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

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My friend Debbie has a big BUT.

…and it has become a serious problem.

Debbie is a creatively-unfulfilled (and slightly depressed) graphic designer.

For years, I’ve challenged her to start searching for a new path to greater creative fulfillment by:

…and Debbie’s big BUT always gets in the way:

“Sometimes I dream of starting my own creative agency – BUT – I don’t have time.”

(For the record, Debbie does have time to stay comprehensively up-to-date on the latest geek news and TV shows.)

Time isn’t Debbie’s problem. …it’s her big BUT.

How big is your BUT?

Is it getting in the way of your dream?

Read on to find 21 butt-kicking questions that will help you be more focused, effective and productive as you pursue your creative dreams…

1.) Are you tired of creatively unfulfilling work?

…then why waste your nights and weekends with creatively unfulfilling rest?

Regular, measurable progress toward your big dream will probably generate some positive energy.

…and that’s WAY better than yet another digital binge on Netflix or video games, right?

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2.) What are you afraid of?

If you haven’t checked something significant off your list in the past thirty days, it might be time for some deep soul-searching.

Procrastination is fear in disguise.

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3.) Have you designed the logo? …formed the LLC? …built the website? …found the right collaborators?

Is that ALL you’ve done?

Ephemeral tasks like these are usually just excuses to avoid working on your actual project.

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4.) Where’s the fire?

True passion isn’t the explosion of creativity that happens when you get what you think is a good idea…

It’s the slow burn that keeps you going through all the cold, dark nights.

If you stopped because you “lost passion” for a dream, you might not have been passionate about it to begin with.

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5.) Have you planned to fail?

Yes. Your project might fail.

…which is a good reason to stop wasting time. You’ll need it for the next one.

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6.) Are you practicing productive procrastination?

Make a “Procrastination List” of less-exhausting TO-DO’s which will ensure progress – even when you’re procrastinating.

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7.) Who’s in charge here?

If it’s YOUR project, then why are you waiting on someone else to finish something before you can move forward?

Don’t place the fate of your dream in the hands of someone who doesn’t care about it as much as you do.

…and if you DO have to wait on a developer or a designer, there are still a hundred other tasks more important than “Play Candy Crush until I fall asleep.”

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8.) When did you give your crappy boss permission to steal part (or, God forbid, ALL) of your dream?

You didn’t.

So don’t.

Bad managers and office politics will exhaust your creative energy.

Don’t give in to hate. Plan your escape.

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9.) Have you searched your schedule for pockets of productivity?

Your day job lunch break could be the most uninterrupted hour of your day.

Make it count.

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10.) What’s on your plate?

Junk food is dumb food. A healthy diet is like rocket fuel for your dreams.

You are what you eat.

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11.) Have you been picking your battles?

Maybe you picked too many battles and got overwhelmed.

As often as possible, do one high-impact task instead of five low-impact tasks.

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12.) Is there an easier way?

Technology might slow you down at times, but you can’t let it stop you.

Are you complicating the process with “upgrades” or “features”?

What is the minimum, viable version of your idea?

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13.) LOL! Click Here To See These 4,815 Hilarious Epic Fails!

…if you want to get depressed and neglect your dreams.

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14.) Are you protecting your zen?

Keep your workspace completely free of dream diversions like bills and laundry.

All unpleasant reminders must go.

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15.) Are you “experimenting” or just procrastinating?

Be honest.

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16.) Are you planning or hiding?

If your project is a giant slingshot, “world building” and research are the rubber band.

The further you pull it back, the further you’ll fly.

…as long as you let go before the rubber band snaps.

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17.) Can it wait?

Most distractions can wait.

…but, technically, so can your dream.

So you’ll have to decide which one wins.

Active work is almost always more effective than REactive work.

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18.) Do you have a dreamcatcher?

My friend Victoria Ying said “Your brain is a processor, not a storage drive.”

Record every idea in a place where you know you can find it later.

This habit frees your mind and gets new ideas flowing.

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19.) What are you waiting for?

Nobody is going to pick you.

…until you pick yourself.

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20.) Are you resting or crashing?

When you truly need to rest and “re-charge,” don’t do it as a rash reaction to burnout.

Plan time for your most effective rest.

Don’t dream until you drop.

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21.) What does “success” look like?

Of course, you have important, non-professional relationships and other non-work responsibilities.

…which is exactly why it’s so important to make every spare moment count.

Without a clear picture of holistic, balanced success in your mind, one part of your life will always be eating the other part and vice versa.

Trust me. I know from experience.

Take time to write a clear definition of success (illustrations encouraged) so you have a “true north” by which to navigate.

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How’s Your BUT?

Which of these 21 Butt-Kicking Questions was most helpful to you and why?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Learn More:

Seven Time Management Tips To Accelerate Your Personal Project

Six Time Management Tips To Create More Space In Your Life

The Five Lies Of Creative Block

Subscribe & Get My FREE Digital Painting Kit!

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{ 107 comments… read them below or add one }

Misty

A great list of questions Chris. Thanks for working those into a post for us!

