How To Get Through The Chaos Jungle To The Land Of Creative Joy

I feel the need to come clean with you. It took me ages to write this blog post, at least a couple of days. Crazy, right? Why did it take me so long? Why was I angsting so much about it? Well, let me tell you of my dilemma at the moment.

As I am teaching myself to work creatively, I have come to realise that part of my process is to go through a period of time when I am unhappy with what I produce. I often think of it as a period of chaos or like walking through a Chaos Jungle.

art journal page in blue and purple

Quite often nothing I do whilst working through this chaos makes me entirely happy. It is more than the usual analysis of my work to see where I can improve. It feels like something inside me is trying to break out but I just don’t know what. No analogies to the films Alien or the Thing please, I need to sleep at night!

But what I have found from working at this for a few years now is that these periods of making things that I don’t like usually come just before I make some sort of a breakthrough in my skill level or in my understanding of a particular aspect of my practice.

Dark art journal page with teal and pink and black

You may very well have found this happening to you too, but perhaps you haven’t recognised it? Or perhaps you have and felt that it was just something you alone went through? Or maybe you are fully in touch with this part of your creativity, in which case I congratulate you wholeheartedly on being so well attuned to yourself, well done!

Whatever the case, don’t worry – going through a period of chaos before a breakthrough is not an uncommon part of the creative cycle.

In fact, rejoice! You are on the precipice of a new aspect of your creative life! 

Unfortunately, there is no time frame for this period and you could be on the precipice looking out to your future Land Of Creative Joy for the next 10 minutes or for several years to come. But, hey, it will be worth it!

Neon pink and blue art journal page

How Do You Get Through The Chaos Jungle?

1. Be kind to yourself! Foremost in this period of chaotic unknown is to acknowledge the self-doubt but don’t allow it to take hold of you. So don’t believe it. OK it is there, it is an aspect of you but it does not define you. This is important! Self-doubt is CRIPPLING and will stop you from reaching your next level, whatever that level is.

You may have your own coping mechanisms for self-doubt but for me personally I have found that I can not ignore it – telling it to shut up doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it worse. It has taken me a while to get to this point but I have come to realise that I need to recognise the self-doubt, acknowledge it, then reason with it, explain to it why it is wrong, give it examples of how its view of the world is somewhat skewed.

Lots of art journal pages being made at once

It takes constant practise not to give in to self-doubt and there are no easy fixes for this one, I’m afraid, but you need to try because the next tip to making it through the jungle of creative chaos (sounds like an interesting holiday resort!) is:

2. Don’t give up. Work through it however long it takes. Turn up at your workdesk and work, work, work work! If you want to jump off that precipice into your creative future, then do something towards it every day. Whatever your creative thing is, from art journaling to cardmaking, get something made, or at least partly made, every day even if you only have 10 minutes to spare.

3. Talk about it! Don’t bottle it up inside. One thing about working as a creative, particularly a freelance one, is that you are often working on your own. This is where having someone you trust, who can understand the ups and downs, to talk to is invaluable. So grab a coffee, tea, glass of wine or whatever your favourite tipple is and talk, email, message your arty, crafty or other trusty friends and loved ones. No doubt they have been through it too.

There are times when it is easy and there are times when it is most definitely not but I can tell you, here and now that

YOU can do it!

Art journal page in pink with a diamond frame and writing

But why did it take me so long to write this blog post, what was my dilemma?

Well, I am going through my own personal Chaos Jungle right now, I bought a packed lunch, I might be here some time. But as an Artist, Crafter, Blogger (it is in my bio, it must be true), there is a constant pressure to provide quality content, beautiful things, or at least something inspirational that you as my reader will want to have a go at even if you don’t like how I did it.

But this pressure to make beautiful things is even harder when you are traipsing through the Chaos Jungle. So as part of my being kind to myself strategy, I am owning up to the chaos, I’m embracing it and revelling in it and if you are going through a similar thing I want you to do the same.

Come with me on this trip and put our trust in the fact that on the other side there is a breakthrough to Creative Joy!

A collection of art mark making tools

Please do feel free to share any thoughts you have on Chaos Jungles or the land of Creative Joy, they are all welcome.

But please do not feel you need to give me an ego boost or leave positive comments about my work, I’m embracing my trip through the jungle. I just wanted to put to words something that many of us go through in the hope that it might help you, either now or at some later point, if you feel a bit lost and aren’t sure why!

Catch you later Art-inators


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Kim Dellow

Kim Dellow is an artist–designer–film-maker living the creative life in London, UK. She's a freelance creative for the craft industry and others, and she loves to share her art-ventures on her blog.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Kathyk

    So ……. not just me then!!! I've often said that we are "our own worst critics" which, I guess, translates as self doubt.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck with working through the chaos jungle


    1. Kim Dellow

      Aren't we just Kathyk?! We often see fault in things where others just see the overall effect and like it. There is a fine line between analysing your work so that you can learn and improve and ripping it apart because of self-doubt isn't there?

