I'd say that showing up every day is difficult, but even that is something of an understatement. Putting in work whether or not you feel motivated, wrenching problematic projects into shape and hammering out ideas even when nothing comes easily—this requires dedication. Why do we do this, anyway? We wouldn't be worth much if we give up when we get tired and things aren't going right. Here are some things I've learned this year about doggedly taking to my desk whether or not I'm feeling it.
Show up mentally.
It’s easy to go on autopilot when I’m feeling depleted—and of course, the results are never impressive. When was the last time you made something half-heartedly and it turned out amazing? This quickly becomes a dangerous habit—giving in allows your drive to atrophy, and makes it that much more difficult to get back into a mental groove. I like to take a quick break every now and then, like a jog or fiddling with an instrument, when I feel myself losing focus or becoming anxious, to tighten up the loose screws in my brain. One of my tricks is making coffee before sitting down to work on a project; it's one of those tiny luxuries that helps me focus and also requires me to spend a few minutes doing something else so when I come back to the desk with my coffee I feel fresher. Finding little ways to check in mentally helps immensely.
Show up creatively.
This may be a cliché (I thought we were talking about being creative here, Joseph!), but the adage about creativity being a muscle is true—use it or lose it. I’ve found that if I let myself get lazy and stop pushing myself creatively, fewer ideas come, and farther between. Don't settle for something you've always done, or go down the trendy path—flex that muscle! I've recently been looking less and less at the work of other designers, looking for ideas in what I see around me and trying to pull my perspective out of the plane and think in surfaces and animation timelines. Looking for new angles is rigorous but rewarding.
Show up consistently.
This is not only keeping your mindset on the right path and flexing the creative muscle, but proving to yourself, and to others, that you're capable of putting out great work, project after project. Consistency raises outside expectations, which can be intimidating,but putting yourself out there consistently keeps you exploring and breeds a healthy self expectation as well. I commit to get something done every day, even if it's just emails or writing a couple of paragraphs (unless I am taking the day off, which is also healthy on occasion). When I'm working on a piece like this that takes several days or a week to complete, I can't finish something within the day, but as long as I make measurable progress I can know I've accomplished something.
I've been struggling with several of these issues recently—a dry spell, anxiety, lack of creative drive; this project is one result of my commitment to show up every day despite how I feel. Showing up is something we do in faith; this doesn't mean immediate results, but I'm creating something I'm proud of, that means something to me, and I hope this will encourage you to do the same.
Show up every day. It exercises your creativity, maintains your drive, and grows confidence. Showing up isn't easy, but nothing worth doing is easy anyway. If we wanted easy, we wouldn't be doing what we do!