I hope the clickbait title is what brought you here. Especially because most of the time when you click on clickbait titles, it only gives you some rah rah bullshit to make you feel good, and doesn’t actually address anything. That’s not what I do. Oh no, I throw the garbage side of things right at you, just so you’re aware.
So here it is: life is really hard sometimes.
Not the big revelation I was making it out to be. Everybody knows life can be really hard. A lot of self help gurus tell you that mindset and positivity and manifesting your dreams and shit will basically remove difficulty. Yeah that’s a fucking lie. If the story of the Buddha tells us anything, it’s that no one is safe from the harsh realities of existence.
Instead, we can only learn to manage our own reactions to the thoughts and emotions that rise and fall in our minds. The good and bad of life will continue, with no discretion to man or woman. We just have to keep going.
I’ve been having some difficult times lately. I’ve had a lot of internal struggle, and a lot of external hardships and obstacles just tossing logs on the fire. The shit is like a beach party bonfire at this point, and I hate sand. Does that metaphor make sense? Fuck no, but it makes me uncomfortable so it’s doing its job.
Let me be clear about something. This isn’t easy for me. I’m not giving advice because I’ve transcended or some shit, I’m giving it because this is what I’m doing to stay above water. Some people can handle things better than others, and some people just present well. Don’t be fooled, everyone faces challenges.
So yeah, self help gurus tell you that positive mindset and actualizing your energy or some crap will fix it. They’re half right. Positive mindset will absolutely help, even to the point of possibly saving your life. But that’s not all it takes.
It takes action. It takes perseverance. It takes being stubborn and unwilling to quit.
I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass. A lot of us haven’t even seen the biggest challenges we’ll face. But that doesn’t mean they’ll break us, and that doesn’t mean you have to face them alone. Just be open about what you’re going through, and willing to take a helping hand.
Keep going. You got this.
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When you’re in addiction recovery, relapse is when you start using drugs or alcohol again. So relapse happens because you use drugs or alcohol, right? Not really. Not at all, actually.
Going back to using is the definition of relapse, but it starts a lot earlier than that. Some people dance with relapse for days, weeks, months, even years without picking up. The reality is that most people have already relapsed before they even take that drink.
Real recovery takes a lot of ongoing psychological work. It’s awareness of thoughts, drives, urges, motivations, and the full range of emotion. Drinking is only a symptom of deeper issues, and unless those are recognized and managed, you simply can’t find happiness in lasting sobriety.
In my experience, there are two things that stand in the way of enjoying the happiness afforded through long standing sobriety. Those things are honesty and a maintained awareness and evaluation of your thoughts, emotions, and drives. Let’s dive into those a little bit.
Honesty and recovery
Honesty seems like it should be a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people can’t keep this simple ethic, myself included. Every addict has a long history of lying, even about the stupidest shit. The big lies have been easy to stop, it’s those little ones that are hard. Why would I lie about what I had for lunch? Who knows, it’s just standard addict behavior. Lie about everything.
So what’s the big deal about little lies? Why are they dangerous? I mean, if you’re being honest about serious things, then who cares about bending the truth or embellishing a little? Well, the more small lies you allow, the easier it becomes to lie. The easier the small ones are, the easier it is to lie about bigger and bigger things.
I look at lies, no matter how small, like shadows. Every shadow gives me a place to hide. When I lie, I’m hiding behaviors I think will create friction in my life. I’m avoiding confrontation. The more shadows, the more places to hide behavior I know is unacceptable. Hiding questionable behavior is a step in the direction of relapse.
If I am adamant about being honest with everyone, even about the uncomfortable shit, then I’m shining light into the corners. Remove the shadow, remove the hiding place. Stay honest, and you will automatically avoid bad behavior just to avoid the confrontation and accountability that come with it.
Evaluating your motives
I suppose this is a little trickier than not lying, but it’s definitely as important. We have the natural inclination to view things from our own perspective. The problem with that is the truth becomes tainted by our experiences and emotions. We justify behavior by how we feel, and offset blame to others. If we step outside of our own narrow scope, we can see our own fault, and work to correct it.
