So you want to be a painter? Schedule it!

WantToBeAPainter

Have you struggled to get your paints out? And I don’t mean physically.

Maybe you’ve experienced ‘Resistance’.

I’m a big fan of a little book. It’s called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and I really recommend you have a read. (Buy from US Amazon, or buy from UK Amazon)

In it, Pressfield eloquently describes what he calls ‘Resistance’.

Resistance is a negative force within us that stops us from actually doing what we really want to do.

As he explains, you’ll know what resistance is if you’ve ever…

bought a treadmill home and let it gather dust in the attic…quit a diet, a course of yoga, a mediation practice..

Resistance is likely to show up when you attempt, or even think about attempting anything that

rejects immediate gratification in favour of long term growth, health or integrity

If you’re someone with a calling to paint, it can become PRIME Resistance territory. Resistance manifests in LOADS of different ways. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking any of following, be assured you are NOT alone!

“I’ll get my paints out when…

  • I’m less ‘busy’” (this was me for years!!)
  • I’ve cleaned the house
  • I’ve finished this other more important project
  • my family doesn’t need me as much
  • things at work quieten down
  • my health improves
  • my partner’s health improves
  • I get my own studio space
  • I move house

This can often feel really REAL. The reasons ARE plausible and believable.

BUT, the funny thing is, whenever one disappears, another one pops up and you’re left still NOT painting.

Oh, and you’ll also feel a strange kind of guilt about it too. Because there’s a bit of you that actually knows these ‘reasons’ are really just excuses made by Resistance.

Fortunately, Pressfield’s book is a rallying cry to overcome resistance, and he gives great advice on how to do that.

In the end it’s about honouring the part of you that desires to paint and taking clear action to schedule time in your diary to do it regularly – like you would schedule in anything else that is important to you. Pressfield calls it Turning Pro. Applying the same principles to the passion in your life as you would your paid work.

Pressfield quotes 30’s author and playwright Somerset Maugham who was once asked if he wrote on a schedule or only when inspired.

He answered:

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9 o’clock sharp.”

If you’ve been in the grip of Resistance it won’t feel ‘good’ sitting down to paint. Resistance will make all kind of attempts to undermine you. Including making you intimidated by your paints and paper. But if you ignore it and focus just on the next step ahead of you, you WILL feel SO good once you’ve done it.

If you want to see more, check out this brief interview with Pressfield on overcoming Resistance:

Have you been in the grips of Resistance? And have you managed to overcome it?

Either way, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

Resistance free painting this weekend!

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50 Comments

  1. Tricia on February 21, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    This is me to a T! If you came over to my home you would think a full fledged artist
    lived there! I’ve got easels with blank canvas on them. I’ve got all the paints and brushes I need for every almost every medium. Watercolor, acrylic and oil!

    Resistance is everywhere and so is opportunity. I have a tracing light on my big desk where I am writing to you. Paints and brushes are out and the only thing all my “things” need is ME! I have painted one postcard and after this small shot of encouragement I am going to complete another postcard today!

    • Glenmar on September 1, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      This is ME too. Okay I know I MUST set aside time each day and fight the weird strong resistance that pulls me away from my art. Thank you for showing me my issue (that of course I already knew!)

      • Janet on February 6, 2018 at 10:31 am

        Oh gosh Tricia and Glenmar, that is me as well! Like Tricia I have, as the saying goes, All the gear – No idea!
        I just need a rocket up my backside!

        • Ja ice on June 29, 2020 at 3:51 pm

          Janet you did make me chuckle. It’s me down to a tee. With lockdown I have found there is no excuses for not painting and I have a Finally produced some good art, because there was no way I had any excuses left to resist painting. I’d cleaned, tidied, read, loafed about etc until there was nothing left do do but paint !! Keep resisting and happ painting. Janice

    • T Wilber on January 3, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      Yes, Yes. Such a familiar story.I think I like the thrill of collecting and gathering all the pieces.. I even have to have them all organized, for when I get ‘ready’
      Hopefully, 2019 will be my time to Do IT! 🙂
      Thank you Anna for sharing such great advice.

