Dealing With Plateaus

Ice plateau

Plateaus are not only common in the landscape, they happen metaphorically in our lives in various ways. A simple dictionary definition of the type of plateau I am discussing is “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress“. In other words. we’re stuck for a while.

Life is not a linear progression. We’re not always moving forward to achieving goals and bettering ourselves. No matter how good our intentions or our will power, there are plateaus where things go level for a while.

This is frustrating, but something to accept. The plateaus are probably necessary to let us regroup and “catch up”. Kind of like getting a good night’s sleep. Usually we go on and start progressing again.

Like losing weight

Some of us have a body type that easily puts on weight. When it gets bad, we have to take some action to get our weight back in control. I hope you don’t have this problem.

Dieting is a futile activity. It doesn’t work long term. My strategy is cutting back eating to what I need and getting more exercise. But this is not a rant on dieting.

As I lose weight I hit plateaus sometimes. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for them. I haven’t changed what I’m doing. It’s just that sometimes the same actions do not get the same results. Sometimes my weight even goes up with no discernible cause. It can be very frustrating if I don’t remind myself that this is natural and expected.

Plateaus in our art

Progressing in our art is kind of like losing weight. We work at it diligently, but sometimes it is an up and down process and sometimes we get stuck at a plateau. I think we have to accept it and keep working.

We can’t force it. Inspiration, creativity, the muse, whatever you call it is not a constant part of our life. We don’t know why it chooses to visit us sometimes and not others. But that is the way it works.

As a matter of fact, what I observe is if we get too frustrated and try to force the creativity to happen, we are very disappointed with the results. Let it be and wait for it to happen.

Be persistent

We can’t force the creativity to come, but we can do things to encourage it. When we’re on a plateau, of even in a valley, I find it helps to train, to learn, to seek inspiration from other’s work. This is a great time for study, reading, reflection, trying new things. Not a discouraged resignation that our creative life is over. If a plateau is kind of like sleeping, get a good sleep. It helps a lot of things and life looks better in the morning.

Keep working, just don’t focus on the truly creative work at this time. I know I always have a lot of filing and cataloging to do. Re-evaluating portfolio selections and changing things around. It is a good time to contact galleries and submit to shows. Do the dreaded marketing that I put off when I’m “too busy being creative” to do it. Maybe even catch up on my bookkeeping. Yuch. But is needs to be done.

Accept the dark times, they will end

Know for a fact that the dark times will end. Trust that your creativity is not “used up”. Creativity breeds creativity. If you have been creative in the past it will happen in the future. Probably even better and stronger.

A plateau is a temporary stage. Our mind will decide when it is time to move on.

Use the plateau time wisely. It will help you come out the other side stronger and better equipped to move on.

Relish the joy of moving to the next stage

Finally it happens. One day you wake up with a renewed vision, a new point of view, an eagerness to resume work. Rejoice in it. Fill your work with the new vision.

You are rejuvenated. All is well. You are still an artist.

Enjoy. Do your best work. Know that the cycle will repeat and more plateaus are coming. But trust that they are temporary and you will come out even better. That actually gives you hope.

And I hope I will break through my current weight plateau and achieve my goals. 🙂