      I'm glad I'm not the only one!

  2. Vicky

    Definitely been there Kim. I find time away from my work desk helps me, not so easy when you're on a tight deadline though I know. I'm off to Hampton Court flower show today, hoping I'll return feeling refreshed and inspired! 🙂 x

    1. Kim Dellow

      Ah Vicky isn't it just the hardest, creating to a deadline? I'm really awful and I plug away frustratedly when really I should have stepped away and taken a break, but I have a strange guilt thing that kicks in! I'm learning to step away, but I still find it hard, I can be really pig-headed about stuff at times! Don't do myself any favours at all!
      Have a glorious day at the Hampton Court Flower show. Looking forward to the photos 🙂

  3. Shirley

    I've printed this text of this post, Kim (only for me). I sense I need these words. Coming out of two years of being very ill, still with MS in tow, I seem to be all over the place. Who am I? A hobbyist? A crafter by trade or a writer? I'm reaching a significant birthday this year – do I just give up and retire gracefully? Lots to consider while on holiday soon.
    Meanwhile, you are growing. Since you moved to your house, there's been a glorious change in tempo. You are an artist.

    1. Kim Dellow

      Shirley, I hope it helps and please feel free to re-read as needed! I often do the same. It is always a good idea to revisit and reinforce ideas and thoughts isn't it? I know I need to constantly!

      I have battled with that 'is this just a hobby' question again and again. It is hard. You have been through such a tough time that I do not think you should make any hasty decisions just yet. When you can, keep working at it, but enjoy it too otherwise what is the point?
      You have a wonderful holiday and thank you for your wonderful comment!

  4. I recognise that feeling of self doubt, it can be so strong. But how wonderful it is when the magic happens and something beautiful emerges out from the chaos. Sometimes I think that we need to make all that we see as ugly because is has to leave us in some way…today's face was like that…

    1. Kim Dellow

      You are so right Maarit, the ugly does need to leave us doesn't it? We do need to work it out of us but it is such a uncertain process that we can get a little lost in it. I'm looking forward to seeing your face 🙂 Kx

  5. Janet

    When I accidentally found this I knew I had to comment. I, too, go through periods of chaos/self-doubt and then eventually I come out the other side. I have an art show up right now, but in the several months leading up to it I went through a period of this very thing. I couldn't seem to create anything! I'd go to the studio and then just walk out because my mojo was gone. Finally as the time drew closer for the show, and I knew I had to get some art ready, something finally gave way and I was able to paint several pieces that I liked. For me, I've found that it's either feast or famine…I either can't keep up with my creativity or it goes missing.

    1. Kim Dellow

      Ahh Janet, it is so good to see you here, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. What you say is so true, I have that exact same feast or famine thing going on too and it is usually pushed to its limits with a looming deadline.

      I do hope that your art show is going well, and well done for getting it done.
      Good luck for the next project!

  6. Self doubt, well those are two words I can relate to on a very frequent basis. I think as Crafter's, artists, designers we are all prone to self doubt . So,writes that is a good thing because like you say it encourages to strive for more, work harder, try harder, work through the process. However I have to admit to sometimes almost giving in to,the self doubt , only just coming through the other side, but I am still here lol. Sometime it is good to air these views, it makes us all feel 'normal' whatever 'normal' is of course. It's also good to know we are not alone and that we all have our inner battles, it's how we deal with them to create a positive outcome, not always an easy process , speaking from experience, art, craft, whatever form is also about fun but when you are trying to make a living from said art or craft then that causes other frustrations. It's very difficult to keep an audience interested, however, I also think it's important to be happy with our own art before we expect anyone else to share our feelings and there will always be someone who is not quite so positive about our art, but we can also turn that into a positive too, if we try . I am with you on this one wholeheartedly Kim. We should all support each other. Hugs Tracy x

    1. Would help if my keypad typed exactly what I press as well that is supposed to say sometimes not so,writes sorry . Lol x x

    2. Kim Dellow

      You are so right Tracy, I think that creatives are particularly prone to this as the work we do is a piece of us isn't it? You know I found writing this blog post very hard, but once it was done it was really cathartic. It felt like a weight lifted off of my shoulders.
      I told this to David, who has an interest in writing, and he said that he had often read writers saying that there is a kind of release from writing it out and letting it go.
      I mean it seems pretty obvious when you are on the other side but when you are in the Chaos it is hard to see and hard to put into practice. Perhaps the act of putting it into words or colours or shapes clears the mind, like Maarit says above, it gets it out of you so you can move on.
      Thanks for commenting, I'm so glad I shared this now so we can all share our experiences and thoughts.

  7. Such good advices Kim… I think one of the most important thing an artist must have is PATIENCE..
    this is was I have learned during the years I am crafting…. I was really unpatient – since I gave myself more freedom to let loose my work get's better without further ado.

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