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Questions, I Get Questions #2


I just received a question and when I responded, I got the dreaded non-deliverable response. So I thought I would address here, in this space, in case it would help others.

> Subject: motivation

> Message: first i would like to tel you you have a great website

> and i enjoy it a lot.  Im a fair artist and lately i cannot motivate

> my self to draw(i have depression issues :-)  ).  How do you

> motivate yourself to make such wonderful things each day. i

> would like to find a way other than therapy to motivate myself

> just wondering how you do it

> love your work

BeautifulDreamer {name has been changed to protect the identity of the writer},

I really don't motivate myself to do art everyday, that just happens. I have to motivate to do everything else like cleaning, and I am not good at that! Maybe I don't set out to "make wonderful things" I just set out to draw, or sew, or paint, no goal in mind. Practice. One thing you might try is to create something on an index card every day for a month. Anything. A word. A color. A bunch of circles. And just do that every day.

I have a lot of ideas for index cards: Each summer, we do an index-card-a-day challenge. You can start any day:

You can also start doing the Daily Paper Prompt {}... you don't have to do them on the day I post, there will be 61 prompts in all.

Please write back and tell me if any of this might help?


Your thoughts are welcome, what else would you say to BeautifulDreamer? Does this question resonate with you, do you ever have difficulty motivating yourself to do art? I understand lack of motivation, but for me it is in other areas of life. What have you done to overcome your lack of motivation, or is it really perfectionism or lack of energy or even more than that?

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Reader Comments (15)

you also might find some help/inspiration from michael at sustainably creative —

09.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Dear Tammy and Beautiful Dreamer,
Tammy, you are wonderful to dedicate a post to Beautiful Dreamer's question about motivation. (I love the pseudonym you made for her, but I need to shorten it to "BD" for typing purposes!).

I felt very moved to comment here, because I deeply relate to BD's lack of motivation issues, especially when it comes to art and creativity. I have a chronic illness along with depression and cognitive issues -- all of which greatly affect my motivation, discipline, and activation (getting started on something), abilities.

First I'll explain how the depression and fatigue affect my ability to create. Hopefully, this will help BD know that she's not alone, and also spark some suggestions from Tammy or anyone else on how to work around these issues.

In this condition, everything feel overwhelming. For me, I don't have a studio or anywhere I can leave my paints out and ready for action ... so just the thought of pulling everything out and setting everything up makes me tired. When I do have things set up, I find that it's easier to get myself to the table and pick up a paintbrush (but I usually use the kitchen table so it can't stay set up for long!).

Also, I am pretty new to art and painting. So, because it doesn't come naturally to me, it takes more effort than it would otherwise and that effort makes the thought of creating something very tiring. There are a couple factors at play here:

1) the fear of the unknown (which is paralyzing when combined with depression), and

2) the stress and self-doubt that ensue from lack of practice and experience. Painting is stressful for me even when I tell myself I'm just going to pick up the brush and play. Most often, despite my intention to just "enjoy the process," I end up with thoughts such as: "Am I doing this right?", "I keep messing up," "I am overworking this," "why is this so hard?" etc. I'm sure these thoughts are related to the depression, so it's like a viscous circle.

Even trying to create in an area I'm comfortable with -- like writing, or easy collages with magazine pictures -- can be a challenge. For me, the fatigue from my illness along with the depression is hard to fight. And when I do manage to fight it and start writing, the words come very slowly if at all.

Sorry if that was depressing! I just thought it might help to understand what it's like. Now, for the things I am able to do ...

1. DOODLE. This is my saving grace! All it requires is a sketchbook and a skinny black marker (I use Artline, but I know Tammy has a recent post about her favorite drawing pens which are good choices).

I started out by tracing a 3-inch circle or a square, and then doodling inside it. I would make loops and swirls and lines and stars and whatever I could squeeze in there. is a good place to go for doodling ideas, but I like to do my own "style". Now doodling is something I do easily, with no fear or doubt ... I know I can't mess up a doodle! Even when I do "mess up" on a line or something, I know I can turn it into something even cooler.

I no longer doodle in circles or squares -- now I just make a big scribble and doodle within the shapes of the scribble. With doodling, I'm like Tammy is with her art -- I cannot go a day without it. (I can try to paste one of my doodles here if you'd like, but I'm not sure how).

2. Photography. This takes more effort because it means getting up ... but that's about all the effort it requires. I just use my little digital Lumix and go outside and take pictures of something that strikes me. We have a little red maple tree in our front yard, and for a couple weeks I took tons of photos of it, all in different angles and zooms, etc. I don't have photography experience, but I find that capturing something beautiful in the camera is very rewarding.

3. Writing haiku, or 15-word poems, or another very short version of poetry. I find that writing poetry is often too cumbersome for me these days, but if I keep the format very short, with some guidelines/boundaries, it doesn't feel as overwhelming.

4. Decorating quotes on the computer. I love quotes! So I collect them, and I like to make them look pretty by finding clip art or photos that go along with the quote and playing around with the font, background colors, outlines, etc. I have a wall filled with quotes on 81/2 x 11 paper. Even those take a long time for me to do, but when I finish one I feel like I've accomplished something creative.

