I’ve been talking about ruts lately. On facebook, in my journal, with friends. It might surprise you to know that I go through ruts. I think that a rut is the mind’s way of saying, “I need a break from all this thinking, just for now.” Sometimes, a rut lasts a night, or a day, and sometimes you feel like you can’t get out of it. Sometimes you power through it because you have an order and you have to get it done. Some people have few of them, some have more.


Here’s the thing, ruts are okay. And sometimes you have to get help to get out of them. You need a little push. I’ll share with you my favorite “pushes.”

  1. I reread Kerri Smith’s book “How to be an Explorer of the World .” Yes, it’s a kid’s  book. It’s one of her first but in my opinion it also one of her best. If I could gift everyone I know with a copy of this book, I would. Get it. read it. Allow it to change how you view the world.
  2. I get out one of my small 3.5×5.5 inch notebooks. Either one I made myself, or a Field Notes, Moleskine Cahier, or BanditApple Carnet PeeWee. then I start to fill it. I observe and write. I observe and sketch. It doesn’t matter if the drawings are “good” this notebook is for me, and I fill it full of crappy quickly sketched stuff that I don’t show people. Seriously, the stuff I show you on here, that’s the good stuff. Perhaps the next zine I do should be a full copy of my recent mini journal. If you aren’t inspired to draw anything try the following: bottle caps, beer caps, watch, clock, flashlight, brush, pen, phone, knives, scissors, dollah dollah bills, headphones, books, lighter, ink bottles, camera, stapler, binder clips, chapstick, paint tube, light fixtures, chair, computer, laptop, tablet, etc.. That’s just a quick list of the crap around me right now. Once when I was in a rut I drew used tea bags and stacks of bottle caps. I filled a crappy $5 B&N sketchbook with them. Filled it.
  3. I write. If I’m not feeling the art vibe I write. sometimes it’s observations about whatever is around me, sometimes its stories from my past, sometimes it’s stories about now. Occasionally I’ll make up stuff about people I see on the train. I imagine their lives and make up a story about them. More often than not this gets the spark going and I want to draw.
  4. I sit down with a couple of my old sketchbooks and art journals and a cup of coffee and look through them all. Feel the pages and think about what was happening when I made them. Generally, this will break me free.


Those are my go to rut pushes.


Generally, I think that ruts are usually formed through events and changes in our life. 9 times out of 10 when someone tells me they are in an artistic rut they have just moved, broken up, lost a parent, or had something else happen. (This is the budding art therapist in me breaking through.) So, I think it’s a good idea that if your rut lasts longer than a month or so that you consider what it is in your life that came before the rut and if perhaps you should talk to someone about it. Joining  a local art class can be enough to help.  I think the important thing here is to know that you aren’t alone in rut-dom. It happens to a lot of people and there are lots of ways out. You can try some of my techniques, seek out someone professional in your area, but know that eventually you’ll reach for that journal again.

With the recent mass marketing hype focused on art journaling I think more and more of us are feeling less and less connected to our journals. What was once a safe place to escape now has the weight of expectations and comparisons with other artists. Where once we shared our pages in online groups with only other art journalers we now have an influx of people who are just starting out and are tryign every brand new product on the market. This has taken a toll on the small,close knit community. there’s a lot of pressure to take a “famous name” mass class at great expense. People are doing art journaling haul videos. While I think all the new products are helpful and fun, it’s hard to remember that to art journal all you really need is a pen and a journal.