manifesto (or mission statement) that describes my work and why it's valuable to others
+ I know what sets my work apart from those who make similar work (what my personal magic is), and what values are inline with my work
+ I have a website or some way of sharing the story of my work with the world, and making sure that my audience knows how to BUY IT and SUPPORT IT (sometimes different things)
+ I have work samples that capture my work
+ I have a network of people -- collaborators and clients or audience members-- in various fields that support and share my work

3) Money:
+ I have revenue streams that aren't limited to grants (note: if you're an artist, your revenue streams might be derived from your skills, but not directly related to your art)
+ I have audience members and/or clients that can afford to financially support my work
+ I know how much it costs to make my work and support my lifestyle, and have methods for tracking this
+ I am familiar with the basic tax write-offs for my field, and know how to prepare for tax time
+ I regularly invest in myself and my business/continued education

4) Foundation:
+ I practice methods of self care, so that I can continue to sustain making my work
+ I have friends, family members and colleagues who help energetically support me
+ I understand what things give and take energy from me, and I know how to adjust accordingly

5) Work Habits:
+ I have consistent work habits
+ I regularly set aside time for business and money/organizational work (bookkeeping, taxes, work sample and resume updates)
+ I have a 5-year plan, and know what next-steps I need to focus on to get there
+ I know my pitfalls, and how to avoid them or work through them
         Common pitfalls include:
  • Getting in your own way (second-guessing, irregular work habits, jealousy, comparison, fear)
  • Idea overload and/or too many projects (causing energy diffusion) or projects that are unrelated to your main goals
  • Creative blocks
  • Spending more time getting inspired by others' work than making your own
  • Spending more time in big picture/big idea mode than in right now/next step mode
  • Spending more time making lists than Getting Sh*t Done
  • Island Mentality (attempting to tackle all of your projects alone; no one knows what you do; a general feeling of alone-ness or isolation in your work)

Ok, so the point isn't to feel bad about your numerous 'false' responses (trust me: you're in good company; this is a lofty list), but to use this information to your advantage. Once you know where you stand, you know what areas could use some improvement. I'm going to be gradually blogging through this list and sharing ideas on strengthening each area.

I'd love to hear: 
  • What's missing from this list? Do you feel stuck somewhere else?
  • Is there anything on the list that seems unclear?
  • Does anything on the list feel irrelevant?
You can comment below or email me at LMholway[at]gmail[dot]com.


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