Wanting = Working

ariel_burn_220w“You have to really want it.”

We hear this all the time from creative people who have gone before us and attained the same kind of success to which we aspire.

But although this mantra is popular, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful.

…because we do really want it.

For most of the aspiring and pre-professional creatives I know, wanting it isn’t the problem.

The problem, as I see it, is that too many people think that wanting = wishing.

Our actions often expose a deeply-held (often subconscious) belief that if we just wish harder, then one day we will wake up to a personal creative renaissance, a new, inspiring career or an impressive level of skill.

…but wishing is NOT the same thing as wanting.

Wanting = working.

Most of us can actually do something in response to our occupational frustrations but we have to stop complaining, wasting precious time in front of screens, attempting to satisfy our creative hunger with consumerism and obsessing over the “competition.”

It’s time to build something real.

I think you know, in your heart of hearts, what the real thing is.

…and if you don’t, start here.

For The Road:

How To Keep Going If You Hit A Dead-End

Why Giving Up Won’t Solve Your Problems

21 Butt-Kicking Questions To Help You Stay Focused On Your Creative Dream

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Lord Ryan Santos

It is so true. You must put in work and time. There are so many distractions in the world that you have to block out just about everything if you want to become what you want to be and not wishing what you could have been. You just got to get out and do it. You will get criticized and you will fail. No matter what, you become a better person and you become a more humbling person to appreciate what you have become. To live and enjoy a job in the art field is like growing up watching Saturday morning cartoons and enjoying every second of it. Thanks Chris for this website, it is an inspiration to me.


Chris Oatley

That’s right, Lord Ryan. As an example: I rarely play mobile games, even though I love them because they turn into such a huge time suck! But I have several friends who just burn precious hours playing mobile games and then complain about not having time or energy to work towards their dreams…



This is so true man… I just started actually wanting, to be instead of wishing to be just about yesterday i could say…I got tired of always thinking about being as good as a lot of artists i see, and planning to draw draw draw, but almost always end up wasting time looking at speed paintings, or art demos, or just wasting time all together…So i decided to draw something , and to motivate myself a little more i decided to draw live on live stream. I’s sticking to drawing at least one thing a day at least, as opposed to drawing thinking of drawing something and drawing nothing.


Chris Oatley

Eli, this is great to hear. Listen to ArtCast #58 (Improve Your Art Before You Start), the Paper Wings series about Time Management and the episode called “How To Pick Your Next Personal Project.”




And stay away from speed painting!

Write me if you need to know why. 😉



why we should stay away from speedpaintings? i thought it is very usefull to be ablo to do some speedpaintings. Could you explain why it is bad?


Matthew Sample II

Stop me if I’m wrong, but speed painting is painting without thinking.

On one hand, it’s great that you’ve got your skills honed to the point where you do not need to think about some of the details.

On the other hand, painting without thinking is lesser painting. It’s much easier to fall into mannerisms when you are not thinking.

And on top of that, speed painting is usually not as good as well thought out work.


Rali Minkova

By speedpainting here, do we mean the use of custom brushes to achieve fast results for ideation as seen in fb groups, or in general a fast lay-in of brushwork that can be used to analyze for example colors when doing photo studies?

I could guess why one should stay away from the former interpretation, especially since a lot of people without fundamentals just dive in and entirely abandon any sort of understanding for the sake of speed. But in the latter understanding of the term speedpaint, perhaps as long as you set a goal after each speedpaint-study(?), shouldn’t it be something you learn from after all?



This is such a hard lesson to get through to people. Maybe because we live in a time of instant gratification, I dunno, but the number of people I’ve given advice to, I’ve always ended it with ‘but this is going to take time and a lot of effort’ Seems those kind of words do just wash over people now, and I do think that it does have to be a self realisation to some degree. I also love the fact you say stay away from speed painting – again, maybe a factor of this instant gratification thing. If you think of it like a language, the equivalent of speedpainting before you’ve done the longer harder work is attempting to speak, say french, but just blurting out a bunch of french sounding words without knowing what they mean. Yeah, you might impress someone else who doesn’t speak french, but anyone who’s French will instant know you’ve no idea what you’re doing. And we all know learning a language isn’t an overnight thing!



I definitely know the feeling of wanting that dream. Passion fuels the desire to work towards our goals, but people unfortunately burn out quickly if there isn’t instant gratification. It’s a difficult lesson to learn. I think people fear criticism and take that to mean that they don’t have the talent, which is where a large amount of people stop pursuing their dreams. There are so many reasons to feel like he or she can’t grow as an artist. They compare themselves to another artist’s work or feel like it will take years before they reach the level they want to achieve. To get to the point I want to reach I have a daily routine of practicing my skills, working on a project that requires a difficult technique, and to remember the passion I have to create. That satisfying feeling of one day coming to work in a place I love is worth the effort.


