Staying Motivated

Originally written in 2020

As I was sitting at my computer this evening, trying to think of a topic to write about, I thought about the art I’d done today. I did two hours of work on a large commission that’s been on my desk for the past few weeks. I’m getting to the point where I’m adding the finishing details on it, and I made good progress today. 

The thing was, I really didn’t want to draw today. I had a slow morning which involved numerous phone calls to government agencies, and it was frustrating and I was behind schedule. All I wanted to do was go relax with a book or go play video games for a few hours. 

The tricky thing about art is that there is something to be said to being in the mood for it. If you’re too tired, or your head isn’t in the right space, you won’t produce your best work. But if you only work when the mood strikes you, most likely you won’t get anything done. 

So today I thought I’d write a bit about what strategies I use to overcome those days when I’m finding I lack the motivation to draw. First of all, I always have a limit on how much I’ll draw each day. Right now that’s two hours a day, though that will be going up in the future. Having a time limit on art each day gives me a definite end point, and sense of accomplishment if I do get those two hours in. It’s a lot easier to get discouraged if you keep missing daily goals because things are taking longer than you thought. 

My second strategy is a bit silly, but hey, it works for me! Every morning I make a cup of Earl Grey tea, and after I finish breakfast I head upstairs and start working. It turns out I’ve classically conditioned myself to think tea = drawing, so once I’ve got tea in hand it’s pretty unusual for me to skive off drawing for the day. The point is: form habits. Those habits are what get you into the studio on a crappy day when you really don’t feel like drawing. 

The third point is related to that — just sit down and pick up a pencil or a brush. That’s what I did today, though I really didn’t want to. And once I sat down for about five minutes I got into the swing of the drawing and started enjoying myself, and my two hours went by easily. 

Finally, if needed, take a break! Some days when I have a migraine or I’m exhausted, I’ll sit at my drawing table for twenty minutes or so and realize things just aren’t working. After I’ve given it a good try and things aren’t coming together and I’m not feeling good, I know that’s when to step away, and come back after a nap or even another day. 

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