This is something every artist struggles with. At least I do. It’s something I want to improve, to get better at: the discipline to make myself do art. The discipline to be my own boss. Why not write about it? Maybe it’ll make me more disciplined. And let’s be honest, I’m always writing for myself. So, whatever you get out of this, it’s a bonus.
If you read, watch, or follow other artists online, you’ll find out that, for someone pursuing a career in the field of creativity, “just surviving” college isn’t enough. School can only teach you so much. You need to spend time pursuing your own projects and your own dreams. One step at a time.
In fact, one of Jason Brubaker’s main pieces of advice from his book, Unnatural Talent, is to work on your personal project. Develop it, nourish it and make it grow. Something personal, that you feel passionate about.
So how do you do that? How do you discipline yourself to get your own projects done? I’m not sure, if I’m honest. I haven’t gotten to a point where I’m satisfied with my discipline. But I have made a couple of attempts at improving and learned some things from those. Here’s a list of suggestions and tips for you to try out:
Choose a specific topic or style and stick with it for a week. See how you can say or show the same subject in a different way.
This can be a fun challenge to see how creative you can get within certain boundaries – like using a tool you’ve never had. Or making a series of 4 in. sized paintings. How creative can you be with the limitations you have?
Get other people involved. Tell them you’ll work on a project for 7 straight days. Or let them have a sneak peek of your work in progress – put your honor on the line somehow.
This one is tricky, because if you don’t do what you promised you might feel bad about yourself and do even less. But it works great if it motivates to just sit down and do it. I usually tell one person about one project I want to work on, and to another person a different project. I’ll probably not do all of them, but at least one of those I’ll feel I need to get done, and indeed get it done.
Set aside a time and place to work.
This is one of the most often-repeated-that-no-one-follows pieces of advice given. And hearing it again and again doesn’t make it easier. My tip is for you to find a special place where you can be by yourself, and spread out your materials and art. In that space that you have set aside eliminate as many distractions as you can. Turn off your cellphone, close all other tabs that are not-art-you’re-making-right-now-related. You might be amazed by how much you can do without technology distracting you.
Also, don’t be afraid to have a day in the week where you don’t do art. You need to rest from your art and just enjoy life! I consider it part of my self-care of the week. Making sure you don’t do art for a day will recharge you to come in super excited for the coming week!
Look at yourself in the mirror. Stare deep into your eyes. Find your soul. Punch it a couple times until it realizes that making art is a necessity, not a commodity. And get to work.
Sometimes you just have to get to it. Stop making excuses and make art.
As I said. There’s no easy way to get discipline, or to keep yourself motivated. I’m still figuring it out for myself. But I think the last part of the trick is to never give up on being disciplined. Don’t stop trying to be disciplined just because you didn’t do art that one day, or that one week.
Discipline can only come with a clear vision for what you want from your talent, natural or not. There will be days or weeks when you’ll be disciplined, and there’ll be days you’ll struggle with it. But just keep trying, for if you give up—there’s nothing we can do to help you out.