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Tangle Rut, Now What?

"What do you do when you're stuck?"

We get this question a lot at ZTHQ. Maybe you, too, have found yourself a little stuck. There are times when you are trying to put pen to paper, but are feeling a little uninspired. Do you use a string or no string? Which tangle? Too many decisions… nothing seems to work.

I don't think there is only one correct way to get you out of a tangle rut, so I asked a few different people here at ZTHQ what they do in these situations...


Julie: When I am stuck in a tangle rut, I turn to mono tangles to help me out of it. I choose one of my favorite tangles (usually marasu or crescent moon) and I will tangle it over and over again until I get my tangle mojo back. The familiar strokes of a favorite tangle make it easier to start tangling again. Once I have a little momentum, I will try some variations, maybe a tangleation or some enhancements for flare. Sometimes it takes 1 or 2 tiles, sometimes 4 or 5, but eventually I am back to feeling creative and inspired.


Molly: When I am stuck in place where I don't know where to begin I have a few go to remedies.

  • Ask Bijou. By that I mean, I usually reach for a Bijou tile. It is less intimidating and less of a commitment. Usually by the time I finish a Bijou tile my drive is reignited and I am on to the next tangling adventure.

  • Go with the familiar. Many times when I am halted in my creativity tracks I start out with a "Mac and cheese" tangle. The one that I can almost tangle without looking or thinking. This puts me in that zone where I can find my flow again.
  • Force a string. If I am at all indecisive, I just force myself to put a string down as fast as possible. I make sure that I have zero time to think. Once the string is there I just take it as the lead.
  • Open my journal. If I am in a place where I just need a fix but not sure where to begin I usually reach for my Zentangle Journal. I always have some half done exploration I can jump into or a corner of a page that needs a little extra. It is a different approach than a tile but it gets me going.
  • Project Packs. The Project Pack series was actually born from a stuck moment. I was in a funk about black tiles and thought about how diving into a concentrated study on one theme would be a fun way to get through something like that. And coincidentally I really look forward to when we release project pack videos so I can work along with them with that little bit of guidance ... with of course that offering to take it in my own direction at any point in time.
  • New art supplies. I have never been into candy but art supplies on the other hand just light me up. New pens. New paper. Even a sharpener gets me excited. Next time you are in a slump try treating yourself to a new pen or other art supply ... it's a little thing but oh so special and just might inspire you to use it.


Rick: I have a low table in my office that I dedicate to tangling. All my tools and tiles surround the tangling space. I sit on the floor on a lambskin that Molly and Nick's daughters gave me for my birthday. The light comes in the window from my left (I'm right-handed). I sit down. I pick up a tile. I appreciate its texture and color for a moment. Then I put a mark on it whether with pencil or pen and I'm off and running. I don't particularly want to have too clear an inspiration for what I want the outcome to be. That paradoxically limits my inspiration.

If I'm stuck for a starting point, I'll do a quick scan through Zentangle Mosaic's waterfall and begin which whatever catches my eye. 

My challenge is to set aside the time to sit down. But once I do sit down and make that first stroke, everything easily flows from there. Also I usually put on headphones and listen to classical music or lectures while I tangle. I always come away from tangling refreshed and energized.


Martha: When I don't know where to begin, I always go back to basics. After you have been practicing the Zentangle Method for a while, some of the steps may become automatic, so, I will go through each one of them with intention. Gratitude, Appreciation, 4 dots, border, string... 

I start with crescent moon, then hollibaugh and then see where my pen takes me. I find if I am stuck, I am focusing too much on what the outcome will be and not the journey itself. Going back to basics reminds me why I put pen to paper in the first place.

I will also spend some time on Zentangle Mosaic. If you spend just a few moments watching the Waterfall, you will always be inspired but the Zentangle art being created all over the world.


I did ask Maria this question too, but I guess she never gets stuck...


Next time you're feeling stuck, try one of the suggestions above. Or, maybe, you have another trick you want to share with tanglers in the comments below.

Julie Willand


  • I just posted a similar question in the CZT FB group. I have been in more than a slump- I outright seemed to have lost the joy. Got so many lovely comments and suggestions- it gave me hope.One thing I realized is that for me-posting on social media for someone else’s approval or validation was a joy killer. I need to do it just for me and my own journey. I am steadfast in my use of zentangle as a form of meditation first, then if it turns out pretty that is a bonus. Going to take a break from posting for awhile(maybe forever!) and see if that helps.

    Jo on

  • Interesante tema porque detrás de cada lápiz hay un ser humano que en algún momento tenga un bloqueo o baja creatividad , no todos los dias somos iguales . En mi caso , regreso a lomas basico , respirar profundamente y tomar los enredos mas simples , tambien me ayuda el contacto con la naturaleza, contenplar cada espacio …. ahi aparece una inspiración de enredo

    Anna Maria on

  • Pinterest boards are my go to when I am “stuck.” I go out in my spare time and pin things I like to my Zentangle board. I go in and fine one that really appeals to me and off I go. Anthem was my most recent try. I love it!

    Clara Brunk on

  • Wonderful topic for discussion! Although I can’t recall a time when I felt even a slight decline in my enthusiasm for Zentangle, I do find that, all too frequently, I feel that I don’t have enough time to devote to it. A recent aha moment is helping: one of my students told me that when she feels she doesn’t HAVE time – to do whatever it might be – what she REALLY means is that she doesn’t feel inclined to MAKE time. And that is so true for me. A lifetime of putting others & other things before my own desires is taking a concerted & mindful effort to overcome. I am, however, committed to persevere. Thank you for bringing this intention to the surface! I am continually grateful for your encouragement. ❤

    Jan Brandt, CZT 12 on

  • I try very hard to release judgments. I remind myself that it is the method that is important to me. The beauty is a side effect. I try to only appreciate and not compare. Not comparing includes me to me. With that in mind, how could I ever be stuck? When I am done with tangling, I may find I am more excited to look at some of my tiles again over some others I have done, (and may even want to share something different that happened while tangling), but I try not to think of one as being better than another, just different. It is something that helps me with my attitudes in life. I just begin. The beauty of life’s moments are a side effect. Every person and experience is different and every piece of art, whether it was made using the Zentangle Method of drawing or not, is different and I strive to appreciate it all. Not judging other’s tangling helps me to not judge my own. When I don’t judge, I am able to begin.

    Katrina Thiebaut on

  • I never get stuck. There’s always been so much art in me that if I ever explode it’s going to be beautiful! I do get lazy, though. That, in itself, can be a problem. And, I too, find buying new art supplies, one of the finest pleasures in life. I also like to find bits of inspiration on walks. Bringing home a bird nest, feather, rock, piece of broken something or other…..that can set me off on a tangle adventure.

    MKay B B Watson CZT17 on

  • Wow! I feel as though we must be on the same wave lengths!! ~

    Is there a Zentangle mind reader somewhere?? Cause I’ve been having these moments, the past few days. Some of that is partially due to part-of-life family issues.
    Then I need a short Zentangle pause, reading pause, and so on. You know how that goes.
    Thank you for this new blog topic! Good timing😊

    Jo5 on

  • I loved all the suggestions! When I get stuck, and it’s usually about every three days, I go to my tangle a day calendar book and glance over previous pages. I always come up with something new and exciting!

    Mary Illana Perrin CZT on

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