“You make me sick. You are insular and regurgitating your own formulaic art over and over again. Everyone is bored with it. Okay maybe not everyone, but YOU are bored with it, right? No? Wow it’s just me then, huh? Hmm okay.”
That’s basically what it’s like to be stuck in a rut.
That conversation, in your head, for at least a month. Over and over again. The age-old stuck-in-a-rut conversation—once more, but this time, WITH FEELING!
We’ve all been there. So here are some of my rules and regulations for how to handle being stuck in, and subsequently climbing out of, a bonafide rut.
1. Inspiration is a leprechaun.
There you are, frantically searching for that pot o’ gold, and right when you think you’re hot on the trail that m’effer will tap you on the shoulder, wink and laugh, then run the fuck away. Fuck that guy! Stay where you are. Don’t panic. Be very still. That is all.
2. It might be a rut but it’s YOUR RUT.
Make it cozy! Now that you wrote off the leprechaun, it’s time to get comfortable in your rut. You’re only digging yourself deeper into that hole right? Good. Sometimes isolation is just what the doctor ordered! Oh and don’t even think of trying to make art in that rut. That is not what ruts are for.
You think it was a life-changing experience just because you left your phone at home? Ha! Nope.
Ruts, my friend, are for processing. If you don’t step back and take a break to process, you will continue to make the same formulaic bullshit that you’re bored with. You’ll want to fully isolate, if you’re truly committed to being in a rut. Deactivate social media accounts temporarily, have your best friend change your computer password, and go into stealth mode. Obviously you’re a real pro, so you’ll let certain people who need to know (usually the ones who pay you) that you are in digital detox, but don’t do one of those “byeeeee Facebooook I’ll miss youuuuu Kay ttyl” or you’re completely missing the point.
3. Make a to-don’t list.
You need to flip your perspective. So instead of making a list of all the things you should, need to and want to do, make a list of boundaries, restrictions and naysaying. Important: this is not a list of criticisms of your behavior or the content of your past work. We aren’t trying to cry ourselves out of this rut; we are just looking at some of the things we might like to leave behind in the rut when we get out of it. Think of it as your own creative snakeskin.
Like I said, there is a purpose to these ruts. Molting. It means you’re growing! Yes growing! Okay now take that list, chew it up and swallow it because you eat lists for breakfast. No no, just put it away somewhere, or burn it. Just don’t pin it up on the wall like a trophy. Definitely don’t Instagram that shit, or I will find you.
4. Get lost.
Hey so guess what: The couch is your kryptonite. You really want to finish the 8th season of “Ugly Betty” I know, babe, but truly it’s not worth it, trust me. Try this instead: Go. On. A. Walk. For real though. Okay? READY? Okay. But wait! Don’t bring your phone. Woah, woah, woah. “OMG my phone, but I need that.” Nope. It’s just a walk. Back in the ’90s people would go on walks without their phone every single day. So put on your Reeboks, scrunch your tube socks down and get out there, champ.
One more thing, no timepiece allowed. Not even the Swatch. Don’t bring any money either. No notebook or pens or anything. Just your ID, your keys and if you can figure it out bring some water. Snacks? Eh maybe only if you have a blood sugar thing. No music, nothing. I’M SERIOUS YOU GUYS THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART. Go on an aimless, meandering, unproductive walk, for as long as you can. Hopefully you’ll end up somewhere dangerous and thrilling and new!
5. Door Number 3.
You’re going to get back from that walk, and you’ll either 1) get right down to business and reactivate your online accounts, so you can tell everyone on the internet about your stupid walk and how inspirational it was and how much progress you’re about to make, and then you’ll spend 3 hours looking at your middle school best friend’s new baby or a Buzzfeed list about Jennifer Lawrence’s Hunger Games “looks”, OR 2) go to your studio zone and sit there expecting something magical to happen so you can tell the internet about it later.
I hate to break it to ya, but neither option is correct. Choose door number 3. Go to your studio zone, yes—but don’t expect anything brilliant to just plop out. Don’t expect anything at all. I mean, it was just a walk for cryin’ out loud. You think it was a life-changing experience just because you left your phone at home? Ha! Nope.
6. Just admit it, you suck.
You already feel like a horrible artist, so why not go for the gold and really prove it to yourself? Just resign yourself to making something heinously crappy. Not like, ironically crappy, not GENIUS crappy either. I’m talking about something that even your mom would think sucks. Something your neighbor would cringe at, and your dog would pee on. A re-giftable one. Wow, great, yes: ugliest thing on the planet, good job you win. Now, throw it away and start over.
Wasn’t that just so neat-o? Congratulations, you are now free to move about the cabin. See now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Is that all you’re scared of, making some shitty art? Well now you’ve made it to the bottom of the barrel, and that’s something to be proud of.
Oh, what’s that? You actually liked your terrible art that probably wouldn’t sell at a flea market for more than six bucks? Mmm-hmm. Okay. Well now you’ve got a choice. You can keep making art that you like making, or you can buck up and get with the program by giving the people what they want. Whatcha gonna do, whippersnapper?
Photo courtesy of This n That Depot.