Once upon a time, you felt the tug to start a passion project.
You decided this was the moment to start your blog, to turn your jewelry-making prowess into a business, to express the stories that well up inside of you. You felt the potential to help others, to create profound photos and paragraphs that lead to messages saying “Wow – thank you. I needed to hear that.”
You could have spent your free time on anything else. You could have watched Game of Thrones again or gone to more happy hours. But you’re here instead — working on your creative dream.
Except something isn’t quite working. You’re procrastinating, doubting your talents, feeling overwhelmed, and not taking the action steps you need.
After bringing a ton of my own creative projects to life (I have launched a farmer’s market, started this blog, wrote and published a book, launched a coaching business, taught yoga, officiated weddings, started freelance ghostwriting…), I’ve experienced more than my fair share of stuckness. It’s incredibly painful to feel like your creative visions are spinning to nowhere, and I want to help you find your groove again.
Here are the five main reasons why your passion project is stuck, along with my tips to help you revive your creative mojo.
1. You’re stuck in planning mode
This is where 75% of my coaching clients are when they reach out to me. You have read every self-help book, downloaded every PDF, poured money into business courses you didn’t need, gone on inspirational retreats, yet still can’t bring yourself to take forward action on your passion project.
Then you look around with self-contempt that you haven’t gotten farther, and it’s hard and it’s frustrating and it takes a hit to your self-esteem. I’ve been there too, and it sucks.
The problem is your brain wants to trick you into thinking you’re taking action steps, when really you’re just doing easy things that are within your comfort zone. You inadvertently focused your energy on the comfortable actions that don’t get you results instead of the hard terrifying actions that do. This is totally okay and reversible once you have awareness around it!
When it comes to growing an audience and monetizing your passions, you don’t need to see the entire road in front of you. You don’t need to know what’s around the corner 5 steps from now. You don’t need another 3-month plan or a social media account on some new trending platform. You just need to take a tiny step forward, and repeat that over and over again.
When you set aside time to work on your passion project, what do you actually do with that time? Notice if your actions fall into the category of easy steps or courageous steps:
Watching free webinars. Signing up for a class. “Getting ready.” Making sure your hashtags are just right. Spending a month debating what colors to use on your website. Doing another money meditation. Reading a book about how to grow your platform. Pinning ideas to your Pinterest board. Looking for inspiration.
Making a WordPress account and clicking the buttons to create your website. Writing your about page awkwardly – and hitting “Publish.” Pricing your jewelry and taking photos and posting it to sell. Tolerating the awkwardness of telling people what you do. Asking people if they will promote your event. Writing your first 200 words.
If you’re like me and most creatives, you probably get stuck in the easy steps – where it feels like you’re making progress, but really you’re spinning your wheels in one place.
Here’s your assignment: Set your learning to the side, and hyper-focus on taking the 1-2 most important courageous steps in front of you. The core ones you have been avoiding. That’s it. Completely ignore the rest. This tip isn’t rocket science, but it will change your life if you let it.
2. You don’t truly believe it’s possible to succeed
I know how annoying it is when people say “You just need to believe in yourself.” It sounds too trite, too simple, too cheesy and irritating to be possible. But if you’re embarking on a creative project, you are going to slam into a resistant part of yourself that doesn’t think you are capable or deserving of success.
This is the part of you that flickers when someone asks what you did this weekend. The part of you who laughs and changes the subject when someone asks about your novel. The part of you who is split between your big visions of being an industry leader and the opposite watered-down hopes that you have settled for.
It’s not enough to believe in your strengths, your gifts, and your passion project in private moments on your meditation pillow. It’s not enough to get excited about your creative dreams when you’re at a motivational weekend seminar punching your hands into the air amongst strangers.
You need to get to a point when you believe in your project and abilities even when it isn’t working yet. When no one is paying attention, when the likes/money/fame/traffic aren’t rolling in, when you feel like you have already tried everything… can you still fully believe in yourself in those moments?
Your job here is to become a living breathing embodiment of what’s possible for you. To do that, you need to learn how to become a detective of your own mind.
When you notice yourself thinking “Everyone else is already doing what I want,” take a deep breath. Pause. And replace that thought with “Millions of people haven’t even heard of my industry yet, let alone me. There is room for me at the table.”
When you notice yourself complaining “Ugh I hate self-promotion,” replace that thought with “My work helps others. And in order for them to find me, I need to let them know about me. Staying quiet is actually the most selfish thing I can do.”
When you notice yourself lamenting “I’m so creatively blocked!” replace that thought with “What’s the next tiny forward action I can take?”
Self-belief isn’t something you check off your to-do list once. As you expand out of your comfort zone and reach larger audiences with your creative work, you will run into moments of doubt over and over again. When you go viral the first time – more doubt. When you start to charge for your work – more doubt. So rather than trying to eliminate the experience of self-doubt, you can become a master of moving forward even when it rears its head.
3. You’re trying to create the wrong passion project
Let’s say you started writing a book five years ago, and you romanticize that period of your life. You daydream about how you were so free, so creative, so fun, you would go to cafes and work on your book and feel like an artist, the ideas were flowing…
So now you’re trying to revive that book to get those feelings back, but something isn’t working. You sit down to write, and everything feels clunky. The ideas aren’t flowing and you can’t tap back in.
This can also be the case when you’re doing a project someone else wanted you to do rather than what truly lights you up. Picture a children’s author who goes through the motions to publish her 12th children’s book instead of the romance novel pulling at her heart.