    • Kerry Wright on August 7, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      This is me too! I continue to buy supplies with good intentions. I didn’t realize how many others do this!

  2. Vicki Watson on February 27, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    This was a timely reminder. I am in the middle of renovations and shifting at the end of the year, so have promised myself that is when I will start painting ‘properly’, I like the Tricia have ever piece of art equipment needed and unfortunately it includes Resistance.

  3. Barbara Kulas on May 26, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Wow! I too have been running from my art. I graduated with honors 40 yrs.ago with a BS. Art Education.. Retired now I am taking up watercolors for the 1st time. I’m still running! To do lists include painting but house chores or exercise take precedence . It does help though to be accountable somehow. Anna you have inspired me once again to give it a go. Who knew that one could find such a wonderful teacher who understands the mind and soul of artists so well as Anna Mason.

  4. Jodi Higgins on June 2, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    I read this book – it was awesome and really helpful. Love Steven Pressfield. I also read another book called Art & Fear. What these books have helped me realize is that I’m not alone. That most all artist even the most accomplished have thoughts that they are not a “real” artist, or not good enough in some way. And it gives you the courage to “go Pro” or even think of yourself & call yourself an Artist. That we all resist and just need to push through it because we love it.

  5. Susan Trainor on June 3, 2016 at 12:34 am

    I am so impressed by you Anna and your site. I am so glad i have joined your classes. This is exactly how I feel and it was encouraging to hear the comments of other members who feel the same. The happiness in myself when I do paint is forgotten by resistance when think of painting again! I’m definitely going to invest in the book. Thank you so much for covering this pattern in us (apparently) all.

  6. Deb Carrel on September 18, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I can relate to all of this – when did art become so daunting? I loved it as a girl, it was easy! I’m almost 60, retired, have a painting room and all the gear, so everything I imagined I’d have after 37 years of full time employment in an office, but the moment that sense of ‘failure’ creeps into my head I make every excuse as to why I can’t sit down and paint! At least there is some comfort in knowing I’m not alone! Thank you Anna, now I’m going to commit to your classes for the next six months in the hope of breaking this cycle of resistance…

    • Josephine Colon on April 5, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      I also have the same fear of failure. Now retired, at age 63 and having accomplished so much, there’s really no excuse for me to feel this way. I have to get those negatives from the past out of my head. It’s ok to be an artist!

  7. Carol on January 6, 2017 at 5:18 am

    Hi Anna thankyou so much for sharing your personal story what a courageous story to share to help other people. I love following your work as all art inspires me immensely. I love watercolour – I also paint with my preference leaning towards Realism – Impressionism although if I attempt with applying to much detail the process starts to tighten up with my application of Impressionism Thankyou for passing on the reference videos regarding Resistance – they are very helpful. For me occasionally painting can be a form of escapism where I can go into another world. When we are faced with a life challenge our creative juices can dry up but if we can try to change our thoughts – we can change our reality – by using our creativity as a form of therapy. What I have had to work on also is Perfectionism which can lead to a Block there is so much to learn about ourselves through our own creative journey.

  8. Charlotte on January 6, 2017 at 5:37 am

    This is so timely for me! Thank you Anna! On my 2017 list of goals is “paint three hours each week”. I have my desk set up. I have my paints and easel out. Now all I have to do is commit like a pro. Thank you for the push and support–signing up tomorrow for your classes!

  9. Virginia on January 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Wow! I thought for sure it was just me. Like I can never get caught up on “responsibilities” so I can’t “indulge” myself by using the time to do something I really want to do (learn to paint better). Very encouraging. Thanks Anna.

  10. Barb on March 17, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Oh my gosh Anna, this is no mistake that I received this email today on the topic of resistance. I thought I was the queen of resistance until I read this! Now granted, I’ve had alot “legitimate excuses” this year that have kept me from painting, like going on holiday for a month, putting our house on the market, selling our house, house sitting for 2 months, moving, staying with a friend for 2 1/2 months during which time my husband had a hip replacement, his brother died, my step mom died, and finally we moved into our new home! Now I’m planning to retire at the end of September and in the meantime start investing in real estate!