Look, the fact of the matter is that if you don’t take the time and effort to learn WHY you do the shit you do and act the way you do, then you’re going to keep doing dumb shit. And if you struggle with an addiction, doing dumb shit is a shortcut to relapse. I feel like I should make a chart or a venn diagram or something to illustrate it.
A lot of our actions are based on first reaction to what’s happening. Most of us are guilty of not taking a moment to think rationally about our actions, and instead letting emotion dictate what we do. First reactions tend to be defensive. Often, we’re defending our own faults and shortcomings.
If we want unbiased perspective, we need to work on changing our relationship with our mind and emotions. We have to remind ourselves that our thoughts and emotions are subconscious products of the brain, and we don’t have control over what pops up in our head. What we do have control over is how we react to those thoughts and emotions. You can’t stop yourself from feeling anger, but you don’t have to feed back into it by dwelling on it and creating negative thought patterns.
Drugs and alcohol aren’t the problem. Your unresolved trauma and inability to confront your shortcomings are. Face them. Recovery will be a lot easier.
Some days you feel like you can take on the world, and some days you want to smash your own dick with a hammer. Those days where you feel so little patience that severing a limb to escape everything seems a viable tactic. Where nothing is acceptable, and you want to burn every motherfucker that gets near you, even if “near” just means you saw posts on Instagram.
I want to stay present in whatever it is I’m doing. When I say “whatever it is,” I really mean whatever it is I SHOULD be doing but can’t seem to focus enough to do it. You ever feel like you need a day or two of absolute solitude just to get your thoughts organized? Just a couple days to sit down and write down a plan of action? Instead, it’s like somebody flicks you in the back of the ear every time you start to gain any level of focus.
I’m so fucking ADD it’s ridiculous, and I can’t tune out the distractions when I need to work. And the truth is, I really need to fucking work right now. I need to work on what I’m actually trying to accomplish. I need to work on defining it. I need to work on mapping it.
I never actually work like that, though. I usually just frantically jump back and forth between half a dozen things until something works. The thing is, everything tastes like failure before I start, and my wheels are spinning. I don’t think I’m scared of the failure, because I always learn something in the process, but it’s like it’s tainted before it starts. I feel burdened by concepts.
That makes for uncomfortable bedfellows, because I’m burdened by my career too. Tattooing lost it’s magic a long time ago for me, and the ongoing process of limiting booking, limiting style, limiting content of my tattoos is all about me being able to find something that resembles happiness. I have no fucking idea what that is sometimes, but I’m going to keep looking. And if I find myself hacking off toes and heels to contort my feet to fit that shoe, then I guess that’s what I’m doing.
We’re all on a quest just to find our happiness. We want fulfillment and a sense of purpose. We want to be sure that we’re happy in our endeavors, and that they’ll mean something to someone; anyone really. I’ve talked over and over about my desire to be liked and accepted for who I am and what I do, and this doesn’t feel any different.
So what do you do when you hit these crossroads in life? You keep working. You work more, and work harder. I know some people would say that’s the wrong answer, but they’re wrong. Hard work is always the deciding factor in getting where you want to be.
I don’t know exactly where I want to be in the future. I know I want to rely more on my artwork as I come, and I thoroughly enjoy buying and selling weird shit I find at yard sales and thrift stores. I could do both of those every day and be happy. I want to be home more and at work less, and I want to be able to split attention quickly when I need to. Tattooing has always been good to me, and I can’t see me leaving it, but it doesn’t hold the importance it once did.
All I know is that I’ve been getting more and more uneasy about where my future lies, and the more time that passes without me doing something about it, the more unhappy I’ll be. I have to take steps right now, right here, whether I feel ready or not.
It’s the same for everyone. You have to take steps toward what makes you happy, even if you don’t always know what that is. Time doesn’t stop for any of us, and if we just stay in one place without making changes, we’ll eventually resent our position, even though we’re the only ones to blame.
Today I’ll make a conscious decision to take a step forward, even if it feels like I’m going back. Today, I’ll get out of my comfort zone and take chances. Life is too short and my happiness is imperative.
When I say being a new father makes sense, I don’t necessarily mean it’s a great idea. Not for everyone, for sure. But then again, kids aren’t for everyone. What I mean is that at 40, being a new father finally makes sense for me.
