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getting unstuck

How To Stop Feeling Stuck

bearhugBear Hug Print from Old English Company

Do you sometimes feel like you’re trying hard but getting nowhere?

You do?

I so want to hug you right now.

I’m not going to, though, because I respect your personal space. Hugging might not be not your thing.

Perhaps a toddler once hugged you while covered in jam, resulting in you being chased down the street by a swarm of hungry bees.

Or as a child, perhaps you were routinely forced to hug your Aunt Annie who smelled distressingly of chewing tobacco and WD-40.

I don’t know what traumatic experiences you’ve had to overcome.

But just know this: if you want a hug I’m right here.

Or we can make it a really sincere handshake if you prefer.

Tell you what, I’ll give you a little signal like this * when I’m feeling an overwhelming urge to hug you. If you want to take me up on it, great. If not I’ll know you’re still not over the bee thing.

So let’s talk about this.

Sometimes it feels like you put a whole lotta work into your creative business but nothing comes back. Or if it does, it’s so little that it’s hardly worth noticing.*

Maybe you made a couple more sales this month compared to the month before. Or you got a small wholesale order from a new stockist. So what, right? You can’t exactly retire to the Seychelles.

And why are you putting all this thought and effort into your business anyway? Yeah, you love it, but is it loving you back? What do you have to do to make something good happen!

And is it always going to be this hard?*

When you’re done being furious and are in the calm waters of acceptance / on your second margarita, try this:

1. Get a really good handle on where you are right now

How much did you make last month? How much did you spend? How many sales? How many sign-ups to your mailing list? How much traffic?

This can be scary stuff* to dig out but don’t get into that right now. For the next half hour you’re a steely-eyed statistics-gathering machine.

2. Work out what your business looks like when it’s done

Got the stats? Good. Now let’s think about what the heck you’re trying to achieve here.

What does your business look like when it’s done?

Many entrepreneurs stumble along with vague, fuzzy ideas of what they want to achieve. Being able to go on holiday. Not having to worry about money. Doing what you love all day.

But what does that stuff actually mean?

Where do you want to go on holiday? How much money do you want to make?

When your business is complete and fully-realised, what kind of bedroom will you wake up in every day? How will you get to work? What sounds can you hear through the door of your office?

Get a bit of paper and tell me the story of your completed business. Give me the guided tour.

What we’re doing here is drawing a map.

No sane person setting out a hike waves their arm vaguely at a mountain range and says “Thirty miles in that direction. Yeah. That’ll probably get me somewhere near the top.”

That’s a great way to fall down a crevasse, get eaten by a mountain lion or blunder about in the woods for twenty years.

But when you’re clear on exactly where you’re going, right down to which kind of Jo Malone candle you’ll have on your desk, working out how to reach your goal becomes a whole lot easier.

And those figures you gathered? Well, now you can use them to see how far along the path you are. Maybe you only made six sales this month, but if you know that’s 25% better than last month you can see the difference.

Progress is being made.

And you know what?

Every day you feel like this but don’t give up and throw it all in the bin – that’s progress too.

Drawing yourself a map will help you see that.

You’re doing great.

And by the way, *****.

clarewashi copy

Clare Yuille – Indie Retail Academy

Clare Yuille is a shopkeeper, writer and retail coach for creative people.

If you want to sell your work to shops, download her free Indie Retail Starter Kit.


Step Two to Unsticking Your Creativity

“There aren’t creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use it and people who don’t.”

—Brené Brown



What comes to mind when you see that word?

For many, it conjures an image of Picasso or Renoir. The eccentric girl sitting at the coffee shop huddled over her drawing pad furiously sketching all day.

For people who don’t, drawing = artist.

Drawing isn’t a magical skill that is bestowed on only a select few. Drawing is human. It’s an act that is part of our identity as homo sapiens.

Do you ever write? Letters are just symbols that represent sound. Writing is drawing symbols (see where I’m going with this?). Any kind of mark-making is a form of drawing. Drawing itself isn’t “art.”