I would have to say the one that hits home most with me right now is ‘Where is the fire?” Last year I was the most excited I have ever been, about my ideas, about creativity in general, about all the possibilities. I worked hard, slept little and in the end I experienced some kind of burnout and several months of a sort of depression ensued.
Now I am starting to get some of that fire back, (drawing every day, filling my sketchbook up thanks to your advice) …but the fire is for my career in general. I really want to apply it to a personal project and finally get something done, come what may.
I am digging around for THE project and I have a feeling that none will live up to my expectations. I want it to feel like ‘the best idea ever!’ but really I feel like I have been there and done that… had that awesome idea so many times and not been able to act on it because another idea comes along in a couple of days and outshines the one before. How do I stop the madness and commit?!!!

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Chris Oatley

Haha. Yeah. As much as I have tried to practice restraint over the years, I still struggle with that.

I have found it helpful to write everything down and avoid taking action on it until after I’ve talked it through with my circle of trust.

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Abrian Curington

Ah THE personal project! I know just what waiting for the perfect idea feels like. Personally with my latest personal project I was at the idea crossroads again wondering whether I should really put my whole soul into it since it might not be that great or… maybe it’s not what I’m meant to do so I’ll realize it’s a waste of time… or I should research the craft more so I can start with a bang knowing all the rules… But I finally jumped in. And better ideas DID come but they just got incorporated to make the project even better! And some pages are far less than perfect (it’s a comic) but I’m learning a ton. Who says we can’t just go back and rework later? :)

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Misty

Thanks Abrian for the input. Many best wishes on your comic project! You are right of course, I could start the project and then it can just morph into a really cool monster of ideas over time. That’s probably the secret to getting started. To expect change to come but to continually edit with an eye toward a final focused theme.
My project (while being a mystery in some ways) at least has a basic structure now, thanks to you Chris and your winsome advice about personal projects. I will be writing/illustrating my own children’s book… probably to be self published in the future. I’m learning alot about the industry and basic way things work but I am anxious to get in there and start creating something with a story to it. I guess I am aiming for a ‘small win’ of finishing something professional looking and whole in the near future.
Still working on building that Circle of Trust Chris. I wish it were that easy. I struggle with that one a lot. If I had any real life friends in visual arts (or any arts) I would totally be asking their input. For now I guess I’ll have to settle for the voices in my head!

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Tegan Clancy

Hi Misty, I hope you find your circle of trust soon. I have found people who I study with have become mine, mainly for the fact we are learning and helping each other in a related field. Any old university friends you can reconnect with, a mentor you can reach out too, or is there a short course that will help develop your children’s book at the same time? :)

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Misty

Tegan, thank you for the suggestions. My friends from art school are now in other fields. I would love to go back and take a class or two or some online classes in order to connect. That is a great idea. I may be able to do that sometime in the future.

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Umbravita

I’ve learned there’s no great idea, just ideas you make great.

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Misty

Great advice Umbravita, thanks.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah. This is kind of Ed Catmull’s opinion. …so you’re in good company.

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Tannie

I used to suffer a lot from this too. The flood of ideas wouldn’t stop. But then… it occurred to me at a rather young age, I have all these ideas… and no implementation. But I asked myself, when I die, which one do I want people to remember the most? Because I’ve heard that regret before dying is one of the biggest things that people are the most sad about before they go.
For me personally, I have this very elaborate planned universe, its a streamline of stories on a timeline. I will write ideas on them down, like an outline, but I’ve actually not written the stories. However, I have them on hand, so that I can add, erase, and modify the story as I become more available. It’s the only way I can actually manage all the ideas at once, because I’m one of those people who writes a story, and then in the middle, I’ll start to get another idea and it makes me want to switch to that idea. And it really drives me nuts when that happens. So this way, if I have multiple stories, I’m not doing that. I know I may or may not finish them when I’m lying on my deathbed, but maybe I’ll ONE story finished when I do and that would make me fulfilled!
But really, I’m only 25. I know that not telling stories before I die is one of my biggest fears… hahahaha

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Misty

Tannie, thanks for the input. I do have a really big story to tell that I continually make notes for. I have begun writing it once or twice, but instead I really like fine tuning the plot. I know that when I get it to the point that I am happy with all the elements of the story, then the writing will be the last chore. In the meantime I really enjoy learning all about the process of writing and how to tell a story with heart. I’ve always been an artist and a dreamer but I never realized until I began this story that I have it in me to really write. I have gotten a lot from ‘Invisible Ink’ by Brian Mcdonald. A number one recommendation from Chris here! Keep making your notes! I know you will settle in and write a fantastic story some day. Your stuff on your site looks wonderful, btw!

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Abrian Curington

This is a great list. People at my day job often ask me if I have any days off from artwork and that’s typically a no! I find art relaxing even if it Is my work.

I’ve basically been working through this whole list lately! But #15 sounds most like me if you replace “experimenting” with technique and process research… but as of about Feb 2014 I’ve decided to just start Doing rather than researching and it’s paying off! ArtCast and PaperWings have become my “background music” lately. Keep up the inspiring content!

