How To Keep Creating When Motivation Isn't There
Because that motivation just isn't always there, is it?
This one goes out to my fellow artists, the ones that are trying to make something happen when they still need to pay the bills with a day job. This is gonna be a long one, but if you're committed to being an artist, stick with me long enough for me to help you if I can.
Toward the bottom of this article, there are action steps to help you build a plan to help you work without worrying about motivation. If you are willing to commit to a plan of action and execute that plain daily, you will not have to worry about motivation ever again. (Under normal circumstances of course.)
You get up, you go to work, you come home, you take care of the daily stresses and toils that life requires, and then you lie down on the pillow at the end of the day. It hits you:
"I went this whole day without creating a single thing."
You feel this play out day after day after day sometimes.
And I get it, it's a struggle to create something! Bringing an idea from the ether onto paper, into Photoshop or ZBrush, or whatever your medium is, it's not easy work!
And you look at your creative heroes. Loish, Marc Brunet, Anthony Jones, Ross Tran, Sycra, and all of those other names, popular or niche. They're making something every day. They're making great things every day.
You feel it now, don't you? You feel the weight of all those days in a row that you just spent without working on your dream. I've felt the weight too. I'm struggling just like you are to feel that blessed rush of motivation.
But if you wait until you feel motivation, you will never accomplish your dreams.
As of right now I haven't really felt motivated since about halfway through July. But I've still been posting daily Monday through Saturday. Do you wonder at all how I'm doing that?
There's a handful of things at play. The biggest things to think about in my case are, in no particular order:
As a creative entrepreneur, your passion and vision are vital components of a successful, fulfilling career. You probably have your passion sorted out, and vision is a subject of scope that requires its own article.
The part newer artists and creatives have more trouble with is the habit and commitment. That habit and commitment are vital for driving your career to success.
To create when you are not motivated, you must leverage the power of habit and commitment.
That's scary to hear for us creatives, isn't it? I know that this idea didn't resonate with me until I could not deny it any longer.
In February 2017 after I moved across the country, I lost the will to create art for about a half a year. I did not feel my power or my inspiration. I sunk into a funk.
Then Sean McCabe released Overlap in September 2017 and I listened to an audiobook version he was giving away to celebrate. This book changed the way I was looking at my art career. (You can click that link and read the book for free, by the way. It's a game-changing read for artists who want to carve their way in the world, and I say that strictly as a reader. Sean did not give me any money to say good things about his book.)
I learned that I needed to start with a commitment, and then build a habit.
So, start right now by committing to work on your dream every day. No, I'm not saying "create a new Mona Lisa every single day." I'm saying do something to build your career each day.
You have your new goal. "I will work on my dream every day."
Now it's time to build your system to work on your dream.
To craft a plan to create without motivation:
Ask yourself these questions, and we'll go from there:
- "What will I work on?"
- "Where will I work on my dream?"
- "When will I work on my dream?"
- "Where will I get the energy?"
"What will I work on?"
Collect a list of ideas. You can do this any time, anywhere.
You have a phone, use the notes app. Or keep a notebook. Do whatever you can to keep your ideas from running away from you. You must have a store of ideas to draw from.
If you have a problem coming up with ideas, this will be your insurance against ever having artist's block when you sit down. You will never again sit down without a clear vision of where you want to go once you start working.
"Where will I work on my dream?"
Find a space in your home and dedicate it to your craft. It does not matter how small the space.
You do not need a whole office. You need just enough room for your craft and equipment. Make this the space you will return to every day to do your work.
In the same way that you can turn up at a job and switch into a gear where you work, you must prepare and protect a space where you can switch into a gear to develop your craft.
If you have a family where space is at a premium, communicate with your family to determine a time where they give you room specifically for you to do your work. If this is a sane situation, they should be happy to make a change and give you room for what you're passionate about.
This will bring us into the next important thing:
"When will I work on my dream?"
Look at your commitments and determine the best time every day where you will work on your craft.
Everybody has things they must do day in and day out, and things that they can freely choose to do or not do day in and day out.
If you have a job or you're in school right now, realize that that is a fixed investment, and that you have to negotiate your way around it.
If you have a family, you will have to communicate with them to get a time where you can work on your art.
Whatever your situation, look for at least one hour of space that occurs daily that you will focus specifically on your art. Set a timer when you sit down at the place you dedicated to your work, silence your phone and set it to "Do Not Disturb", and get to work on one of the ideas that you collected.
You make time for video games, friends, shows, and other things that matter to you. None of these things are bad by any means. But you must decide if these things are more important than your craft, and say "no" to the thing that should not take your time right now.
"Where will I get the energy?"
Your energy is not infinite. You must spend it wisely, and spend it on the most important thing first.
If you have a job or go to school, you likely spend eight hours straight of energy on a commitment that has been placed upon you.
Some people can still have enough energy after all of the hustle and bustle of the day to get to the things they care about. But that's not everybody.
This is a simple answer, but not necessarily an easy one. If you do not have energy after your daily commitments, you must wake up earlier and put time and energy into your craft before anyone can demand your time and energy.
You care about this thing! And I want you to succeed at it! If something is important to you, it is only natural that you should give it priority in the day so nothing else can take the necessary energy from you.
So what now?
You have a plan. You have a work space. You have ideas. You have a time set aside in the day that you will sit down and work. And you have the beginning of a concept of managing your energy, too.
Now execute that plan today today.
Start by defining success as something so easy you cannot help but do it.
Make your goal something like this:
"I will sit down at my desk at 7:00 PM today and draw for one hour."
And then do that today.
Since you've collected ideas, you will feel silly if you sit down at your drawing time and fail to make your art. You will naturally draw, and you will have created today.
After this you will go about your day, go to bed and wake up the next day.
And then do it again.
Repeat the act of sitting down for an hour with no distractions every day until it comes as naturally to you as brushing your teeth.
Soon, motivation will not matter. You will create every day because of the power of your habit and commitment, and motivation will not be the barrier of entry anymore.
You will naturally complete your goals and get better because you have programmed yourself to automatically follow a system for consistent success in working toward your dreams.
The solution I've presented, though fairly simple, is by no means very easy to follow. If you're having trouble with your mindset as an artist, I would love to hear from you so I can help.
Feel free to comment below or otherwise get in touch with me so we can talk about your situation and get you moving the right direction for your creative goals.