Going through a “busy season” can be hard.
Over the past 10 years of being a business owner, I’ve gone through SO many busy seasons, lemme tell you. Currently I’d say I’m in the busiest one I’ve ever experienced: I’m a mom of a 3-year-old, we’re renovating our studio and I’m juggling many tasks and coordinating projects for licensing work, multiple courses, retreats, YouTube videos, writing my third book and more. With all that’s on my plate, I’ve become a HUGE proponent of focusing on working efficiently and “smarter, not harder”.
When I’m in the middle of a crazy busy season like this one, one thing remains a constant question from you guys that I wanted to answer: How do you stay inspired? Because I’m a full time artist, I’m writing watercolor books and providing education in art and design, it’s imperative that I somehow still pump out inspired, original content that doesn’t feel stale or reused.
Related: 7 Self Care Tips for Business Owners and Creatives
These times really put you in a corner…but over the years, I’ve developed a few strategies that help me tremendously when I’m needing to create and get into flow. I know there’s many of you out there reading this that are also fellow artists and/or fellow business owners, so take this to heart and put it into practice! Are you ready to dive in?
Create Before You Consume
The first step when you’re feeling in a creative rut: Create Before You Consume!
I heard this on a podcast from Marie Forleo and it literally has changed how I practice. So many of us open up our phones for Pinterest or Instagram, or whatever bit of inspiration and ideas we can get our hands on before we start painting or creating. STOP DOING THIS NOW! We are SO impressionable and even mindless scrolling through an app to get ideas can dig you further and further into a dry, dark hole. YOU are creative and YOU have a story to tell. You don’t need an app or piece someone else has created to give you that voice or idea first. Instead of picking up your phone to look for ideas from other artists/creatives out there next time, try just painting/designing/taking photos/whatever FIRST before you open your phone. Put on some good tunes and see what you can come up with. You’re going to feel stuck, you’re going to feel frustrated, but this is not only a practice in relying on your own voice and abilities, but to also become aware of the comparison and perfectionism that you’ve trapped yourself in.
You don’t need to look at other artist’s work to get ideas. Ideas are happenings within the mind. What if we turned off the mind for a few minutes and just created from the heart?
Feeling really friggin busy your head feels like it’s spinning all the time? Yea, I’ve been there. Write it down. Write it down! So simple, but a tried and true business strategy that will literally turn your brain on. I like to write out a monthly forecast (or you can probably just call it a brain vomit) that answers these questions:
- What are all the client project tasks and deadlines due this month?
- Are there any classes or partnerships I need to promote this month?
- Any personal goals or projects I’d like to start working on or launch?
Then write it all down! It’s simply just taking a step back from something that looks like a million wires crossed from close up, then realizing… Oh! This isn’t so bad!
Exhale and take it one step at a time.
Seek out Inspiration via other mediums
Ok. Now, this tip may seem contradictory to the first one, but hear me out! Everyone needs some sort of spark or idea for inspiration. While I’m not encouraging you to just consume images to replicate, this strategy helps to dig through color palettes and textures and other elements that can contribute to an idea! A lot of what I paint for jobs comes from my Pinterest boards that are literally centered around specific color palettes! The one below is from my board: Yellow Palette Inspiration.
When I’m painting or designing something for a client project, I usually have guidelines and specs to follow. Typically this requires a specific color palette, subjects to paint, etc. and it can be really challenging to just come up with original ideas just out of the blue, so, pulling up one of these boards that relates to the specs is SO helpful! Let’s say I needed to paint an abstract pattern with yellows…well you see in the image above, far right picture of those leaves? Those golds, ambers and yellows mixed with the shapes of the leaves…wouldn’t that make for a fun watercolor pattern? Boom. That’s how it happens!
Go for a walk with someone close to you (or favorite podcast) to talk ideas and get pumped
May seem silly or simple, but it works! There’s been so many occasions where I’ve felt completely overwhelmed and it makes me feel like I’m frozen and can’t get anything done. I’m at a standstill. Going for a walk outside not only physically gets you moving, but mentally, creatively, allows the ideas and inspiration to start flowing and moving. Don’t ignore this one! Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, it helps!
Some of my favorite creative/entrepreneur podcasts:
Time Blocking and Batch Working
Alright. Time for some honesty. I am NOT an organized person.
That’s right. I thrive in chaos and procrastination, but when running a multifaceted business and trying to have a personal life, it’s absolutely imperative to have some sort of scheduling system set up for yourself to stay on task. I’ve tried scheduling tasks per job in my google calendar, putting them in notes on my phone, I’ve tried project management software…the ONLY thing that’s worked for me and has stood the test of time has been time blocking and batch working. It’s the only way I can stay on top of things and motivated. Think about it: how much time do you spend wondering what to start with or what to do next? Or do you find yourself taking way longer on a project because you simply haven’t given yourself a time limit? Yea, that’s common. Without a system set up for this, it can feel like we’re just floating through our workday from one major thing to the other, while little bits are getting missed, and so much time is wasted.
So there you have it, 5 ways to stay inspired during a busy season! I hope this inspires you to not only get through the crazy times, but to thrive in them. As artists and as business owners, it’s so important that we stay above water and kick butt while doing so, so I hope you implement these strategies…I know you’re going to start seeing results in your work! You’ve got this, now go Get Bossy!
P.S. Do you have strategies that help YOU stay inspired? Leave a comment below – I know it’d be helpful for me and hopefully to those reading as well!
Right along with looking for inspiration in other mediums, I simply create SOMETHING in another medium. Whether it’s decorating cookies, playing music, or coloring with my son, there’s something inspiring just about the act of creating! It always gets my creative juices flowing, even if I’m not painting. ? Love the new site! Beautiful!
This is so timely for me.
When I moved to Denver from Orange County a little over a year ago I had decided to retire from the successful business I had created. I deleted my website and told clients that I was no longer creating custom stationary. Basically I was burned out after dealing with so many demanding brides, event planners, etc. I took a break from the computer and started creating with paints, ink and pencils. I also agreed to do a few projects for clients I had enjoyed working with in the past. What I have realized that I love the creative process. I’m ready to begin the next chapter and get focused with the help of your Get Bossy strategies. Thank you for being such an inspiration!
I found this very useful. I’m an art student and sometimes get stuck. It’s nice to know that professionals also go through similar struggles and are here to offer advice. Thank you Jenna <3
Terrific tips! I’m going to attempt to introduce the time blocking to my day. I know I get lost in thought, and procrastinate with housework, or other things that “need” to be done.
I know I can get lost in something and blow through a couple of hours, then find I burn out on the project. Do you set an alarm to indicate the end of a block to keep this from happening? How strict are you with yourself about adhering to the timing?
Awesome article and really good tips and comments. Thank you guys ?. In my case I guess I have to finish what I start or else I will have to restart again and that would be totally different design. Because of that I couldn’t paint big?. Also I pick one subject and work around it. Like a bird or sea or animal.
I was feeling so much down and looking for some inspiring writing that could make me productive, to be honest, your this piece of writing has done that for me.
Thanks for your inspiring tips.