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Chris Oatley

Oh yeah. That one is tricky. I find get lost in “experimentation” procrastination now that I’m my own boss when I don’t think I encountered it very often when I was working for Disney. There’s something about being in charge that makes you want to explore every avenue to make sure you have the right answer… Not a completely unwise use of time but it can turn into a huge time suck.

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Abrian Curington

I just always want to be excellent before I start which is silly to some degree because we’re always better than we think we are. But I’ve started drawing Much more and putting my research into practice trying to turn my tendency into productivity!

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Heino

Number 8, it was like it was written for me!

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Chris Oatley

Haha! I think every one of us have surrendered passion for our dream to a butthead at some point in the past. Gotta get it back! :)

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Heino

Amen, brother!

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Nick Merritt

This is my identical situation. I’m a graphic designer who is severely unfulfilled and slightly depressed. I recently quit the job I had in search of a new one at a larger agency. I thought this would solve the problem.

But now I’m starting to question whether graphic design is even what I’m passionate about anymore. There are so many different areas I wish I could explore: video game design, concept art, comics, animation, etc. all of these sound more interesting to me than the career I’ve had for the last 7 years. The problem is that I live Memphis, TN. There are no opportunities for jobs like those around here. Moving is not an option because the wife and I recently bought a house.

I have started a personal project though. I’ve started writing a webcomic. The idea is only about two weeks old, but it’s an interesting, complex story with a lot of moving parts. This has been one of the few things that have excited me lately. I love figuring out these characters and their journies. I will eventually draw the webcomic, but not until I have a solid grasp on the story itself.

Sadly, this isn’t a solution to my career dilemma. But it has been good knowing I can still feel that creative drive for something.

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Chris Oatley

Nick, can you email me? I’ll put you in touch with one of my best art buddies. He lives in Memphis, TN (might be moving soon though). But he might be able to help. Also: we are not beholden to geography any more!!!

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Misty

Amen to that geography statement! I’m sure counting on that! Good luck with your web comic Nick!

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Nick Merritt

Email sent.

That’s true! I’ve done freelance design for people all around the world. I think my issue is I have too many interests. I love learning new things. Graphic Design hasn’t felt new to me in a long time. So I either need to find an environment that fosters that need to create and explore, or I need to decide on a new career path.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah. Too many interests is a constant struggle for most creative people I know. I have a lesson in my email series about it. I think it comes on week 7 or 8ish… http://ChrisOatley.com/newsletter/

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Eric Summers

Wow, reading that was like a glimpse into my own head. It’s scary how much our situations are alike Nick, and I’m just an hour south of you in Oxford, MS. I hope everything works out for you, because I’m going through the EXACT same thing myself right now.

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Misty

Eric, it’s a relief to see an illustrator working in MS. I’m in Northeast Louisiana and it’s like a wasteland of visual arts (unless you count traditional painters). By the way, your website is great and your work looks amazing.

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Nick Merritt

It’s a relief to know there are others going through the same situations. Good luck with everything.

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Silvia

That were happy times when the big problems for not moving forward lied within me. Now it is caring for my 92 year old grandmother, my Mum who get a hip replacement age 71 and comes out of the rehab center tomorrow and a day job as a Freelancer I earn very little in and for that I have to work even more. Unfortunately that was the only Freelance job I can get in the rural region where I life. I’m 48 and when I apply for other/better paid jobs I usually do not even get a reply. My last TV session was in February when I watched all 68 episodes of Breaking Bad in 5 days. But still I’m making babysteps to do what I love and earn some money with it, but I have no idea what to do to earn money and be able to move faster forward with what I love.

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Chris Oatley

Oh yeah. Kids and aging parents are important and significant investments of time and energy.

Sometimes it’s possible to hire help for certain things but I also want to remain deeply connected to my family. …so, to me, it’s a given that I’ll be deeply connected to the vast majority of family matters.

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Silvia

But sometimes it helps to get some appreciation, you know. ;-) I have always this strange feeling that I should be able to juggle all those responsibilities without any effort, but at the end of the day I’m often astonished that after all I’m human and I can’t do all those things others need 48 hours for in only 4 hours.
I have so many ideas that first I’m excited and then they pile up so quickly that I lose the golden thread and do not know where to start to get at least a little bit done in reality. But hey, I’m improving and at least I am sometimes excited about something.
But what really bothers me is the fact, that 8 years ago I lost all my savings because I wanted to help someone out. Sometimes my thoughts are running in circles that the situation would be so much different if I would have this money. This is not going to happen and I can’t even say that I would not do it again in the same situation. But still the thought stays and troubles me. If only I could get rid of that thought …

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Tegan Clancy

Man they are butt kicking questions! “What are you waiting for” is a question I’ve asked a lot lately. My passion for visual development has been a hobby for a couple of years now and it’s scary as hell getting ready to make the decision to make it priority.
I think all of us artists always get scared, overwhelmed, we must group together and help each other. Learning together and sharing knowledge is an amazing thing. The circle of trust I have personally found in the Oatley Academy is a huge reason I’m starting to ask this question now. :)

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Britny Arnett

MWAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHA! The barrage of buts, procrastination, and time wasting shall cease by order of the Resistance. Thank you for the post and all the Facebook posts and tweets leading up to it. It’s really helping me pummel through my fears and take the bull by the horns. I GOT THIS!

