digital master copy of an ink drawing

How to create headspace to work on your art (and motivation is big BS)

Motivation is outdated, overrated and to be frank… big pile of… There were many books already written about that. The most recent one was Mel Robbins “5 second rule"  about that. Highly recommended read.



To wait for motivation is like saying ” I will work when it strikes me… so once in a week… month… year" “I will work when I feel like it tomorrow”. What will you do when the muse will never come ? How you will practice in meantime, how you will grow your skills? 


It baffles me. How could we, as artists, collectively agreed to work after motivation sparks. How could we not discarded it as a flawless way of thinking? If we just change word “artist” with “computer scientist” it suddenly starts to  sound ridiculous. Saying “I won’t work today … I am not motivated” suddenly became this “get out of jail” card. Other people will just nod head with face expressing full understanding. 

Sure, you can be the one artist that will wait for this creative spark, but I don’t know where and how far it will take you with your career. Last time I checked the most prominent and successful artists had thousands of works done :  Rembrandt had produced well over 600 paintings,[nearly 400 and 2,000 drawings and Picasso …13,500 paintings 100,000 graphic prints or engravings 34,000 book illustrations 300 sculptures and ceramics

If you want to be professional, act professional. Find a structure for your work, organize yourself, have some work habits. I have some tips to gradually walk from being dependent on feeling to work and rather be able to work everyday just by learning structure and discipline.

Identify your distractions. Only after you identify them you can eliminate them. Spend too much time on Youtube? Create a new account where you will only have art videos background music. When you work there should be no temptation to even check new video. My Youtube home page contains only of instrumental music and art videos.  For myself I found out that best music for work would be relaxing jazz, instrumental music from movies or anime. Having urge to check mail every 20 min? Decide on times of the day when you will check mail. Ideally do it in the morning and after you are done with work. 

Keeping focus for 1 hour straight is too much? Be mindful about the decision you are making everyday.  Do you often times walk up to the fridge while you are working or go to make some tea/coffee? Just to distract you from doing your work and create art? This is something we do to avoid working and still justifying it. 
If you have problems with big stretches of ‘deep work’ use some method like Pomodoro Technique https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique  . Every 25 min of work you have 5 mins break and once you did 4 cycles you get longer break. Aim to have 8-10 pomodoro sessions.To be able to work without distraction for longer period take a look at book by Cal Newport - 'Deep work : Rules for Focused Success in Distracted World’. Author will give you some remedies for your problem with focusing. 
Have a goal. Based on that you will be able to understand what to do and plan your day, week accordingly. If you have goal then you will have deadline. Deadlines are good! they help you finish work. Every finished work will always be 1000 times better than the best work that you only finished in your imagination. 


Stop trying to be perfect. The reality we all strive for perfection but we will never get it. Focus just on producing rather than aiming for unreachable goal. The less your expectation are, the less fear of failure you have and thus the less mental power you need to have to even start doing something. Just think for a second what is for you fear of failure and why are you afraid. Then realistically what will happen when you won’t deliver the masterpiece that is in your head. Exactly. Nothing will happen. You will probably just come to conclusion that it was from the beginning the fear of being judged by other people. You shouldn’t - no one has right to do that and if they do it shouldn’t be your problem that someone wants to bring you down.


Train yourself to write down your tasks. Break down bigger tasks into smaller ones, to write task for everyday. If it’s not in calendar you will probably won’t do it. You can find digital tools to help you with that. There are some apps there to organize your days. What I use is Todoist. You can find something that works for you because this is something very personal how we organize a day. Maybe you are against digital tools and prefer old fashioned paper calendar. Explore, search and try out. For me works mix of digital and traditional. I have notebook just for planning and I add to that Todoist and Evernote. Evernote is great to make quick notes, keep my bookmarks organized and writing down important informations. 


The most important routine is to keep your everyday practice of drawing/sketching. Personally I have few sketchbooks that I fill simultaneously. I explore, I let myself be free there, do mistakes, ink , study, copy masters, do imaginative work, make creative mess. However it opens your mind and let you find out new influences for your work. No one have to look at it because it serves another purpose. Write down dates when you draw - this will help you with keeping daily practice. Make it a goal to fill 4 - 6 sketchbooks a year. That goal will force you to try at least doodle simple 10 min sketch. It is doable and honestly you will see progress but be patient. Keep your tools visible. Surround yourself with them. 


All the above will help you with structure for your day. It won’t take back from your creativity. On the contrary. You will find you have more time and do more each day. You finally start things and finish them.  You will train your willpower to focus on work. Willpower is like muscle it require work to be strong. That will lead to your better focus and ability to deep work. What’s most important you will work on daily basis. There will be variety of course. Some days you will just feel bad but at least you won’t try to make it as excuse to not work on your art.