Drawing is simply expression.

We all do it.

Recently I went to a lunch lecture (with Kerry!) and I learned some interesting things about drawing:

  • done regularly it benefits every other task you do.

  • it improves your memory.

  • drawing rewires your brain.

What is drawing?

It’s mark making.

Nothing more, nothing less.

How do I do it?

You start.

Chatting on the phone with a friend? Pick up a writing instrument and doodle.

Sitting in a meeting? Doodle in the margins of your notes. It will help you remember what was discussed.

And as an added bonus, the more you do it, the better you will be at it.

Just make marks. It doesn’t have to be anything.

Why should I do it?

The act of drawing is a form of meditation. Doing it opens your brain up to new thoughts and ideas.

The more you draw, the more you can draw.

Did you read that part about rewiring your brain? Creating widens your brains super-highway and improves your problem-solving skills.

You just need to follow a couple simple rules

  • don’t judge. These marks are not representative of you or your worth.

  • remember that it’s not art. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad. It’s expression.

To help you get started, I’ve created a doodle sheet for you to download, print, and get to doodling. These doodles are an exercise to get your brain flowing. Keep it handy and start making marks. It’s ready to be colored too!

This is just for you, but if you’d like to share, be sure to post them with the hashtag #gettingunstuck. You can find me on Instagram here

Happy doodling!


Deanna Mullican – Spark Retreat

Deanna Mullican is an artist and designer and is co-founder of Spark Retreat (and if you register before Nov. 15 you’ll reserve your free spot in our May 2014 online group coaching program!), which is for creative women who are looking to reignite their soul’s fire. This year at Spark, she’ll be leading a workshop called “Free Your Creativity Through Visual Journaling,” which will expand on some of the techniques in this series — helping you find your personal brand of creativity by Living More Orange. You can find Deanna at

Getting Back in The Swing of Things Through Painting + Play


We had family stay with us from out of the country all last week. We had a ball being tourists in Arizona and really enjoyed the lovely weather. The end of their visit was bittersweet though. We had been planning their visit since last May so it was hard to believe it had ended. But it was also nice to get back into a routine. That can be hard. I really felt out of sorts after a week of excursions, eating out and late nights. In an effort to switch gears, my little boys and I pulled out fall colored paints, went outside and started painting pumpkins. That lead to painting on printer paper and mixing colors together on our cardboard palettes. I just loved how much fun were having! We started out with a purpose and then just started having fun. I even ended up with inspiration for November’s desktop calendar. It was so nice to have a playful and creative way to transition from time spent with company to getting back to business as usual. It also allowed us time to pause and reflect on the fun week we had with our family. After a fun afternoon spent together we were left with inspiration, art to hang and pretty pumpkins to put on our front porch.

This activity reminded me of Deanna’s post last week about unsticking your creativity. Did you start using Deanna’s little “getting unstuck” worksheets from last week? I just shared my first one on Instagram and Twitter yesterday using the hashtag #gettingunstuck.

Do you have a creative outlet or activity to get you back in the swing of things? Please share in the comments. I would love more ideas! Also, I just linked my personal Instagram account to Handmade Success so click here and follow along. Most of my photos are about enjoying a moment or capturing something that helps me get creative or unstuck. If you are on Instagram share your username in the comments so I can follow you!

Cheers to you and finding those fun moments that create transition and creativity!!!

Step One to Unsticking Your Creativity


We all get stuck, right? One day you realize you’re just not in the Flow anymore.

Don’t worry, it’s just temporary. It’s pretty easy to get back on track.

Because getting unstuck comes from doing, this is the first of four exercises I am sharing with you to help you find your mojo again.

Busy lives can distract us and it’s easy to push creating-for-ourselves to the bottom of the list. But creating for the sake of it is so vital to us as human beings, it’s important to make time for it. Even if it’s only a few precious minutes.

So as a jumping off point to begin to get you unstuck—or, if you’re not stuck, to get you seeing your day in a new way—I created a worksheet of sorts for you to download, print out and cut up.