On a more serious note, I’m really glad you brought up eating healthy. Not because I don’t eat unhealthy… I just forget to eat when I’m so into working. I’ve been working on it though. Having a hubby who cooks is the bees knees. He helps a lot. Anyway, thanks for the super oats, Chris!

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Chris Oatley

Same here, Britny!

If not for Angie’s amazing cooking I would forget to eat like three times a week!

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Kream

Ouch!!! I just spent 5 minutes procrastinating just checking this post and writing this lousy comment… I better stop.

now.

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Chris Oatley

HA!

So sorry to divert you from your dream, Kream!!! ;)

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Juan

Oh man! I want to favourite this a thousand times over! Thanks for the tough love reminder :)

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Chris Oatley

Thank YOU, Juan! Just keep swimming!

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Andrea

Actually, I don’t think that any of those questions apply for me since I am unemployed for 10 years now and I never worked as an artist, so I have no idea how things work. I am juggling between 3d and 2d so sometimes I feel so tired from both of them. Maybe I just need a schedule, one day for 3d and one day for 2d.

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Matthew Pritchard

I really liked #2 where it said procrastination is fear in disguise. I can definitely relate to that one.

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Scott Wiser

Confession time. The other day, I felt the most overwhelming gratitude that I wasn’t animating in a big studio. WHAT!?!?! Yeah, I was surprised too. It came as I remembered that after animating in Alvin 3, I was interviewed by an upcoming, large studio. I was one of the 3 they interviewed and they took the other two, who quickly left that studio and …they have been working at Disney & Pixar for two years now. While I was happy for their success, I wondered why I was not “up” there with them. But my sadness has ended, in a big way.

The dream that got me into this industry was: DEVELOP ANIMATED FEATURES. But most people in the industry told me that was a bad idea, that I should focus on one skill. So I chose animation, got a feature job, and their advice worked for six months + 1.5 on the Dreamworks dragon’s adventure game. I say this with only a tinge of bitterness, because truthfully, I’m grateful I followed their advice…

Even though I’m now the only animator or artist at my current company, I’m developing animated short commercials. In my personal time, I’m working on a feature length chapter book with illustrations. These efforts are gaining the attention of big name directors and key people in the animation industry. So finally, I’m living my dream. It’s not perfectly ideal: I’d like to work with other artists in person and not just through the internet, but I truly believe that will come with time.

The reason I share this story is to encourage everyone who reads the above post to TAKE CHRIS’S ADVICE!!! Since I’ve met him, I’ve thought he was on to something big, and my friendship with him is one of the major things that has brought my dream to pass! NOW is the time to live your dream. Seriously! Get moving!

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Rogerio Caetano

I’ll print this list and put in the mirro at bathrrom to see every day and reminder me about to avoid my buts

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Samantha Burrow

I’m a terrible procrastinator, I sit at my desk during the ol’ 9-5 wishing I could be at home being arty, but then when I get home I’m like “I wonder if I can get that legendary on Diablo 3″ I have only myself to blame.

I think I need to get in the habit of keeping a sketch book in my bag, I have two hours of bus travel a day, I should probably use them.

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Umbravita

4 is what I struggle with the most.

I am not a passionate person — I’m pretty apathetic to most things. Maybe it’s because I grew up depressed or didn’t get enough hugs as a kid (lol), but I find it extremely difficult to get excited about anything. Art included. I envy people who can really get into it that they forget to eat, can’t sleep — I don’t get that. I struggle with procrastination and focus constantly, have to take breaks every 20-40 minutes, and I’ve been questioning why I’m doing this for a long time now. But art makes me less miserable than anything else so I stick with it. (I love business but that’ll mean cubicles. No thanks.)

Day to day I don’t get much joy out of it but I like looking back on my day and seeing that I got a lot done. I like comparing current pieces to old ones. I like learning new things. And even though I question myself all the time I’ve got the next few years mapped out and somehow I smile at it even though I struggle with the day-to-day stuff. I open a book of concept art and I’m absorbed and get excited reading artist commentary. I’ve started to learn design and the research and thumbnails perk me up a little. I get the most excited when I hear artists talking about how they attract business — ha!

So this quote got me thinking: “True passion isn’t the explosion of creativity that happens when you get what you think is a good idea… It’s the slow burn that keeps you going through all the cold, dark nights.”

I never get the explosion, but I’m great at the slow burn. Maybe the grind is just getting me down and I need a project.

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Kelley

I relate to that, Umbravita. Lately I’ve been struggling to feel excited about drawing – but I do like reading about it, looking at my old work, learning about composition, writing blog posts.

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Guiimonteiro

Oh Man, what a amazing post.

I am graduated a year ago in advertising but since a finished the unniversity I started to be lost. So I decided to restart my life (without complain about 4 years of graduation ) and pursuit my passion about art, give something back to the world, express myself. Them I found the Oatley Academy and man, this is great. I have made some friends, friends who inspire me, meet a lot of mentors and surrounded me with art.