That doesn’t mean I love and appreciate a child at 40 more than I did at 26, or 29, or 37, it just means that I feel more prepared and capable of being a good father. Becoming a parent makes you question and evaluate a lot of things, and the truth is, I lacked the self awareness for honest evaluation when I was younger. It’s only been as I’ve gotten older and made a conscious effort for personal growth that I feel the responsibility of parenthood is one I should be trusted with.
I think a lot of people take for granted what being a parent really means. You become responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing a tiny helpless human. But that’s just the meat and potatoes of it. Anybody can cook shitty mean and potatoes, just like anyone can raise a shitty person. The important part is in the details.
You’re expected to raise a functioning adult, who is a productive member of society.
Well, fuck, I’M barely a functioning adult. That’s where the truth of it all is. We’re expected to raise functioning adults when most of us, to some extent, still feel like children.
I believe that most people don’t live to their potential, and aren’t being the best person they can be. It’s just the way human beings are. Our baseline behaviors contain a lot of fear, anger, anxiety, and selfish behavior. We’re egocentric creatures who are always concerned for our own well-being , even if it’s at the expense of others. You see this play out in the political landscape constantly. Fear mongering and xenophobia are standard platforms for a lot of politicians.
It takes conscious effort to live life from a place of deeper compassion and honesty. Facing our own shortcomings and fears is incredibly difficult, but when we do, we’re able to grow and become better people. Being a better person resonates outward and affects those we come in contact with. And who do we come in contact with more than our children?
Children need guidance to make the right decisions, be honest with others, and let go of anger. We expect them to be grateful and treat others with kindness. Yet at the same time, we don’t always exhibit those characteristics in ourselves. How can we expect them to behave in ways we don’t behave? Children learn by the example they’re shown, not by the words they’re told.
I remember from my childhood the hypocrisy of adults, and how we were told to do certain things and act certain ways that they themselves didn’t. I remember grown ups breaking cardinal rules like it wasn’t a big deal, though they had been ingrained in my head as the gospel. Those experiences are commonly shared, and I’m sure you have your own versions. Those experiences also help create a cynical world view, and at the same time, the corrupt world we view with cynicism.
This is why I feel better equipped for parenting at 40. When I look at what I want to teach my children, I know that I can also hold myself to that standard. I don’t want my kids to lie? Then I don’t lie. I want my kids to be kind? Then I am kind to others. It’s really simple, and tragically overlooked, ignored, or even more often, excuses are used to justify the behavior.
I love all of my children. My daughters are growing into amazing young women, and I’m incredibly proud of their strength and intelligence. I hope that my personal problems I navigated through their early years don’t have too bad of an effect on them, and I hope they recognize the changes I’ve made in who I am as a person.
And I hope my sons can emulate the man I’m becoming, and not the man I was. One day I’ll teach them about that man, and what he had to do to become their father. But for now, pancakes and hugs are enough.
I’ll start by saying the name of this post is a lie. Acceptance isn’t the key to happiness, because there is no key to happiness. There’s no magic wand to wave and sprinkle some fuckin pixie dust and you’re all smiles forever. There’s no happiness cheat code.
What there is is strategies; actions and plans that help you along the path to happiness. Acceptance is a big one. As you learn to accept the reality of the situations you find yourself in, you’ll find it more and more difficult to be vexed by them.
A lot of people mistake acceptance for being supportive of your situation. This is completely incorrect. Accepting a situation is only a recognition of what’s happening. We tend to push away shit we don’t like, and all too often that means ignoring key aspects of difficulties we face. We ignore uncomfortable challenges to the point that they destroy us and the things around us, just to avoid facing it, as per the “this is fine” dog.
A much simpler and more effective strategy is acceptance. It’s only when you recognize and accept what’s happening that you can begin to make a difference. If you don’t take control of your situation, your situation will just run it’s own course. Very rarely will that be in a way you actually like.
I hate uncomfortable shit. I hate being in situations that are confrontational, or that are bound to have bad outcomes. Yet never once have I been able to ignore a bad situation and have it resolve itself nicely. That’s not real life. That’s not how things happen.
A lot of this goes hand in hand with what I call toxic positivity, or false positivity. This is the neatly packaged positive affirmation lifestyle that you see on Instagram. This is the idea people pitch of how if you just focus on the good, then good things will happen. I’m not going to discount the power of positive thinking, but I do want to dispel the concept that bad things won’t happen if you think positively.