This is a form of journaling that uses simple observations as you go about your day-to-day.

You can use them throughout the day or save up your thoughts for the end of the day and use them as a form of reflection. They’re small enough to fit in your pocket and are easy to get to when you have a thought so you can jot it down. You can keep all of these in an envelope, or fold them up and put them in a jar. Or, if you’d like, pick up a little notebook to keep all your daily musings in one place. Or every-other-day musings. Whatever works.

This exercise will help you notice all that is going on around you. It can help you learn to recognize when you’re bored or uninspired. You can use them to set a small goal for tomorrow.

It is not meant to create guilt or to become a “have-to” (because, let’s face it, we all have plenty of those!). Seeing your day in a different way will help tear down the block that has finagled it’s way into your life.

Download and print as many as you want. Put them in your purse and your pocket. Put them on your nightstand. Teach yourself to see your day with new eyes. Set one simple goal for the next. Before you know it, you’ll be in the Flow again.

If you’re feeling especially daring, take a photo of something you notice with new eyes. Instagram is a great app for visual journaling. I enjoy snapping a quick photo of things that make me happy, inspire me, or just make me feel good (I take a lot of photos of my puppies and food) If you want to journal in this way, post to Instagram (follow me here!) or Twitter. Use the hashtag #gettingunstuck.

I’d love to hear (and see) the things you notice and the small goals you achieve!

And as a little hint for what’s coming I want to share that the fourth exercise will be a block-carving tutorial. I’m telling you this now in case you want to give it a try and have a chance to get a couple supplies beforehand. You can get a simple starter kit here or at your local art supply store. It comes with black ink but if you’re going to print on paper, you can also use acrylic paint.


Deanna Mullican – Spark Retreat

Deanna Mullican is an artist and designer and is co-founder of Spark Retreat (registration is open now!), which is for creative women who are looking to reignite their soul’s fire. This year at Spark, she’ll be leading a workshop called “Free Your Creativity Through Visual Journaling,” which will expand on some of the techniques in this series — helping you find your personal brand of creativity by Living More Orange. You can find Deanna at

Getting Inspired, Staying Inspired: A Guide to Year-long Creative Projects

One year ago I was feeling very stuck. I had been wanting to turn my photography hobby into a revenue-generating business, but I lacked the motivation and inspiration to get things off the ground. To get out of my rut, I decided to give myself some space from the business side and just focus for a while on what I really loved – taking photos. I embarked on a photo a day project (my second in three years), taking my camera everywhere I went. I planned to shoot at least one photo every day, post them on Flickr, and then do a weekly round up on my blog. My hope was that it would get my creative juices flowing again and get me moving in the direction I wanted to go.

photo1Making a year-long promise to your art can be very daunting. Much like New Year’s resolutions, it is way too easy to be enthusiastic at the outset, but then allow daily life and old habits to grind away at your resolve until you realize that a few days or weeks have gone by and you’ve let your commitment slip. If you are setting out on your own year-long project, here are some tips to help keep you inspired.

  • Make Your Own Rules

Your creative project doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. The scope should be realistic but also challenging. If you have a very busy schedule with work and family, you don’t want to put yourself under more stress by adding in something that might take you a few hours every day. The point is to inspire you and for you to feel like you are succeeding, not to overwhelm you and make you feel like a failure. If an “a day” project is too much, scale it back to an “a week” kind of project (e.g. 52 paintings in 52 weeks). If you work better with shorter time commitments, set your sights on something more palatable like a 30 day gratitude project, with a photo, short blog post or status update every day for a month.

And you don’t have to wait until January 1 to begin a year long journey. If you are inspired today, start today! I kicked off my current 365 on November 1st (just a couple of days after I had decided I was needing to do it). Sometime in early January, I was out for an evening walk and totally blown away by the starkness of the winter trees against the darkening sky. Right then and there I determined that for the next 30 days, my goal would be to photograph trees in a new way each time. I didn’t hold off until the next calendar month rolled along, I followed my inspiration where it led.  And it ended up being one of my favorite parts of this last year.