Lauren Scott

This is so true. I love everything about this blog post. If you have the true desire you can dig down deep and execute doing what you want. Day dreaming ain’t going to get you the dream job!



I knew all this already, but reading it is still refreshing and motivational- cheers Chris :)


Pat marconett

For me it’s always been about setting up good habits. The first few weeks are frustrating, but pretty soon it just becomes your rutine & you feel like your missing something when you don’t do it. I had a teacher tel us, drawing is like drinking a case of beer. If you have 1 beer a day it’s not so hard, but try cramming 30 beers in 1 night & your gonna kill yourself. But I definatly go through periods where I just don’t have time.


Sean Azzopardi

Great reminder, Chris. The only way things get made is by finding the time to make them. With that in mind, better get back to to it. Major project almost complete, after which I can join in on forum activity again. The PD2 stuff looks good btw :)



I would like to ask if a person can creatively create character to animation and the filmmaker would like to see and buy the idea/creation since you see it there in animation world how can you comment on this. Thank you


Sam Gauss

I agree with this, and I find it encouraging rather than stern. It’s a tough balance, figuring out what to sacrifice to make time, without also giving up so much that you’re punishing yourself or completely draining your reserves. For a long time I kept putting things I wanted to learn off, reserved for “when I have a career going and thus am not frantically trying to make that job-obtaining portfolio.” I realized eventually that this attempt at motivation and discipline had escalated into emotional flagellantism, which worst of all left me too exhausted to work efficiently—or at all.

I’m trying to allow myself to have more outlets and… we’ll see if it pays off, I suppose, so I might regret this later. But at both this stage and previous of time management, the least helpful advice was that I had to “really want it!”


Rali Minkova

Yet another post I can entirely relate to. I’m well into the second half of my 20’s and this wishing phase had a really tight grip on me, until I realized I could see results and improvement, but only if I had a clear purpose of why I’m doing it. It doesn’t help when you know don’t even know where to start and how to go about it, or that wishing and a ton of procrastination follows go hand-in-hand.

As soon as your vision is right there in front of you, free from accumulated wish-dust and enveloped in a generous amount of shiny determination, no matter what you do, just start and keep going; even if it’s an hour worth of work. Learning happens the entire day – look, observe, analyze everything you see visually, read and practice. Some might have more hours available to practice than others, but regardless of the amount spent, I really want to believe that it all adds up and you get where you’re supposed to. The world will conspire to help you achieve what you want, but only if you do your share of hard work first, right? :)

As always, thank you for these wonderful, inspiring and encouraging posts Chris!



JUST finished having this discussion. As a perfectionist, I swing wildly between “I feel like…” (which is what creatives warn against following) and “I have to…” (seeing what I need to do to get what I want as an obligation). I’m rarely able to think about what I ultimately “want.” I lose sight of my goal, what I “want” and it makes it hard to choose to work.

I’m hoping to change that by defining what I want and using that as a foundation to make the right choices. To work when I don’t feel like it. I enjoy the work not as something I have to do in the moment, but as something I get to do to get to my longterm “want”.

So glad to read this and this moment. Very encouraging.



If Wanting it really was enough I would have had a job in it by now heh, truth is ;life will trow any lemon it has in your face and before you know it you’ll have no choice but to get that ‘real’ job as the bills don’t pay themselves (sadly enough, lol)

But I think I get the point, I Want it, therefor I draw, learn, write and put time into my project, whether it ever become popular isn’t that important tbh, but I would like to roll into the Illustration industry eventually and its important to keep the journey fun.

Daydreaming about it is far from helpful.


Jason Crawford

This is such a great topic.

Also, thank you Chris for your website. It was about a year ago that I stumbled across you and having listened to podcast 058 (Artistic growth not a goal), it has definitely challenged and inspired me going forward. You Chris are exceptional in your insight. Rare in deed from what I have found online. So thank you, sincerely.

The desire to grow in my art had become a recent reality only when I made myself accountable to measurable results. But it meant a lot of pain. Lots of failed drawings, paintings. And it continues. However I think accepting the reality of failure makes you not so precious, where you don’t need to be. How many times have I had that coincidental ‘oh, now I get it’ moments during the failed attempts? Answer – plenty of times. It is soooo worth the struggle.

Ok, one last thing (hehe), the ticking clock. It’s annoying right? You want to get to point A as quickly as possible. This is wishful thinking. You just can’t get around the fact that it’s putting in the work and it’s going to take time. Step by daily step.

Thanks for the great post.


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