The truth is, bad shit still happens and you have to deal with it. The first major step in that is acceptance. Learn to accept what’s happening, and you’ll be able to make decisions in a responsible way.
I can and will continue to talk about acceptance in the future, but right now I have a little boy who wants to hang out with his dad. Check this video out for more of my opinions on acceptance.
I feel like this subject gets beaten to death. Not that that’s a bad thing. After all, repetition is a great way to learn, and anything important bears repeating. But do you really understand why gratitude is so important?
We live in a consumer-centric culture, and people place a lot of value on possessions. Many people want to place the blame for that on greedy companies selling the products, but products are only made to meet demand. The true fault for our obsession with things is in us, the consumer. At the root of it is a dissatisfaction with the things we have.
I’m not knocking nice things. I love nice things. There is nothing wrong with having nice things, and setting goals for tangible items is totally fine. What’s bad for our mindset and mental health is when our craving and desire for those items overrides everything else. You might want a Porsche, but your life isn’t over because you drive a Toyota.
We associate happiness with success, and success with wealth, and wealth with possessions. So when our mind breaks it down, happiness = possessions. I can’t really think of a more fucked thought process. Each of those things has little bearing on the next, in addition to being shitty definitions of those words in the first place. We need to overhaul those definitions, but I’ll save that for another time.
For now, let’s bring it back to possessions, and our obsession with them. This constant comparison we subconsciously play creates a grass is greener mentality. As we sit and crave what we see as better, we begin to resent what we own. Resentment is the opposite of appreciation.
So what happens when you can’t appreciate what you already have? You get bitter. You get angry. You spend your time wishing for other things instead of living in the present. When you can’t live in the present, you can’t prepare for the future. When you can’t prepare for the future, you can’t create a path to the things you want.
Oddly enough, one of the most important ways to get what you want is to stop reaching for it so damn hard. Stop desiring it so much. Start looking at the good in your life and appreciate it for what it is. Accept it, and plan for the future.
I’m not saying you can’t get what you want in other ways, because you certainly can. But none of those ways are going to bring you happiness and personal fulfillment along the path, and when you reach your goal, it’s going to feel empty. After all, a key to appreciating what you have is understanding that it could be worse. Shit, it’s probably the single biggest part of appreciation. When you don’t understand that it could be worse, you’ll always be reaching for something better.
You can know that you have a shitty, unreliable car, but at least you don’t have to walk. Understand?
Let’s just be honest, nobody likes a complainer. Stop bitching about what you have and learn to be grateful. Big things happen in your mindset when you take time to be grateful.
This post doesn’t have any pictures. It won’t have any fancy links, or interesting facts. It doesn’t have formal structure, or much structure at all, really. It’s a minor miracle it groups words into sentences and paragraphs.
There is a reason for it, though. I’m writing this post because I don’t write enough. And it just so happens that things like pictures and links and structure are what stop me most of the time. Writing blog posts reminds me that everything we do is judged and measured.
The reason I write is for impact. I want to give something valuable to people in the form of life advice. Not because I think I’m perfect, or some kind of fucking guru, but because I’ve been deep in the shit and I always manage to climb out. That has to be worth something to all the other people who are deep in shit. Be a fucking light to those in the dark, and all that nonsense.
The problem is, I get caught in HOW to write blogs instead of WHY. I start worrying about search parameters and reach. Which tags will be most valuable to google. It starts to ruin the intention.
Once I start worrying about how my little cogs fit into the internet machine, I get slowed down. I don’t write when I feel it, but when I think I can expand my reach, which is antithetical to the idea of heartfelt expression. Trying to do that shit while I give advice is like patting my head and rubbing my belly.
This is where I get a ways into a post and realize I’ve been rambling without going anywhere.
I think what it all comes down to is that I shouldn’t let details derail my ideas. Sure, I can increase reach by reading how to structure my posts so people react better, but maybe it won’t increase my reach, because it won’t sound like my voice. And if I can’t use my voice to tell my story, will it even come off as authentic enough to make a difference in someone’s life?