  • Allow Yourself to Revise the Rules

A lot can change over the course of a year and what works for you as you embark on your project may not be what you need or want six months later. When I set out in November, I was creatively stuck. Challenging myself to shoot every day was what I needed. But by the time late Spring rolled around, I was shooting lots of sessions to fill out my portfolio, working through branding exercises, and keeping busy with my clients at the firm. I started to feel resentful when it would be dinner time and I realized I hadn’t yet shot my photo for the day. One afternoon in June, we were introducing our chicks to the outside world (and letting the dogs see them for the first time) and we were giddy with all the cuteness happening. I started to take a few pictures with my phone but then realized I should grab my camera. Once I had returned to the coop, the moment had passed and I just couldn’t get the same angles that I wanted. When I went through all of my images later, my favorite was an iPhone shot of Lulu meeting Selena, so I decided to use that as #227. It hit me that I didn’t need to use my camera every day anymore. I could challenge myself in a new way by using my phone and some of my new favorite editing apps. I decided right then and there that I was going to switch the project to a mobile version, at least temporarily. It’s been great! I have rediscovered my enthusiasm for my project and am spending less time planning and worrying and more time just getting a snapshot from each day.


  • Connect with your Community

Many people find that they need a community to support them through their project, an audience that expects and anticipates the daily or weekly posts. Sharing your progress on your blog or social media is a great way to stay inspired as you hit lulls. There are countless Flickr groups, Instagram hashtags, and websites dedicated to helping you share your journey. But you don’t need to share your project with the entire internet. Find other people who are also engaged in year-long endeavors or recruit friends and family members to be a part of what you are working on. No matter how enthusiastic you are at the outset, you’ll probably hit a day where you seem to lack the time or motivation to do your thing. Use your community for ideas and prompts to keep you moving forward. Don’t be afraid to shoot or draw or write about the same thing several days in a row. Sometimes getting a new perspective on an old topic can be very inspirational. Whether you keep it global or small, having feedback and support can remind you why you are doing the project on the days where it might be burdensome.

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Admit When it isn’t Working

If you start to fall behind or really aren’t getting out of it what you had hoped or needed, if you’ve done what you can to stay inspired, but all you feel is annoyance, it might be time to step back and reevaluate whether this is the right  time for your project. It’s one thing to push a little to fulfill a commitment that you made to yourself. It’s another thing altogether to have to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do every day for an entire year. Life is too short and your energy is too precious to hold onto something just because you said you would. If it’s not working, give yourself permission to walk away. If there’s no enthusiasm, listen to your instincts. Maybe you just need to take a week or a month off and come back when the time is right. Or maybe you need to let go completely with the lessons you’ve learned. Do what is right for you.

photo4There are any number of year-long projects that people take on to get their creative juices flowing. Some of my favorite current (and past) projects include a pattern a day, my friend Kirsten’s bird a day, Bev LeFevre’s Sky Project, Lisa Congdon’s 365 Days of Hand Lettering, 100 Strangers, and Make Something 365.

At the time I am sitting down to write this post, I’m on day 247 (you can see the whole project here or just follow along with me for the next 100 or so days on Instagram). Oh, and I’ve started my business and launched a new website. So I’d say the whole thing has been successful. I’m unstuck, I’ve moved forward, and I’m pretty inspired, every single day.

What about you? What project could you do (or have you done) to get and stay inspired?


Bettie Newell — Bettie Newell Photography

Bettie is a business lawyer and lifestyle photographer living in Portland, Oregon. An avid thrift shopper since she was 15 years old, Bettie loves all things vintage, red and polka dotted. She has two beautiful, sassy daughters, two tiny, ridiculous dogs, a small flock of urban chickens and one incredibly patient and supportive husband. With one half of her professional life, Bettie counsels businesses ranging from solo creative ventures to large corporations on all issues from start-up to dissolution. She spends the balance of her work time shooting portrait sessions (and the occasional wedding) with an emphasis on real moments and unique stories. You can visit her at