    Your message this morning just came at the right time. . Just as I’m making more excuses not to paint. So I challenge myself to schedule it, starting now!

    Thank you Anna and I love your work and watching all your videos.

    Cheers,
    Barb from Victoria, BC, Canada

    • Anna Mason on March 17, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      So pleased it was helpful Barb, that sounds like one busy year. I hope you make some painting progress now!

  11. vicki on May 9, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Discovering your classes has been a godsend for me – watercolour is my therapy & helping me through a challenging time in my life. I have learnt so much from you and I am so grateful. Last year I picked up my paints after many years of them being hidden away and my first attempt failed miserably, so I didn’t pick them up again until I discovered your classes – they have given me so much confidence that I am no longer resistant! I am even putting my painting before my housework/ironing/weeding etc! It has become my weekend priority. Thank you

    • Anna Mason on May 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      So pleased to hear this Vicki, thanks for sharing!

  12. Kara on May 20, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Being in middle school and Taekwondo, I have very few times I can paint and it often ends up on weekends when my family and I are not busy. But I am so excited because summer is almost here and I can paint freely. Adding on, I am finally going to take Anna’s class during the summer! There’s also motivation. So far, my paintings have been presents for loved ones. I would love to start making them for practice, decoration, and sales. Although I have those very reasons, I have a lot of self doubt. When working on a painting I end up getting very frustrated. The more I stare at it and work at it, the more thoughts pop into my head that make my view of the painting disoriented. I’ve now tried to spread my painting between days. It’s always good to wake up in the morning with new eyes. When it’s the first thing I see in the morning, I realize that I don’t have to stress and that I do have talent. I’m painting so that I can get better. We all want to improve and the only way is to practice. I try to remind myself that even the glorious Anna started like me . Thank you for the tips! Your such an inspiration!

    • Anna Mason on May 22, 2017 at 7:54 am

      Good luck Kara, sounds like you have a good attitude to it!

  13. Suzanne on June 3, 2017 at 11:56 am

    If you need to make time, just buy Annas wonderful flower book.
    I reach for it at least once a day.
    So inspiring.
    I have M.E a very disabling condition, I’m often in bed but Annas works so easy to follow, I make sure it’s near my bed,
    even if I can only do a bit of the drawing.

    • izzi on May 23, 2018 at 7:28 pm

      Dear Suzanne
      Like you I’m quite disabled and need to rest quite a bit.
      I like to thank you for giving me the pointers of how to handle the bad days.

  14. Minna Mäkinen on June 12, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Oh I definitely know what Resistance feels like. I work in retail and my work shifts are all over the place. I often find myself thinking ‘I will paint when I have a day off’ and yet I never do! Because I’m too busy doing chores or doing sports or spending time with my cat or….My Resistance is also paired with my frustration with my skills and feeling like I’m not good enough (yet) but how could I ever get better when I don’t even draw/paint!

  15. Shelley on June 17, 2017 at 7:57 am

    This is soooo true and really hit home. As a newbie I have looked at your paint a pear video 4 times and still not been brave enough to get my brushes out. Must try harder !

  16. Barb G. on July 4, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I so identify with Resistance, to the point of being almost happy that I had a medical issue that prevented me from painting having to be in a prone position with legs up!
    Thinking of you and the new little person you will soon be bringing into this world.

  17. Diane O on July 22, 2017 at 4:33 am

    That ‘resistance’ was me fearing failure. I had to have a talk with myself and reason with those excuses. The only way to get better is to practice, so lower the expectations and get to it. Which I did. I’ve had some ‘failures’ but I am getting better.
    I also had to negotiate with myself. I thought I couldn’t paint with all that needed to be done around the house so I compromised by completing one task only, then painted.