I spent so much of my life suicidal and obliterated drunk. There’s entire chunks of my life that are a blur. I’ve felt anxiety that prevented me from completing simple tasks. I used to picture myself as being on a small island, a floating chunk of rock and grass, elevated above and separate from everyone. Humanity sat within one ring, and my little island floated on another. Eternally apart from everyone; never understood and never belonging.
These are feelings, and states of being, and drives that I’ve learned to manage. While I still visit sometimes, I don’t live in those states of mind. When one begins to creep up on me, I can spot it and take precautions to make sure it doesn’t take control.
What the fuck does this have to do with everything else? Well, if I’ve experienced those challenges and hardships in my life, and I’ve learned to crawl out of that hole, then I should be sharing that every chance I get. There’s too many people who need to know they’re not alone.
So I’ll do my best not to let myself get caught in the minutiae of proper blogging techniques, because somebody needs to read this. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re reading this right now and you’ve been wrestling with feelings of worthlessness, or a feeling of separateness; like no one can possibly identify with you and what it’s like to be you. I understand, because I’ve been there. It’s a lonely place.
But you’re not alone, and that’s the point. My inability to put out regularly spaced blog posts stems from my own feelings of worthlessness. My desire for perfection, which leads to my inability to complete anything, because if I’m not perfect, then I’m a failure. You’re not alone. I see you.
I see you, and I love you. I think you should know that you deserve love.
If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please let me know. If you you know someone this could help, share it with them. My goal is to help you by giving you the information that helps me. If you want to continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter, or join my Facebook group, Unstoppable.
Its a shitty statement to even utter, but it’s the truth. Sometimes bad people never get what we think they deserve. It’s tough to process, especially if your personal feelings are involved. Watching someone who you know has trash character be successful is painful.
We love a hero story. Literature and film have been telling the story of good vs. evil for as long as they’ve existed. We love the underdog, we love karmic retribution. We love watching Rocky beat Ivan Drago.
But the reality of life isn’t as black and white, and we don’t always get that scripted ending. We don’t always get our way. In fact, we rarely get our way unless we’re willing to put in intense amounts of work. Before we can do that, we need to better understand this uncomfortable truth.
Who’s the bad guy?
In real life, it’s a lot harder to discern good from bad, right from wrong. Aside from ax murderers and serial rapists, a lot of bad behaviors operate in a real hazy space. Most people will deliberately mask their shitty actions behind some form of kindness. They do this because they know it’s wrong, and people will judge them for it.
But how can you be a good judge of character if the negativity isn’t up front? Unfortunately, that’s an ongoing dilemma. The truth is, you’ll get duped, you’ll befriend people who are selfish, ego driven, and sometimes full blown sociopaths.
Following is a list of traits and behaviors to be on the lookout for.
Angered frequently, easily, or excessively
Intentionally blames others for their own behavior
Self absorbed and inclined to brag
Uses kindness or generosity as leverage in relationships
Critical of others and unforgiving
Okay, so I may have just thrown in that last one, but it’s definitely a red flag. Another red flag I didn’t put on the list but could be, is if they have an extensive list of former friends who “wronged them.” We all have a few of those, but when there’s a small army, it often points to a more serious issue.
You also need to look at these things and ask yourself “am I the bad guy?” Sometimes you may be more of a Leonard Shelby than a Clark Kent.
I fucked you up with that one, huh?
Cold, hard truth
So there’s an ugly truth we have to face. The idea that these fakes and liars never get the justice we know they rightfully deserve. The truth is that some terrible people live to ripe old ages, and die with a smile, never paying for their transgressions.
How do we cope with that? How do we come to grips with the idea that life isn’t always fair? To start, you need to accept that life has no bias toward anyone, good or bad. Luck isn’t a thing. We create a good portion of the positive and negative aspects of our lives, and the rest is just statistical chance.
If you think good always wins, then why did Kim Jong Il die while in power? It’s simple: good doesn’t always win. Sometimes the bad guy wins.
I’m not saying this to appear negative, or to dash the hopes and dreams of those who type “amen” in the comment section. It’s just the truth.
So maybe your personal nemesis will always do well. Maybe the person you know who is a selfish fraud will continue to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone around them. You’re just going to have to deal with that, and the best way is to not deal with it.