HERE COMES THE BUT… but since I started this new approach I had to made a choice, give up of my old life and most of my old friends to start from scratch, so the tip 21 made a lot of sense to me, I feel lost sometimes, but when I read this sentence ” Take time to write a clear definition of success (illustrations encouraged) so you have a “true north” by which to navigate.”

I saw what path I need to started. It´s a lot of emotions and I can handle it so well yet.

Thank you Chris for inspire us.

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Amanda McClees

This is a great post.

I’m sorry to say that most of these questions hit home in one way or another. I’m a recent graduate hoping for a career in the character design/creative development field. I sometimes feel crushed by the pressure of “Is my portfolio good enough?” and “Will I find the right job?”. As a result, I sometimes just shut down and do nothing. Not good.

These questions are hard and I don’t like most of my answers. All the more reason to do what I can to change them.

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Adrien

Thought-provoking!

I’m definitely in a weird place where these questions are concerned. I’ve started the webcomic, I love it to death, I’ve been working steadily every night and on the weekends at it for almost three years now–I definitely have the passion. I’m definitely learning as I go.

I guess my big -but- is I don’t know how to expand it. I promote a little bit, but I don’t know how to market past that. My wildest dream would be being able to live off my comic (or at least supplement my income.) BUT I’m afraid of soliciting. I don’t want to shove it in people’s faces! I know I hate it when people do that to me.

I’d be happy to just make my comic and let whatever audience come what may, but I have big problems with #8 on this list. Day Job saps my emotional and physical health, and by proxy cripples my ability to create effectively. I’m planning my escape as we speak, -but- I guess I really don’t know how to go towards being creative for a living.

Thanks for writing this! I’ve got some thinking to do.

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Michelle Fitzpatrick

#2 and # 15 really smacked me in my own big BUTs.
I recently pulled out of a long, artless depression and since then have been filling a sketchbooks with studies, sketches and experiments to try to get back on track and push myself beyond where I was. Doing Small Pieces to “perfect technique”. Spending a lot of time “researching” art, tutorials, and techniques on my iPad. On the couch. Without a pencil in hand. Feeling so unfulfilled because I’m worried about starting a project when I’m not “ready” yet. I’ll never be ready until after I finish the next project. And the next. Yeah. I get it. I get it now. I get what I’m scared of.

Time to stop mucking about and get on with it.
Thanks. I needed that.

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Johanna

Michelle/ Chris,
Inspiring!
I too have been pulling myself out of a creative slump. I graduated university completely exhausted by the endless development work we had to do and spent a year not doing anything and feeling like I was sinking into quicksand, the more I struggled the faster I sank. I then went on a large trip to clear my head and get me out of the environment which I was in and it helped a lot, though I am still butting against my own BUT’s which are getting in the way again. This time though I am pushing myself through the muck of my own negativity everyday and still I find myself reasearching and sketching telling myself I am practicing or experimenting but never actually producing enough finished pieces. Over the last week I have been surrounding myself with Chris’s podcasts and the Escape from Illustration island podcast and I have come to the realization that every artist goes through these periods and through the support of your friends and even reading these posts we/me can become better artists pushing through hurdles to create creat create! We wouldn’t worry so much if we didn’t love to do it, its just DOING it, stopping the constant thinking! I feel the one that rang in my head in this post is #1, though they all apply to me in one way or the other, “Regular measureable progess towards your dream will probably generate positive energy.” because every day is going to be another day we can do better, one step at a time:)

I still have hurdles to get through but I WILL get through it and like you said “I get it now’ Let get on with it:D
Thanks Chris for this post and the podcasts! I’ve just enrolled into the magic box and have started the first lessons this month!

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Mandy Milliron

I just learned(and somewhat still learning) how to control my issues with number 11 and number 18. I am still getting my idea breeding brain where it keeps from overflowing my head with writing down ideas and then if I do flesh out an idea, put it away for some time like a draft and come back to it later with fresh eyes. That and figuring out how to balance out which projects I take on and such. However, there is one BUT that I have been experiencing that is not on this list and you can call it the cousin of number 8: Life gives you lemons when you least expect it, make the most of it.

I am not talking about my artwork and projects, but life in general. Over the past two to three weeks, I have had two family members in the hospital(thankfully recovered or now in recovery), the septic tank backing up at my aunt’s place where I sleep and work which I had to move my working computer next door due to it not being fixed due to the reason before and hence can’t use the water much there unless cause it to back up again, and also having to help out in taking care of my niece as I am working next door where she often stays when my brother’s family has to do things like baseball games for my nephews(which I am amazed my brother has not had burnout yet from that). Hence why I took to number 9 and 15 hard as I try to get back to a proper working schedule art wise. Thankfully, I made a little traditional set of tools for travel so I can do life drawings and my main projects at the moment is mostly writing at this moment which I turned my laptop into my writing workhouse after it shorted and now can only use Adobe Creative Suite and my Yiynova no longer works on it. Also, the break from my current digital illustration will give me a fresh look once I get back on it later this week to try and finish it now that my work computer is hooked up and such. Though, I am scheduling to visit the library a lot more in the coming weeks so I can keep number 7 and 8 from happening. I love my family, but only my twin sister gets the fact I am really working hard on my projects even if I might not earn a penny while the rest think I am just wasting my time during the day and scared of employment as I taken a break from sending out resumes to simply focus on my personal projects after getting burnout trying to juggle working on projects and job searching.