  18. Kimberley Camera on July 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Wow! Even though you wrote this 3 years ago I’ve come across it with perfect timing! Yesterday I listened to a podcast tjat had nothing to do with motivation, but the guy said ‘If you dream something then have the guts to say it, you’ll do it. Fear keeps us from doing what want.’ His meaning was verbalizing that you are going to be the best (insert dream/wish/hope) isn’t being arrogant, It’s being committed. If you’re committed, you’ll make it happen. I also just bought the ‘Best Self Journal ‘ to keep myself on track and committed and today is the first day. The universe is speaking to me. Thank you for your post and suggested reading, going to get the book now!

    • Anna Mason on August 1, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Good for you Kimberley – certainly seems like the universe is lining things up for you! Wonderful.

  19. Vicki Dunk on August 20, 2017 at 2:41 am

    I feel like I am in a permanent state of resistance. I really do want to paint, and sometimes when I do I am really pleased with what I do. I don’t make up these excuses though, I do actually go to my desk, but I sit there paralysed for most of the time and fall back to checking out other’s art online.

  20. Jane on September 4, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Oh yes, this is one of my main problems!!! At least I know it’s not just me! Thanks for sharing!

  21. Angela Cox on September 22, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    This was me as well, until my weekly art class teacher started giving us homework! The fear of being the only person in the class who has not completed the task has had a remarkable effect on me and presumably in others in my class as well. It has helped me overcome the fear of the blank piece of paper and the expectation that I have to produce a masterpiece every time I paint.

  22. Harriet Zwaskis on September 23, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Hi Anna,

    I love painting watercolors, but i cannot paint, or rather I have a hard time painting flowers and fruit, so i’ve seen your paintings and they are beautiful.

  23. Jadranka on September 26, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Thank You, dear Anna. From all my Heart!

  24. Janetta Dobler on September 27, 2017 at 9:00 am

    I am so glad to read that I am not the only one who goes thru times of resistance. Even worse is the fear of not ever being or becoming good enough instead of enjoying the creative journey. My son and I have had people in our lives who, instead of giving instruction or constructive advise, have killed our spirit and caused great depression by saying that we should find something else because our work sucks or is not good enough, and let us go from apprentice jobs. I love the support and encouragement that you and this group provide, knowing that we don’t have to be perfect the first time, but we can be different and just keep at it. God Bless you!

  25. Geraldine Crowley on September 30, 2017 at 2:34 am

    Omg
    I thought I was the only one. Like a lot of the other posts. I have all the brushes, paints, etc
    and still cant put brush to paper. My fear of failure & not knowing where to start. I am unable to draw properly and do not have any faith in myself. I critise ny work. I am a perfectionist.
    Its like the time I got my first car ( an old car). I wanted to learn to drive but was so nervous of makeing mistakes. Sometimes I used look out the window & nearly pray the (the car) was stolen so that I wouldnt have to drive lol. Fear of failure
    Very well timed Anna. I am a carer for my husband & get very tired but I still will have to shedule time for me.
    Thanks Anna & everyone for their comments. Very inspiring
    Geralfine

  26. Shirley Atkinson on September 30, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Perfectionist, procrastinator, self-critical, lack of confidence….all of these adjectives (and more) pop into my head to describe my road blocks. It gives me encouragement to read that I am not alone. You know, of the times that I do sit down and pick a tutorial and follow through with each lesson to the finish (although I really pick apart my piece), I feel a sense of accomplishment. (imagine that!) I have ordered the book you recommended, Anna. Time for me to climb out of this hole! Thanks to all for their honesty.

  27. Barb G. on November 7, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Ditto from all of your faithful admirers who are experiencing a common form of Painters Block.
    I find that setting a project, such as holiday cards gets me going. I have all the time and materials and tons of excuses!
    Love to Baby Ben!
    When will you be doing another book? One is not enough!

  28. Kathy Crocker on November 11, 2017 at 12:04 am

    This was so true, Anna, thanks for bringing it to light. I am going to try and schedule a time each day for an hour, at least, to pickup the paint brush or sketch book.
    Thank you!!

  29. Marianna on November 30, 2017 at 4:57 am

    Although I had already read this blog post in the past, I received the email about it in my inbox precisely now that I was struggling with Resistance and getting distracted with other stuff. Thank you for sending it. It came at a very necessary time! I’m going to paint now, as my heart so longs for.

