Are hidden assumptions keeping you out of the studio? A little story about how I found two that were holding me back, and what I did about it. It worked, so it might help you too. :)

I received an email recently from someone who felt she could no longer continue making her art right now because recent current events had left her feeling very low.

While I understood that feeling, and am myself much more inclined and able to make art when I feel good, it saddened me.

What if making art would actually act as a much needed healing balm?

What if the time when we are not making art because we feel sad or stuck is the exact time it would do us most good to make it?

I’m not saying this to call that person out, or to make any kind of judgement – we each know best for ourselves – but it reminded me of a time not too long ago when I was staying out of the studio week after week and I didn’t know why.

I wanted to make art, but I wasn’t, for reasons I hadn’t actually consciously understood, and when I saw them, I saw how much I’d been holding myself back with things that weren’t true.

I went through a period of about ten weeks last winter of not painting at all, apart from one experiment that did not prove at all satisfying.

I’m aware of my painting cycles so for a while it was ok, and besides, all my creative energy at that time was being poured into my Practical Intuition course, which in itself was a creative endeavour on many levels.

But the art, man. I missed the art.

I went up to the studio one Saturday afternoon, determined to do something for myself on the art front before it got dark, which was still around 4pm at that point.

I messed around a bit with the unsatisfying experiment, and it was just annoying me, so I knew that was the wrong direction.

I remember standing there thinking, what is going on here? Why don’t I just get a canvas out and paint something, anything? What’s the big deal?

Not making art was uncomfortable and becoming painful, and yet here I was, feeling as though I just couldn’t. It was turning into a vicious circle.

And then as I stood there, a couple of assumptions rose up to meet me.

1. That doing art should make me feel good or it’s not worth doing.

Um, what? How long had I been carrying THAT one around?!

I noticed a built in assumption that simply wanting to do something would be the guarantee that the doing of it would be fun and interesting.

Even though intellectually I don’t believe it and have plenty of experience of it not being the case.

But why should that be true?

Even the things we love most can sometimes involve challenge and effort. In fact, if there were no challenge and effort, we’d never be motivated to do them.

Or much less anyway. It’d all be too easy.

I’m interested in growth, which is probably partly why this had been nagging at me – how can I develop my art if I’m not making any? – and yes of course, art comes with a huge amount of delight, but to decide that that’s all it should give us is like saying we should never feel sad or angry.

It’s an incomplete picture.

And it means that we cut ourselves off from all that possibility when we hold a secret belief that it might not feel good because we’re not in the mood or feeling inspired, and therefore a part of us says no, for fear of not feeling good.

{And then we don’t feel good anyway!}

 2. That I should always feel good about the art I make.

This is really an extension of the first one.

I seemed to have this unquestioned belief – again, in spite of what I logically ‘know’ – that because art and creativity are such a huge part of my life, because I have based my work around that part of myself, and because I really am consciously creative every day in all sorts of ways, that therefore I should have nailed it at every level, including knowing how to always be happy with what I make and how I’m making it.


The nature of assumptions often means we don’t notice we are making them, but if we don’t pay attention, how can we expect anything to change?

This whole ‘things should feel good to me in order for me to do them’ thing was holding me back.

It was stopping me from making art, even crap art, which can often lead to satisfying art and unexpected discoveries.

It was stopping me enjoying getting lost in the process for its own sake. It was stopping me even trying a bit of painting.

I do know from experience that for me forcing it doesn’t work; I know that in this particular state I’m unlikely to make one of my better paintings {although let’s not make any assumptions about that!}.

But these previously invisible assumptions had not been serving me, and once I’d seen them, I could change my behaviours. I could stop giving up my power to a perceived ‘problem’.

By way of holding myself accountable, I posted on Facebook that I was going to do something about this.

I thought about the path of least resistance, by which I mean the thing I could do that doesn’t feel too hard, doesn’t require a lot of time and effort, but can still be satisfying just from handling the materials and playing with a subject I know I enjoy.

And I made this:


It’s not a masterpiece, and yes I can do better. That’s not the point.

The point is I broke the hold my secret assumptions were having over me about what was possible {or even likely} by taking action; by doing something I knew was easy and low risk.

We can all make excuses till the cows come home, but those excuses are only based on assumptions we’ve made about what’s possible.

And I think the cows might like to see some art, when they do get back. 😊 🐄 🐄 🐄

Below are a couple of posts I discovered in my archives that might help if you’re also hanging around at Procrastination Station of late, for whatever reason.

Bear in mind that when it’s winter in our part of the world, it’s absolutely ok and good and right if we are hibernating and our creative selves are lying fallow.

{And often that’s true at other times of year too.}

This is really for those of us who acknowledge that and also are feeling relentlessly nagged by our creative selves to release the pressure just a little.

21 things to love about making art

‘I want to make art . . . but I’m not’ :: 7 tips for procrastinators

Do you think you might have some unexamined assumptions about your art process that are holding you back? I’d love to know!