You may hear some artists say that they wait to be motivated by an inspiring idea to begin their work. This may work for some people, but it’s crippling advice for most. This approach is difficult because you must be extremely driven and disciplined to work only when you’re inspired.
For example, you might feel inspired to work out one day spontaneously. However, the next time you feel inspired to work out, the inspiration alone isn’t enough to get you to work out. It takes using extra self-discipline to push you to work out because you’re now dealing with the added friction of being sore.
You may be asking, “How can I do a lettering piece if I don’t have a good idea and I can’t find the motivation?” Well, it actually begins with making lettering a thing you do regularly.
Show Up Regularly
It starts with a commitment to show up regularly first, and then the motivation will follow. Each one of us has a limited amount of motivation & self-discipline; relying solely on them is setting yourself up for failure. You will eventually run out of one or the other and will be left unable to continue.
The most productive and prolific people don’t have more motivation or self-discipline than you. In fact, they don’t rely on motivation or self-discipline at all. The most prolific form habits to work on their craft regularly, so that motivation and self-discipline aren’t even a factor. It’s like brushing their teeth; they don’t even have to think about it.
Before you can expect to put your best ideas out there, you have to show up regularly.
Show up regularly. We all have a limited amount of motivation & self-discipline; relying solely on them is setting yourself up for failure.
— Dane Gonzalez (@HeyImDane) June 6, 2015
I know the struggles of what it’s like to be out of creative rhythm, and what it’s like to be in creative rhythm. Believe it or not, it was a little easier when I was creating lettering every day for a year, than it has been recently creating a few lettering pieces a week. This is because when I was showing up every day; I didn’t think about whether I was going to create or not. Since, I was using less of my mental focus towards showing up, I had an extreme amount of focus towards my idea and its execution.
Evaluate the Source of Your Motivation
Showing up regularly can be an opportunity to see where your motivation is held. If you show up without inspiration, it’s expected you might feel frustrated initially. Though, once you’ve committed yourself, those frustrations should evolve into excitement. Excitement to solve a problem. Excitement to share your ideas. Excitement to create lettering.
However, if you find yourself constantly dreading the times you show up without motivation, you might just like the idea of lettering more than the act of lettering itself. That’s completely fine. Lettering just might not be your passion right now, but it’s the perfect opportunity to find out what is.
Your brain is good at having ideas, not storing them. You need a system in place to capture your ideas throughout the day. If you’re counting on yourself remembering your lettering idea and why you had it, you might as well forget it. Just as we have limited self-discipline, we also have limited memory capabilities as well.
Use what ever is easiest. You want to remove as much resistance as possible from getting your ideas down in order to make things easier. Whether it’s sticky notes, a notepad, or an app on your phone, keep it easy and use it consistently. You want to build the expectation that when an idea comes to you, it immediately goes in that place for easy reference later.
I use an iOS app called Clear to catalog my lettering ideas. Whenever something comes to mind, I immediately bring out my phone, open up the app, and put it with my other ideas. I’ve built the expectation that that’s where lettering ideas go. This is helpful for when I sit down to work and I’m lost on what to do. I just go to the app and grab an idea to run with.
Just Choose One and Stick with It
Choosing an idea is often the biggest barrier to starting anything. You may think the idea isn’t good enough, but the idea doesn’t matter as much as just showing up for practice. The longer you think about what to work on, the more you’re going to keep yourself from even beginning. Pick something. Pick anything. And just start.
When you sit down to work, quickly pick an idea to work on from your archive. If you’re spending more than ten minutes on deciding what to work on, it’s time to schedule out your ideas. I use the iOS apps Clear and Wunderlist for cataloging lettering ideas and blog post ideas, respectively. When ever I struggle with choosing ideas, I add due dates to ideas as a way to assign ideas to specific days.
Ideally, you want to pick an idea far before you sit down to work so you may get work as quickly as possible. Your job is to overcome inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion. You want to achieve velocity of action as soon as possible, so you may give yourself a chance to actually get your idea out there.
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