Do Art Not Dishes: How to Stop Avoiding Your Art Supplies in Four Steps

May 20th, 2009

Three Muses

One of the biggest clues I get that I'm avoiding my art, is when I have some time to create, but all of the sudden I have an incredible urge to do the dishes, mop the kitchen floor, re-fold my laundry, or clean the litter box.

Now, if you love cleaning, doing dishes, or scooping out kitty poo, this may not be your clue. But anytime you're filling your art-time with things that don't really need doing in that moment, stop, take a breath and ask yourself, "Hey, what's happening here? Why am I avoiding my art?"

Doing distasteful chores is my clue that I'm in major avoidance mode, but there are sneakier ways I avoid. They're easy to fall into and oh, so time-consuming. For me, these sneaky avoidance tools include reading blogs, surfing online, and Twitter. Now, there's nothing wrong with doing any of those things, but you have to stay aware of when you're doing these things not just for fun, but as a way to stay just busy enough that you have no time to create.

O.k., so I've noticed myself avoiding. Now what?

First step: Do not beat yourself up

Beating yourself up over not creating will only lead to, you guessed it, more avoidance and less creating (followed by more beating yourself up.) Ouch. It's a vicious cycle and it's painful, so let's sidestep the berating yourself and move into the space of being gentle.

Second step: Gentle Noticing

Take a deep breath and gently notice the inner pulls that want to lead you into an activity of avoidance and then take a peek at why you're avoiding. There's usually some kind of fear there. A fear of not being good enough. A fear of making bad art. A fear of failure. (All totally normal, by the way.)

This may be enough for now. To just notice. You can then go on and do whatever avoidance tactic you were about to do (maybe you really do need to do those dishes!), but you'll do it in a conscious way. There's a big difference between choosing to do this activity instead of making art and doing an activity while unconsciously avoiding.

Step Three: You're Not Your Fear

After you've taken a gentle look at your fear, you may want to do some journaling about where this fear stems from. Ask yourself what is scariest to you and then see if you can determine some playful ways to work through them. 

One of my biggest fears is of not being good enough. When this fear comes up, I work through it by getting playful. Play can help quiet your inner critic to a whisper. Heck, you might even get your inner critic to play along with you. At a time in my life when my inner critic was particularly loud, I started having art picnics on my bedroom floor. I created a safe space in which to create freely and gave myself permission to make complete and utter crap. Lo and behold, this totally worked for me.

Once I got playing, I got into a creative flow, my confidence began to build, and I was creating freely again. The hardest part is often starting. If you can get through that, you'll be on your way.

Step Four: Commit to Your Creativity

If you find yourself getting into avoidance mode on a regular basis, it's extremely helpful to create a regular date with your creativity. You can do this on your own by scheduling time and putting it in your calendar (every day at 3 p.m. for the next month, I'll create for 30 minutes or every Saturday from 12 - 1, I'll work on my writing), you could make a date with an art pal or group of friends to create together on a regular basis, or you could take a class (I know when I pay for a class, it helps me keep my commitment to showing up.)

A student in my last Art Picnic class mentioned that if she hadn't been signed up for the class, she would have decided her day was too busy to create. But because she'd signed up, she showed up, and was so glad she'd taken the time for herself.

It's so easy to feel like we're just too busy, but creativity doesn't need wide expanses of time to flourish, it can come in little bits. And when we make time for our art, whatever that may be, we feel so much more alive.

So for today, forget the dishes and get creating.

p.s. The next Art Picnic class has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 17th from 8 - 10 pm EST. I'll be posting more details soon, but in the meantime, you can learn all about it and sign up right here.

17 Responses

Love these simple steps, Leah! I sure can relate to the vicious cycle you mentioned in step 1. Thanks for these great tips!

Thanks for this lovely, practical post. I just signed up for your next Art Picnic! Yay!

:-) Hiro

I had a wonderful session with Hiro yesterday and this topic came up – I left the session with renewed intetion to get throygh these issues – so thanks for your timely post! Yikes, here I ma on twitter! Am I avoiding my studio at this very moment? :-)

Hee hee…a lot of the time, I use my art not only to avoid the dishes, but to avoid some of the other “fear” causing challenges in my life ! My art is the one place that I have found a fear-free zone, finally!!! I have learned to play, to escape, to just BE in my creative time.

The steps that you outline are so perfect though, Leah, because they apply to any “fear” you are trying to overcome ! And when I think back to how I became so fearless in creating, it was by letting go of my fears about making “ugly” art, or of having to make something beautiful every time, and by committing to making creative time a priority in my life.

Here’s to having a fear-free creative zone everyday !

What a great post, Leah! Thanks! :)

Thanks for a great post, Leah, and great advice!

Thank you for this fabulous piece. I am a *notorious* procrastinator, and although sometimes I realize I actually MUST do the dishes (and certainly scoop the poo!) – I know what you mean about it being an avoidance tactic. The internet, too. Thanks for these tips – I esp. like the COMMIT to Creativity! Thank you!

Hi Leah,

This is such a great post. I call this pattern “organizing my sock drawer”, or in other words, I will create the most useless, boring and unnecessary tasks as a way to get out of facing the creative void. I love how you talk about cultivating kindness and compassion for yourself and about how important it is to recognize that the avoidance is always about fear.

You are a wise creative woman, my dear! Thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a clear and helpful way with the rest of us!!

OMG! you just describe me. I often feel ashamed and angry at myself for using my daily chores, tv o internet to avoid what I really want to do. Sometimes I can spend hours reading blogs and “filling” my creative craves by watching the beautiful creative expressions of others, and when I´m finally exhausted and ready to sleep I recrimine myself for not drawing, or writing or just living my life instead of borrowing the lives of strangers to feel less blocked and paralyzed.
Anyway, thank you so much for the tips, I´m gonna try each one of them, and stop avoiding to connect with my voice and express it artisticly.

Thanks for sharing these simple and lovely tips.Looking forward on your next post.Have a great day ahead.=)

A Writers Den
The Brown Mestizo

The three muses are so lovely. Three is a sacred number, and I am one of three sisters.

This is an excellent post and it describes what I sometimes do.

However, I also have the opposite problem. Sometimes I find myself fiddling around on Photoshop or making shrine boxes and backgrounds when I should actually be doing something else.

The result of using my art to avoid chores and other responsibilities is bad: an untidy house, chaotic papers and, most importantly, distracted and unfocused artwork with no joy and no learning.

I think what you say about fear being at the root of avoidance (whichever way round the avoidance is) is absolutely right.

Oh, that’s so fascinating that some of you are using art to avoid other stuff! The basic tools are the same no matter what you’re avoiding, so yes, keep on gently noticing when you’re in avoidance mode.

Spending time on the cleaning and de-cluttering can be super beneficial when we come back to our art too. Being gently aware is key.

I’m the queen of distracting myself from creativity. Thanks for sharing some practical tips for getting away from the cat box.

This post is exactly what I have been struggling with in my own life of late.
Good to know it is not just me. :-)
Thank you. :-)

Thanks for the great advice. lately my procrastination is caused by blogging!
Love the 3 muses!

This is a great post, Leah! I learned a lot from the responses, too. At least I’m not alone. Why does that make me feel better??? LOL

Post a Comment