Weekly Blog 1/14/19 | Stick With It: How To Stay Focused When Doing Long-Term Creative Works

So, I’m one of Those People. You know – the creative people who, even amongst the world of creative people, are pretty spacey, pretty all-over-the-place, and keep on starting new projects even though they  are currently writing a novel, designing three comic books, running a blog, selling on Etsy, and oh-by-the-way also majoring in fashion design at the local college.

One of Those. Yep, that’s me.

My dreams, though, are mostly long-term projects. I do comics, I’m illustrating a Tarot deck, and I’d love to draw graphic novels at some point. I love to tell stories and I intend to do more comics, comic series, and card decks.

The issue is that jumping from project to project like I tend to is pretty much the opposite of what I need to do in order to make these long-term projects work.

So how do I do it? I’ve published comic books, I’m most of the way through my debut fully-illustrated divination deck – but if my temperament is that of a typical flighty Gemini, how do I manage to do these big projects anyway?


The following are my tactics for dealing with that very issue.

Keep it steady. Most big projects are not a sprint – they’re a marathon. Meaning that through the course of it, you’re going to get bored, you’re going to get distracted, you’re gonna want to quit. That’s natural and normal and fine. What’s not fine is when you let boredom, distraction, or disillusionment drag you off your marathon course.

The success of a big project is centered less in doing “good” work, than in doing steady, consistent work. When it comes to comics and graphic novels, for example, the people who successfully complete them are not the people who can draw the best, the prettiest, the most accurate drawings – it’s the people who can churn out a page a day, or more, for months on end.

I’m not sure about slow, but steady definitely wins the race.

Focus on the finish line. We often daydream about our work, either consciously or unconsciously, and while we can’t control what our mind drifts to, we usually have at least some control over what we dwell on. So when you’re doing one project and find yourself dreaming about working on or starting another, don’t dwell on it – bring your focus back to the idea of working on, or finishing, your current project. Imagine its beauty, its significance, even theoretical success, if that’s what it takes to keep your focus on what you’re doing now.

This can be tricky, and please, don’t beat yourself up for getting distracted with other new ideas. And don’t disregard them – just don’t abandon your current project to jump to another! Take notes, make some rudimentary sketches, get your ideas down…and then save them for later. You can focus on them in the future, but for right now, your current project takes precedence.

As frustrating as it is, letting the future take care of the future projects and sticking to one or two in the moment is usually the best way to go.

Maintain your motivation – whatever that means. I know this seems incredibly obvious, but feeding your muse, feeding your motivation, is essential – no matter what that means! If what really inspires you is listening to My Chemical Romance and lip-syncing in your room, then do that. If what inspires you is drinking incredibly fancy specific tea and burning specific incense, do that. If you’re inspired by new art materials, treat yourself (within reason and budget) to a couple new things.

Try not to judge yourself when you’re doing your “refill the inspiration” activities. Try not to let others judge you, either. (Both are very difficult at times.) I personally am super inspired by watching (actually, listening to) YouTube videos of people doing art, in the background, while I paint; this means that I watch literally hours of YouTube every day, but I try not to judge myself or let anyone give me a hard time about my constant YouTubing.

Because in the end, this is YOUR art and YOUR inspiration. As long as you’re not harming yourself or anyone else, nobody else gets a vote on how you foster your inspiration.

Be accountable. Accountability has been an extremely helpful way for me to get myself to get the work done. I have daily check-boxes in my bullet journal that keep me on track for various tasks, like “work day job,” “paint a Tarot card,” “work on comics.” Deadlines as well as daily work  times have allowed even a Gemini like me to stick with these projects that sometimes last upwards of a year.

Accountability can take many forms. Sometimes it means checking in with a friend or partner regularly and having them ask you, “Did you work on x today?” Other times it’s just a bullet journal where you are held accountable to yourself. And still others use social media, and an upload schedule, to make sure they “at least make something.

Love the work itself. They say the people who are successful are not the ones who most love the art form or the ideas they’re working with – it’s the people who learn to love (or at least deal with) the everyday grind. It really doesn’t matter how much you want to be an artist, if you can’t tolerate daily painting and sketching, promoting yourself, re-doing work, and all the other practicalities of being an artist day to day.

That’s all I’ve got. I hope that some of it helps you. If you have any questions or comments, please do feel free to leave them down below.

And until next time, I hope you’re having a really excellent day – and I’ll talk you again very, very soon!

-Taylor

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