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Chris Oatley

Certainly.

The life of an artist is more like Jenga than it is like Tetris.

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Luke Sells

“The life of an artist is more like Janga than it is like Tetris.”

LOVE THIS!

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Mandy Milliron

Indeed. And awesome quote, too, as I agree with Luke Sells. I am just thankful I was not in college or working a “normal” job when I had the glitch in the system when all these live events happened as it keep the stress down to a manageable level. I get anxiety attacks when overly stressed out even if it’s good stress like getting into Works on Paper in my freshman year of college student(need to get back into submit artwork for that for next year) though I had bad stress then to with my grandmother passing away at the same time. I been learning to deal with it, so I gotten better with stress during college. Though, I just got news my great aunt is relapsing some in the hospital and it does not sound good. I might need to steer clear on the digital illustration and focus on the little traditional watercolor experiment(I am getting back into working traditional with finally figuring out how to use my good camera to take pictures and put in my portfolio) and writing till probably this weekend or better news. I’m the “free” one as everyone in my family but one believes, after all. However, in this case, I don’t mind taking on the job as it’s a dear family member in need, even if we are not related by blood.

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kammi

I could never quite understand the “I don’t have time” phrase. Seriously, it’s not that hard to get up a little earlier, put in a little time each day (I get up at 4 in the morning to squeeze in gym five days a week and it’s no big deal). Or to carry a sketchbook with you; everywhere. I think it’s easier for people to become ignited by someone who is passionate than to find it within themselves (or to look at cool concept art all day than to actually put in the time to CREATE cool concept art; them again, we’ve been trained to be consumers from birth; there are books on this…”Born to Buy”, “Why we Buy”, etc. It’s tough to pull yourself away from what you know.
I’ve never been ‘comfortable’. I was thinking about this yesterday, and in some ways it made me a bit sad, because sometimes I’d just love to know what that FEELS like, but it’s part of why it’s very easy for me to take risks and just keep going, keep the flame going. I literally have a CRISIS in my life every time I get comfortable. I squeeze literally 20 hours of work (between working and classes) in every day, and part of that is seeing my own parents’ work ethic growing up, or reading the biographies of successful people. And I”m going to do this for the rest of my life; nothing will stop me.
I recently read that Steve Jobs knew throughout his life that he would pass at a young age, and it drove his desire to make every second of his day work. Thanks for the post :)

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Chris Oatley

You’re awesome, kammi. Totally awesome.

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David

I remember that I once had a certain dream when I was young: Becoming the best or at least being on the top amongst many other great artists. However, that was a foolish dream, I got to learn that.
Since I was able to think about art I followed my own project, that inner world. It approached me all of the sudden when I was 13 years old. I am now 28 and this world developed from a small, little place to an endless large universe. (I may even say multiverse with my new interdimensional timeline-system I came up with for myself). The thing that slowed me down was indeed that constant need of fulfilling the “be better, be faster, be stronger”-attitude.

The questions 2, 4, 9, 11 and 19 are those that apply best to my way of how I approached things, or what was standing in my way.

So far I can tell that projects failed in terms of their final production (getting to draw the actual comicpages, or actually doing the majorwork on the final product) mostly because the fundamentals of the project were not fleshed out properly enough. There was too much still hiding in the dark, too many unknown facts about what makes the stories I have in mind the way they are. So their core wasn’t even clear to me, therefore it was meant to fail.

The most recent failure was a superhero story I never got past the prologue (even though I know how the overall plot will look like), this was 4 years ago. Since 2011 I thought about what is most interesting to me regarding my world, which is that huge place full of different or crossed genres, characters, etc. to pick a certain topic from…

As you might remember, it is actually my story Forlorn Knights. Since I just sat down to keep digging for the core of that story instead of trying to get it done, I can say it works kinda well. I just had to stop fighting too many unnecessary fights. I work towards that one big impact so to say, instead of trying to do many low ones. Kinda like a supervillain mastermind who carefully prepares the necessary steps to hit his arch enemy very hard. ;)

A still running story of an author (I am not knowing personally but I follow his story) has a character that reminds me of myself from his kind of thinking-pattern. A character that at some point said “No, I don’t care anymore.” and started to follow his own plans. It kinda inspired me to a point where I just said the same thing to my recent way of living the way of an artist.
I just stopped to care for uploading constantly improving works in a high amount per week, I stopped wishing to be able to do what the best ones out there can do, and I don’t want to earn money with my personal projects as well. The only thing I want is to keep digging for the truth that my own growing universe is made of. (That means digging for the stories, the characters, the timelines, the languages, the cultures, fantasy-physics, and so on – all of this in a written and illustrated manner). Just to keep doing what I am doing, the best possible way and I still improve without that struggling battle “against the world”.

