If youre studying the arts or writing or any other creative activity and you want to make it a career, the advice you always get is “Always work. Make sure you’re producing things regularly, things that challenge your talents and force you to grow.”
Now while that’s good advice in it’s own way, I and many people I meet frequently interpret that to mean “If you are not drawing that one project, you are wasting your time and are a failure. If you are not actively producing, you are wasting your time and everyone else’s.”
This isn’t true.
You’re human. Your attention, your energy is a resource you need to manage. You need to eat, sleep, move around! If you don’t take the time you need to rest, you’ll make yourself sick.
So allow me to expand the definition of work. Work isn’t just producing, work is also brainstorming, reference gathering, experimenting, researching, and sometimes even just having artistic fun! Work is finding artists you love and analyzing them, making thumbnails and outlines, throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. Yes, work on that project, but also allow yourself to loosen up, let your mind and pen wander, and warm up before you start firing on all cylinders!
And if you know and want to work on a big project but can’t get yourself started? Then you need to practice a little Creative Inertia. An artist in motion will stay in motion, so doodle! draw little windows and what you see beyond them! write nonsense sentences or throw words together! If you lower your barrier of entry, you’re more likely to get started.
Every teacher I have ever met has taught and retaught me that the intensity of your effort matters much much less than the frequency of your efforts. A 7 hour drawing session and then nothing the rest of the week is less helpful than 7 one hour sessions, where you’re bringing yourself into the “I’m making stuff now,” mindspace every day.
And remember, sometimes in order to be the best artist you can be, you need to be still. Rest, compose yourself, allow your mind-silt to settle before you start diving in again. Take care of yourself!