  30. Artee on January 21, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    I am a newbie student stating painting again after 40 years, and in a new medium.
    Thanks for the constant feedback and encouragement from the school.
    This is a constant challenge, even at this early stage to commit to the time on the brush. I found leaving the work out allows small time commitments that always seem to stretch to longer periods.
    I have to learn to slow down as the enthusiasm often shoots past the video tutorial.this creates tones that aren’t even close. My old teacher from years ago always said mileage on the brush son, mileage on the brush.
    Artee

  31. CHRISTIE NICKLAY on February 8, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    This is totally me as well. You hit the nail on the head. I’ve ordered the book and can’t wait to read it. THANK YOU for all of your words of encouragement!

  32. Geraldine Crowley on March 2, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Omg. This is me too.
    I thought I was the only one.
    I have all the books, brushes, paints everything.
    When I think about painting, its like something is stopping me. I now know its Resistance.
    Im so glad to have got your email Anna & will get the book
    Many thanks
    Geraldine

  33. Joan Simpson on March 2, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    I needed this! Even though I retired six years ago and thought I would be painting every day….I’ve simply put it off, I have painted a few times, but after listening to the podcast and reading the comments, I’ve found the desire to dedicate a specific time daily and do what I love so much…..paint! Thanks everyone. Warm regards, Joan

  34. Aileen Cura on March 4, 2018 at 3:14 am

    Thanks for the encouragement! In my case, i feel ill at ease when i can’t paint…i feel the urge all the time but alas, my chores and errands have overtaken me. I actually feel feverish when i can’t paint!

  35. Tuija on April 11, 2018 at 9:56 am

    So true! My mom said (difficult to say in English) :” First work, then playing”. It’s deeply in my mind. Well, I’m struggeling out of that, I have a big challenge with my poor English, etc. Let the dust balls fly at home .

  36. Janet Kyle on December 19, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Anna, thank you for this news letter. I fall right into everything you mentioned above and I can relate with all who replied. So, I just bought both books mentioned, one by you and one by another. Merry Merry to me
    Merry Christmas to you and everyone in the school. ☃️

  37. […] point is that the mind has an uncanny way of putting up resistance to us doing things that would actually benefit us (like art or […]

  38. star on May 13, 2021 at 8:36 pm

    I don’t know how this article ended up in my email today, years after this post was written. But it’s a timely gift, and I am grateful for it.

    I, too, am an old buddy of the Resistance block. I can float along contentedly day-in and day-out, but as soon as I even think about my getting to my beloved painting, I go stiff with Resistance. My head fills with a zillion have-to’s that need doing right now.

    I’ve been at this game a long, long time. I’ve left my passion on the back burner for too many years. I am an old lady now. I just lost the love of my life, my lover, my buddy, my playmate, my best friend ever. He died about a week ago – bang! Just like that. He was here with me, and then he wasn’t. Not a bit of warning.

    I can’t really say that honestly, can I? That last part about “not a bit of warning.” – it’s not really true, is it? The net is full of warnings about this sort of thing. Articles, books, speeches abound. We all know what we should do, how we should prepare, how we should take stock of our priorities. But who really listens? Not me. Not until it happened any way. Now it shouts at me from every corner. Why did I let this happen? Why did I leave everything so long, so late?

    So here I am, all alone again, a bundle of tears and shock and soul-wrenching grief. Then this article came by email today. Okay, I hear you Anna, I hear you Mr. Pressfield. It’s time for me to get to my painting now. Not tomorrow. Not after I’ve finished notifying everyone of my awful news. Not after I finish one last bit of whatever. Now!

    So here’s the kicker. I’ve finally found the key for me to get to my painting . . . . . grief. Yeah, it’s easier to paint than to face that black hole that’s left after losing the one I love more than life itself. The joke is on me, and it is this: I can paint instead of rambling about this big house, wondering what to do next … I can paint instead of ruminating on what is not to be any more … I can paint instead of cry – at least for a little while.

    Painting is now my new Resistance!

    I have to go paint now.

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