Recently I took a large filing folder, tossed a large amount of paper in, and started doing handwritten notes (easier to memorize and I have the feel of actually doing something meaningful with my time when I am not illustrating with all sorts of tools) to kinda reconstruct yet unfilled gaps of that Forlorn Knights story and other stories that are not even a rough concept. It is a more organized folder as opposed to another one where I put random notes in. Maybe the actual story will start to connect with another one, I can never know. (Happens with other yet “just planned” stories as well)

My biggest BUT though is the fear of not having enough time to do all I have in mind. Which is literally my lifetime. However, only when I really need breaks, I do something like watching movies or playing games. Sometimes I manage to watch Walkthroughs of games or movies besides working for clients or myself. What keeps me focussed is listening to your Artcast episodes as well. ;)

I really do my best regarding not to waste that lifetime with being worried. Have to stay focussed and not putting too much stress to my way of an artist. Since I stopped trying to be super active in the internet, I feel kinda well. The best thing for me is definitely (might sound weird to many people) to live alone. I just need my three best friends (and I never mind to meet new best friends in my future), my space, my drawing tools and things are running smoothly.

Next year though I might be able to be active in a frequent manner. As I have not many followers (and those I have know about what is going on so far, they are very patient) this is yet not a big issue.

One thing is for sure: No matter what I do, there will be dragons. :D (Fell in love with dragons since I dreamt to fly on a dragon’s back when I was 13, it was the beginning of everything I am doing).

I am sure everyone else will find their solutions to whatever is going on, if or if you have not made it that far with reading: All the best to you all.

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Chris Oatley

“My biggest BUT though is the fear of not having enough time to do all I have in mind.” <–THIS.

The perception of too many options can be just as halting as the perception of no (or very few) options.

As an “idea man” (spoken with tongue-in-cheek) it’s easy to feel like I’m accomplishing things when nothing has ever actually come out of the noncommittal dream world of my own mind…

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David

“The perception of too many options can be just as halting as the perception of no (or very few) options.”

Kinda true! So to prevent this fear from slowing down the own productivity (and something that I learned from one small conversation you had on an Artcast episode, as far as I can remember) I started this folder for random handwritten notes, so the idea is kinda “out of my mind” and on a kind of imaginative waitinglist. One never knows what happens in the future.

“As an “idea man” (spoken with tongue-in-cheek) it’s easy to feel like I’m accomplishing things when nothing has ever actually come out of the noncommittal dream world of my own mind…”

Yes… I can tell that the following I have learned from you helped me a lot:

- Focussing on one project but doing so with microgoals to keep me “in”.
Microgoals can vary from sketching, painting, writing and doing research (and more). I’m really grateful that I managed to develop my big story since 3 years and not getting tired of it. All due to the microgoals-plan and leaving all the unnecessary battles out of my way. This only started to run smoothly because of your help.

Whereas, as you might have noticed, I was that pure “idea man” before I managed to figure out the problem itself.

To see if a quick idea works I am now writing them in a very short summary on paper and look at them the next day. When I don’t feel that it’s gonna work, I leave it as a rough “concept of a concept” that might return in the future.

You know, writing things down (even with crappy handwriting) feels like clearing the RAM of the brain. We are some kind of computers after all. If there is too much in our brains, we cannot function properly.
I guess the “idea man” suffers a lot from that problem…

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Jackie

Such great timing on this – most of the questions on this list are exactly what I need to hear! 15, 19, and 21 are real big kickers for me though. I’m entering my final year of school and am looking to apply for internships to start getting my foot in the door, so I have been finding myself making up a lot of excuses for my fear of getting past that first step of putting myself (and my art) out there. I think I’ll have to print this list out and hang it up in my workspace where I can see it, to keep remind myself. Such wonderful advice as always – thanks Chris!

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Chris Oatley

I know what you mean. It’s especially difficult to stay on target when the thing you have to do next isn’t particularly fun or it’s lacking in an immediate, apparent effect. Job/ internship searching, to me, meets both criteria.

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Amanda Acton

You missed one “but I have a 10 month old who never sleeps.” :P

Haha, no. My real issue is and always has been focus. I want to do everything and then do nothing. Even now, in my spare bits of time I find myself working on a bunch of different things instead of just choosing a focus.

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Chris Oatley

Ha! Yes. Kids definitely complicate things. Interestingly, my friend Thomas James (of IllustrationAge.com) experienced a significant level-up in his productivity when he had kids (twins even)! Granted, some kids are more work than others and you just never know what kind you’re going to end up with hahaha…

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Amanda Acton

Oh I totally get that. I’ve had some insanely productive moments of “OMG she’s sleeping! MUST. WORK. NO TIME.”

But on the flip side I’ve also had days, weeks of vegetation due to “why won’t she sleeep! :|”

And yes, I’ve ended up with a kid that really, really doesn’t like sleep. I wish I could bottle her energy and chug it like a morning espresso.

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Kristinn

I’m horribly guilty of #1 (Netflix – my Opium!) which is why #17 is what I need to keep in mind. Which desire should I let win? My desire to watch the next episode of [insert title of any silly series here] or my desire to succeed? Theoretically, the answer to that is a no brainer. IRL, however… Is there an AA-type meeting somewhere for TV addicts?

Thanks for yet another great post, Chris!