That’s right, just don’t deal with it. Don’t deal with that person. Don’t associate with them, don’t do anything to support them, don’t let them invade your thoughts and take your power.
The ideal goal is to raise your self awareness and acceptance to a point that you don’t let shit phase you. You can be aware of your anger, jealousy, and that biting desire for vengeance, yet not be consumed by it. In fact, the quicker you can recognize it and say “I see you,” the quicker you can drop it and move on. Simple acknowledgement is enough to weaken the grip just enough to start wriggling free.
We can’t let our skewed view of fairness and justice piss in our Cheerios. We have to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people, and then we have to let it go. Look at the rage simmering in your stomach, and say “I see you.”
If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please let me know. If you you know someone this could help, share it with them. My goal is to help you by giving you the information that helps me. If you want to continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter, or join my Facebook group, Unstoppable.
When I was in my early 30’s, I asked my dad when I would get a break. There had been so much difficulty and so many challenges, that I thought I deserved a break. I wanted a run of good things to happen. Hardship was beating me down.
He told me there is no break.
Not the answer I wanted. No break? No respite? No shelter from the ongoing assault? What the fuck kind of shit answer is that? “Sorry, son. You’re doomed.”
Apparently there was good news in this. Apparently, while bad situations will constantly appear in your life, so do good ones. And if you look hard enough, you can find a silver lining in the bad stuff.
That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re drowning in debt, or having all of your employees quit, or you’re under imminent threat to your physical safety. When you’re facing these types of situations, it basically feels like you’re cursed. The world is collapsing on you. There is nothing good coming, and no one will save you.
I’ll spare you the shit where I get all posi and say “just switch your mindset!” I know as well as anyone that simply changing your mindset is much easier said than done. Yes, it is the end goal, but it’s not as simple as flicking a light switch. There’s a lot of ongoing work involved.
This is the part where I’m supposed to geek out talking about neuroplasticity, but I’ll spare you that too. Instead, I’ll just say old habits are hard to break. It takes conscious effort, willpower, and repetition to put healthy habits in place. It’s never easy when you start.
That’s the whole trick, though. You have to start. You have to sift through the uncomfortable and downright scary situations and find the good parts, then focus your attention there. Sometimes the good is tough to find, especially early on.
When we think about positive and negative situations, we tend to polarize them. It’s either wonderful or awful. That’s not how it works. It’s more of a sliding scale, with both positive and negative happening simultaneously.
If you’ll notice, “DEAD” is at the far end of negative for me, just past syphilis. That’s because if you didn’t die, then your day wasn’t the worst. Sure, your day might have sucked, but you didn’t die. That sounds like victory to me.
That’s not to undermine or minimize pain and suffering. It’s important that we allow ourselves to experience those feelings, but we also need to maintain perspective. There is always a situation worse than what we’re in.
The truth is, most of our days fall between “found $5” and “cheese slid off pizza.” I know the disappointment of opening a piping hot box of freshly delivered pizza only to discover the cheese piled high to one side. If that’s the worst thing to happen that day, you’re doing fine.
If a day is not the worst possible (dying) then that means there’s a glimmer of good. You need to find that good, and celebrate it. Revel in it. Recognize that something shitty happened, but also that it could have been worse. Bask in the fact that you didn’t die.
This is the essence of positive mindset. Recognize the worst, aim for the best, and understand you’ll probably fall in the middle. There’s always some good with the bad, and it could always be worse. Practice this. Start today. It can be the beginning of amazing things.
If you found any of this useful, or you know someone who would, please share it. My goal is to help people with this information, so I appreciate feedback. If you want to continue talking about mindset and life tips, you can join the conversation on Twitter or my Facebook group, Unstoppable.
My brain is a scrapyard. Most of the stuff laying around in there is just waiting for the landfill or furnace. Instead of crushed cars stacked five stories, it’s jettisoned art projects, blurry nights from my 20’s, and all the forgotten cheat codes from GTA3.
You don’t always find a lot of useful things in junkyards, but if you wander around long enough, you’ll see some cool stuff. Either that, or you’ll get lost, beating the same paths over and over until you forget why you were there in the first place. I like to call that “artists block.”
