Whether it’s career based or simply a hobby, being an artist is not easy. As an artist, I used to struggle keeping up on my crafting and my writing, and that was before I had the added difficulty of trying to work from home.
If you’re an artist, you likely know the routine. You come home from a day of work and you want to relax, not spend hours hunched over a craft table or a keyboard. And if you finally get a day off…HA! Forget it because there are too many chores to do or errands to run or friends to see or relaxation to catch up on.
The truth is, there’s always time. We just make excuses or mark something else as more important. I did it, frequently. When I’m not careful, sometimes I still do it.
That’s where drive comes in. You have to pause and remember what you loved about the writing or the crafting. For me, I love the designs I put on books. I love seeing kids excited by a cover and boasting about the different things they’ll draw or write in it. With writing, I love sharing stories and having people enjoy reading them. Above all, I love spreading inspiration.
That drive is the spark needed to get your fire going again, but it dies without fuel, without motivation.
Motivation. That has got to be one of the toughest things to find and yet the most necessary force out there. It takes that drive, that spark, and it turns it into a fire! The more you feed that spark, the greater it grows!
My writing group recently asked me what kept me motivated. I told them they did, in part. After all, I hated not having a chapter to share when everyone else did. Someone agreed that had motivated them in the beginning, but then when there were no consequences…eh.
I suggested consequences, but that was a dark route to take! Then I tried suggesting rewards, but how do you reward someone for writing a page, or a chapter, or sketching an illustration? Needless to say, no one had an answer, let alone an affordable one.
I went home after that meeting feeling like I had let the group down. I had the spark, and I had learned of theirs, but where was the fuel to feed the flame?
Then I remembered. I remembered the event that had turned my spark into a flame. This is the story I shared with my group on my motivation, my flame.
During some holiday a former uncle of mine asked me what I intended to do with my degree. I told him I had switched from being a Marine Biology major and had turned to English. His face said it all, long before his callous words. He asked me what I thought I could do with THAT degree. His expression had softened momentarily as he brought up the idea of teaching, but when I said I wanted to be a writer, his disapproval and skepticism returned. He either believed college degrees were a waste of time and money, or else he believed I was making a mistake by abandoning the Marine Biology degree (which would have made me more money). I mentioned that I had a novel in the works and had a few chapters already done, but he never responded to that.
The topic changed and the issue was dropped, until a year or so later when I saw him again. He asked me how my book was going. That time his tone had been better, but I could tell he was still disproving of my choice. The tone aggravated me, but I stayed calm and told him I had been busy with school and had not had a chance to work on it much and still only had three to four chapters. He gave me a, "Yeah, thought as much," response and let it go at that.
That was when it clicked in my head. I was giving excuses. Yeah, school had kept me busy, and my job too, but there had been time. I knew that, and I hated to admit it, but the asshole was right, I hadn't done anything worth the money spent on the degree. I realized I was letting my dream slip away without so much as batting an eye. “What am I doing?” I asked myself, and “am I letting my parents down by getting a degree I’m not currently doing anything with?" It sure seemed that way! From that moment on, I decided I wasn't going to let HIM win. He wasn't going to be right about me, or about my 'useless' degree. I was going to succeed so that the next time he asked me how my book was going, I would have an answer I could be proud of!
Accountability. That was the core of my motivation. I was the only one holding myself back. Realizing that hurt, but not nearly as much as my former response to the question: How’s the book going.
It’s the question I think all artist’s fear, “How’s your ___ going?”
I’ve started asking the question to my fellow writers every day. The results? EVERYONE is writing…almost daily! People who struggled to have a chapter every two or three weeks are completing one nearly every week! I can’t speak for them, but that accomplishment has GOT to feel good!
If you’re an artist struggling to keep producing art, I hope this helps give you ideas on how to stay motivated and keep doing the things you love to do.