Another variation of this is if you’re a multi-passionate creative person who is spreading yourself too thin and trying to work on too many projects at once. While there’s nothing wrong with having a wide range of passion and interests (I do too!), dabbling in multiple projects at a time can be a form of self-sabotage. If you want to get one big novel/story/blog/business off the ground, it will probably require you to put other creative endeavors on pause for a short time.
Think about the creative project you’re focusing on right now. Is it possible you’re trying too hard to make it work from a logical head space? Is it possible your idea needs breathing room?
Is it possible this stale project is clogging up the space where something new and disruptive wants to emerge?
I believe our passion projects find us. They catch us, grab us by the collar, whisper a quick word in our ear, and leave us to figure out the rest. They give us wisps and tendrils that we follow – sometimes to dead ends, sometimes to profits, sometimes to roads we couldn’t have pictured until we got there. Our job is to show up for them and keep following the breadcrumbs, step by step, however fast or slow we can go.
So if you’re clinging to a past project, or if you are so focused on creating someone else’s dream that you can’t hear your own, or if you have your fingers equally sprawled in five hobbies right now… get quiet.
Ask yourself if THIS creative project is really the one you’re being called from the depths of your soul to work on. Be brave enough to either infuse more of your personality into it, or take a break and discover what new dream has been knocking at your window.
4. You’re hung up on what other people think
Whether it’s your ex-teacher or your boss or the girls you went to college with, or the guy you just met on the dating app – you are preoccupied with the perceptions of what other people will think if you went big on your passion project.
Every time you try to write a word, you hear their judgements ratting around in your brain. Every time you want to hit “post,” you picture them snickering and talking about how you’ve changed. Then when you discover people HAVE been judging you, it feels like proof that your fears were correct.
Another manifestation of this is comparing yourself to the strangers you see online. You have a creative dream, and you get excited about moving towards it… and then you see how the market feels “saturated” and 300 people on Instagram are already doing it well.
So you slowly slink back to your normal daily life. Frozen. Taking no steps forwards. You may have musings like “Why should I even bother?” followed by sheer dread.
Notice how your brain will do almost anything to kill your creative dreams before you even begin. Rather than focusing on the people your work WILL help, your brain immediately fixates on everyone else.
Those people are not your target market. You can deeply love the people in your real life and still not make your art for them. My favorite perspective on this comes from the author & designer Adam J. Kurtz who says:
“it is OK to mute a friend whose social posts are slowly making you like them less… let’s preserve relationships that we care about and accept that some people are performing for audiences that aren’t us and it’s part of their job but we don’t need to visit them at work.”
Rather than focusing on the people who won’t appreciate your work, focus on the people who will. Focus on the strangers who haven’t discovered you yet. The future fans who have been waiting for the exact magic you have to offer.
What if your favorite author had never written your favorite book because they were afraid of being judged?! When that author decided to move forward despite their fear, your life was changed for the better. Now as an artist, it’s your turn to do the same for your audience – no matter how small it is right now.
5. You’re struggling to find the time to work on your passion project
This is a legitimate issue for many people. In its beginning and middle stages, your creative project needs a lot of attention but isn’t making money yet. In fact, it’s probably costing you money and time as you figure out new software, pay for trainings, or purchase creative materials.
And by the way – you may not even want to make money on your passion project! Not everything has to be monetized or a side hustle. While some people get a lot of joy from setting up Etsy shops and getting notified about book royalties – it’s completely okay if that doesn’t appeal to you. You can give yourself full permission to create something beautiful for the joy of it.
Either way, in a culture so steeped in capitalism and productivity and hustling, it can be hard to justify carving out time for our non-money-making passion projects. This is especially true for parents who are juggling 9-5s, or for anyone with the nagging feeling of “there is no practical reason to be doing this right now.”
But what if practicality was the wrong question to be asking? What if there were a huge swath of possibilities between “I have no time” and “I have endless luxurious amounts of time”?
First, go easy on yourself because you DO have a lot on your plate. Your feelings of not having enough time are valid, and that stress is nothing to be ashamed of.
You already know that in order to make your passion project work, you are going to need to find some time for it. Neither of us can change that basic fact. So my biggest tip here is to carve out the time that you reasonably can, and let go of the romantic notion that you need large uninterrupted stretches of time to work on your creative project.
Saying things like “I NEED to have a full week off to really do this” is a masked form of perfectionism trying to keep you small and safe, ensuring you never move forward.
If the only time you can work on your book without burning out is 8-10 PM on Tuesday and Thursday nights – that’s perfect. Amazing. So put those time blocks on your calendar and defend them to the teeth. Resist the urge to let everyone else’s whims and needs chew away at your calendar.
Before you sit down to work, get clear on what courageous steps you will work on, turn off your phone, and get to work. Moving forward slowly is infinitely better than never moving forward at all.
There are probably more like 11,361 hyper-specific reasons why you’re feeling stuck on your creative project – not just five. But my hope is that you can spot yourself in at least one of these scenarios and find the motivation to take a few steps forward from where you are. I believe in you fully, completely, and without question. You have what it takes to bring your dreams to life.
Do you need help on this? My passion project strategy sessions are the perfect place to get unstuck and feel psyched up about your project again — with fresh action steps in hand. If you’re tired of trying to do it all yourself and want someone in your corner who can inspire you, believe in you, and hold you accountable, book your coaching session or package here.
Peace and Passionate Creations,