5. Visiting sites like Daisy Yellow! Even though I'm not always able to do the activities, I find such inspiration here ... and it helps me to keep hanging in there, envisioning the day when I will be able to create more. For now, the tiny steps I make with doodling, quotes, haiku, and photos feel like they are a breeding ground for something bigger to come!

I hope this was somewhat helpful ... BD, I wish the very best for you as you find a way to express your creative voice in the midst of depression. I know how hard it is. Baby steps really help! And it is so great that you reached out to Tammy. And Tammy, thank you for sharing BD's question, as it helps me to help someone else :-).
- Maureen

09.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen

Maureen, Thank you for your thoughtful, fabulous response to BeautifulDreamer's question. It is indeed a question I've received before, in different forms, and it needs to be addressed. I've heard a lot of positive feedback about this idea of creating very small at first. Something where there can be no right or wrong. I don't have a dedicated workspace, but yet I do leave stuff out - the hell with it - and I have a bunch of art baskets. One for watercolor-related stuff, one for fluid acrylics-related stuff, a basket for magazines, a basket for markers. So I take out the baskets I need, work directly from them, then put stuff back in. It does take energy. No question. But the journey begins with one step. One mark. One paper. One basket of stuff.

09.13.2012 | Registered Commentergypsy

I can only agree with the comments above, start small and doodle, or, if you need whole body movement to energise you, get 4 to 6-inch house paintbrush, a bucket of water and paint the dry fence, a house wall, a concrete driveway . . . something, anything to give you energy. It will dry up and you've wasted nothing but will find you've gained a lot.

I times past, the only way I coul activate myself sometimes is through exercise . . .and for me it's walking on the beach almost daily. Fresh air, even in the rain, the limbs moving . . . all of this takes me out of that pit. Alhough the struggle is not there for me right now, I still make sure I expend energy to gain more - and the research around depression supports this.

The only thing I'd add to Maureen's ideas is to use bright colours!

Take care Bautiful Dreamer and dream the i'm possible dream.

Why is it that all those typos become visible just as you hit the 'Create Post' button? Murphy's Law I guess.

I love your addressing this on your creative blog...I took some advice I read somewhere on the web....I leave my art journal open on my 'art' table...and when ever I pass by it...I sit down for 5 minutes to 'add' something that is on my heart...many times this 5 minutes turns into an hour, sometimes it is just 5 minutes...but every day I do work on a two page spread...and by the end of the week I have a wonderful original piece of art created by me...even though I do not consider myself an artist...except behind the camera.

09.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Really great response. I just blogged about a pact I made with myself (years ago) to play for 5 minutes every day...and I NEVER get done in 5 minutes.

09.13.2012 | Unregistered Commenterannie!

I find this website great motivation any day I choose to be motivated to work in my art journal. However, life does get in the way of me doing art journals every day. To me that's OK, because I enjoy the other things that I do (well, except cleaning.).

09.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

I love art, I was always very creative as a kid. I have journals that I have finally made a permanent mark in after 2 years. I also battle depression, why is it such a common thing - art & depression? I like to read the posts and know that I am not alone, lots of people feel the same way. Your art is great!

09.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen K

Hello everyone! I suffer manic depression (or to be politically correct bipolar), and cannot work. My illness severely restricts my life as a whole. In order to keep busy and hopeful I make art when ever I can. I choose collage years ago because it is easy and fast as long as I don't get into a perfection mode. As others have said I keep materials at hand, ready to use. In order to do this I created a collage box which contains scissors, Tape Runner, pen, 5x7" sketchbook with heavy pages, and a large plastic box of paper bits that snaps shut tightly in case I drop it or one of the pets knocks it around. Right now I'm in a non-creative mode for several reasons (fallow periods are perfectly alright because I've learned that they will pass eventually). During this time I sit in front of the tv and cut up magazines, scrapbook paper, junk mail and anything else I can find or have horded. I also use punches. When I'm up to it I surf my favorite art/craft sites for sales of ephemera, stickers, and unusual papers like suede or asian joss. Dover recently had a book sale so I picked up some geometry and clip art books. I also looks at free or low cost photo sites like which I print and crop into smaller images, or print onto transparencies to cut down when I need them. Pretty much I can only do a little at a time, some times only 5 or 10 minuets, but other times I can get in an hour or two. For me the point is not to fill a museum with million dollar art. I do what I can because it keeps me busy and because I enjoy it. If a piece isn't working or I'm frustrated I just turn the page and go on. No one is looking or judging me. When I do finished a piece I give it a title and the date so I have a record of the good days. At times I have shown my art journals to therapists and psychiatrists because I "speak" better through my art. Finally I want to point BeautifulDreamer and anyone else who lives with a major illness and does or wants to make art to and where you'll find others like us. Samie Kira is a life saver and a splash of hope and realism. More and more of us are speaking our truth in blogs and forums. The best part is that I continue to find making art to be a powerful healing practice even when I make dark, dark, scary pieces because I'm depressed, or crazy, crazy, scary ones because I'm manic. Some times it's one day at a time, sometimes it's one moment at a time, but this too will pass, and eventually I'll have those good days when I get dressed, the laundry gets done, and I sit down to make joyous thankful art in my little 5x7" books. You are most definitely not alone.

09.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Jane

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