Stuck In The Middle With Artist’s Block: Dealing With The Mid-Schedule Slump

Imagine this – or perhaps you’re in this situation now…You’ve had your great start to your artistic project. You’re not yet at the panicked marathon of the last week before your deadline. You’re in the mid-schedule phase.

And you AIN’T DOIN’ SHIT.

We’ve all been there. (Well, I mean, there’s probably a few artists out there who always, always work ahead of time and stay on schedule for EVERY project, but I’ve never met one, so I’m speaking to the rest of you.) You know how it is. You get off to a great start, working ahead several days, doing extra sections. You’re on top of the world. This thing is gonna turn out GREAT! You’re confident in yourself as an artist, and nothing can bring you down.

And then you have a few weeks left and you can’t work.

You know that you’re running out of time. You know that if you don’t get back to work, you’re gonna hit that deadline at 90mph and end up with a creative hangover for weeks after, which will bleed into your next project and totally screw you over. You know this.

And yet you still can’t freakin’ work!

So how the hell do we get back on track?

Well, I don’t have a solid solution. Part of that is because I really believe that each artist’s artistic process/path/life is totally different, and comparing them is just apples and oranges. But part of it is that I haven’t mastered this myself either. As I write this, I am about 52% through my latest comic, The Cheyenne Line, and I have 13 days until printing. 13 days to be COMPLETELY done with the pages. I don’t even know if 15 pages in 13 days is possible for me, plus editing and doing the cover, but I have to try.

And here I am writing a blog post.

So I guess that’s tip #1: DON’T go write a blog post about the situation. DON’T go make a video about how you “really need to get down to work.” DON’T get on social media. (I’m doing this on my own site, though, so don’t even post to your own site!) Instead, talk to a friend about it. It’s a lot easier to get motivated via a  5 minute phone call than making a 45 minute video.

My other big hang-up is tip #2: Don’t start over, edit, revise, or touch-up previous sections/pieces. This is not the time to fuss over proofing the stuff you’ve done before. I’m tempted in this moment to go back and “fix” previous pages, the ones that are really bugging me, but I just can’t. I need to get down to work on TODAY’S stuff. I can edit another time. (Writers often struggle with this, and I certainly do.)

A tricky one is tip #3: Make a distinction between inspiration and time-wasting. There is definitely a difference between skimming your favorite manga for inspiration and spending 4 hours re-reading your favorite series to avoid your work. And it’s totally okay to have YouTube in the background to keep you company, but not if you’re spending more time surfing channels and finding the perfect video to accompany your work today than you are actually working!

I’m stealing a quote from Molly Roberts of HerSpeak for tip #4: Get real about your excuses. Deep down, you probably actually have a pretty damn good idea of WHY you’re not working. Get real with yourself about it. Talk to a friend or journal about it. Dig deep if you need to. Are you afraid of failure? Afraid of success? Are you hurting from an insult to your work? Are you stressing about something entirely unrelated? To me, trying to work on your creative stuff when your soul is hurting is trying to plug in your phone when the cord is so tangled that it won’t reach. It ain’t gonna work ’til you work out those knots. Do what you gotta do, babe.

Finally, thanks to my dearest love, I have tip #5: Just do it for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes. This is an exercise in forcing yourself to do SOME of the work to see whether you’re having a real issue or just wasting time. Whether you enjoy and/or get motivated by those 5 minutes is a great litmus test for whether you need to work on other stuff, or whether you’re stalling. And hell, even if you realize you really need to take care of other things, it’s 5 minutes more work than you would have done otherwise.

I really hope that these help. They’ve certainly helped me, in terms of getting me to get myself together and realize that I CAN work and that I NEED to.

BRB drawing.

~Julian

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