I don’t have artist’s block right now, and that’s probably why I’m able to write about it. I think. I’m not really sure. Fuck, maybe I do have artist’s block. There’s more ideas than action, that’s for sure. That’s most likely because the ideas come faster than I can take action, or possibly because the ideas are just vague enough to stop me from starting.
How are yo supposed to handle that? I’m not 100% sure. There’s a lot of methods, and over the years I’ve found some that work for me, but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone. I’ll still share a few things that help me when I’m struggling with artist’s block.
1. Switch Mediums
If I’ve been doing marker drawings for awhile and I start to get stuck, I switch mediums. Maybe I’ll knock out some acrylic paints, or switch to watercolor. I’ll often go in a completely different direction and work on sculpture or assemblage pieces.
One of the reasons we get artist’s block is because we dig ourselves into repetition and routine. It’s easy to fall into a rut and then lose inspiration. Forcing ourselves to work in other mediums makes us think in different ways, and the different techniques can usually transfer from one medium to the next.
A lot of people may not realize it, but working on mixed media abstracts has been one of the biggest influences on my tattooing; especially cover ups. The fact that I don’t have any preconceived notion or concept as to my finished product is the biggest driver.
Now how the hell does that make any sense? How can slapping paint and glue and glitter and trash together have any influence over tattooing? Tattooing is meticulous in its details, and skin is an unforgiving work surface. There’s little room for error. The other is just haphazard and chaotic.
So yes, the techniques are different, and the final products are worlds apart. Yet there is kindred mindsets and approaches involved. The loose, fluid nature of my abstract process is a stark contrast to tattooing, but with cover ups, that loose approach is important. I need to remain open to making changes to structure, shading, color selections, and light sources; sometimes when I’m more than halfway done. Without my experience with mixed media abstracts, my vision would be narrow and confined to the conventional, rigid process of tattooing.
This is what switching mediums can do for your creativity, and for the times you suffer artist’s block. Force yourself to be uncomfortable and think outside the box. It can broaden your horizons and give new perspective.
2. Steal People’s Shit
Hold on, I probably need to clarify that very loaded and controversial heading. I’m not saying steal in the sense of plagiarizing and claiming other people’s work as your own, or selling and making money from it. No, I’m talking about reproduction as practice.
Early in my career, I was bad. I mean, I was really really bad. I fucking sucked. I could draw to a degree, and I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years with my head buried in a sketchbook, but I had no idea how to design tattoos. Those first several years were basically learning how to draw and doing shitty tattoos.
After hobbling along and botching plenty of tattoos, I started mimicking other artist’s drawing styles. I wasn’t copying designs, but rather attempting to utilize their abilities to further my own. When somebody else has figured some shit out, following their blueprint will help you figure it out too.
Being a copycat; at least behind closed doors; helps you understand why certain artists do things the way they do understanding can blow the doors off of your creativity. So if you’re fighting against artist’s block, go ahead and copy people. Just don’t try to make money off of it, and give credit where it’s due.
3. Get Random
Since 2005, I’ve been doing a drawing exercise called three in a hat. You write down a number of loose ideas; dog, dagger, rose, etc.; and randomly pick three of them. Then, you put all three into a single drawing. The results are often things that shouldn’t go together, and working out a design using them is challenging. This forces creativity in ways that are out of your ordinary process. It’s a wonderful exercise for tattoo artists, who always need to mash up eclectic concepts in one drawing.
The whole process can be fun if you really run with it and let yourself get silly. The only problem I regularly ran into was losing all of the little slips of paper and having to rewrite everything. That’s an avoidable problem with the Brainstormer app, which functions in the same way. It has customizable and unique random generators. I recommend it, but I’m also wary, since it hasn’t had an update in 4 years and doesn’t appear to be very active or monitored. For now, it works.
4. Smashing Your Face Into a Wall
It might not fix artist’s block, but you’ll forget all about the frustration, and instead focus on the gushing blood.
Feeling like your creativity has reached its limits is normal. We all plateau from time to time, and waiting it out sucks. If you can kickstart the process back to creating, that’s fantastic.
If you felt this blog was helpful, please pass it along to someone who could use it. I always welcome feedback and discussions, so feel free to comment. You can also continue the discussion on Twitter, or my Facebook group, Unstoppable.