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Chris Oatley

Haha! I feel like Netflix should film your testimonial for future promotional material:

“Netflix is my Opium!”
-An Anonymous Satisfied Customer

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Mathieu Giguère

Fear is such a talented shapeshifter, when you think you conquered it, it creeps back from another angle without you noticing.

11 is clearly my problem. Once I decided to go, it’s time to choose which is the better way. But not much gets done if do a little of this and a little of that.
Maybe taking on some accountability with someone would help me be more focused on one project at a time, enough to finish it before taking the next. It DOES work on day job after all…

The thing is to always find a way to advance, whatever fear and resistance throws on our way. To be as talented as the fear.

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Chris Oatley

Very well-put, Mathieu. I think I’ll be quoting you often: “Fear is such a talented shapeshifter, when you think you conquered it, it creeps back from another angle without you noticing.” GREAT STUFF.

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Mathieu Giguère

«False that thou not know the way,
for what you fear most is where thou wanna go»
Mathieu Giguère, on chrisoatley.com website comments section, 2014.

…I must have stolen this one from Seth Godin, but I can’t find the original, so here it is.

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Chris Oatley

WOW! That’s fantastic! Thank you!

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Henrike

This post kicks so much but! Haha. *everyone rolls eyes* What!

Seriously, nr 16 all the way. I’m so good at researching…and researching….and researching…..and thinking of other things I can research…and….well you get the point. Frankly, it’s just fear of starting and screwing up. :-|
In fact, too much research can even scare me more because I have such a clear idea of how I want things to look, then there’s the “oh my, this is awesome, I’ll never be able to pull that off” kind of stuff you come across.

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Chris Oatley

Oh yeah. I hear you on that one…

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David

Henrike, I kinda know how that feels. It was one of about three majorproblems that occured once in my lifetime:

- Having so many ideas that I felt like researching will waste my time

- Doing researches and fearing that I won’t be able to illustrate it properly

- The overall fear (that sometimes still tries to attack me from all sorts of directions) of having not enough lifetime for everything I want to do.

How do you approach your ideas after all? If it’s, per example, a story – do you fear to start the story as you researched the hell out of it, so it is kinda… maybe “empty”?

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Sukhrob

Damn my but is hurt!!! I think now I can’t sit on so much as before this article. Thanks its wery motivating questions

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Chris Oatley

HAHAHA! Amazing. Thank you for the kind words. :)

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Phil Wade

Love this post! Right on time too!

“Are you planning or hiding?” This one in particular stuck out. It reminded me that you only get out what you put in.
Every question about the ugly beast in the room, procrastination, are similar to things I have gotten into the habit of asking myself constantly. I am proud to say that the amount of video games I play have dropped down to maybe 2 or 3 times a month and even then I only play for about 30 minutes to an hour. This is because I made the decision to put my dream first and to discipline myself. I also look for the small victories to keep me motivated. The more I put into it, the more I enjoy it! Keep your eyes on the prize, right?

Thanks for the helpful and motivating post, Chris! Looking forward to the next!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Phil!

If we can get it done this week, we’ll have an amazing new episode of The ArtCast on Tuesday or Wednesday!

Stay tuned!!!

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David

Hi Phil,

I guess you experienced kinda the same I did years ago. I abandoned gaming for a longer time and put my dream in front of everything.

However, sometimes we all need a break and I am just getting back on my feet from a kind of burned out feeling, that came due to too much working without having any break. By playing some games a bit I managed to order my own thoughts. Per example once a week, for 2 hours, kinda refreshing (Just played some games this month whereas I didn’t even thought about it since April). It is all about time management for sure.

Just want to say, don’t work yourself to a “low energy level”. (That is what happened to me)

Interesting illustrations and concepts I can see on your page by the way, keep it up! :)

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Jose-Luis

I’ve got a friend with a big BUT… I hope after he reads this his BUT will get in gear.

As a matter of fact, even I felt a little something!

Thanks Professor!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Jose. I was literally JUST thinking about you. I want to get your help on something for Magic Box. I’ll follow-up asap!

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Cassandra

Ah so true :( my big butt is my lousy degree I have to plod through ‘coz my parents insist I must have one . . . needing a big butt kick to not let life’s lousiness get in the way of my dream! :D

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Chris Oatley

I’ve heard a few folks say that they are working hard to get a degree that they don’t want or need simply because their parents “insist.”

I mean no disrespect to your parents, but four years is a big chunk of life to spend living someone else’s dream…

This is YOUR life, after all. …y’know what I mean?

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Cassandra

Yes :( its been a very frustrating situation for me . . but I have about a year and a half left . . . should I quit now? :/

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Chris Oatley

Haha…

I’m trying to get you to think for yourself, Cassandra!

It would be egregiously irresponsible of me to tell you what to do with your own life. I don’t know the specifics of your individual situation. Even if I did, I still wouldn’t tell you what to do because then you would just be trading my opinion for your parents’ opinion.

I just want you to make your own decisions about your own life. If, after examining all the options, listening to the smartest teachers and mentors and expert opinions, you think the wisest thing to do is stay in school and get the degree then do that. If you think you’re wasting precious time and money then, well, that’s your problem to solve.

All I’m saying is that this is YOUR life.

Does that make sense?

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Cassandra

Yip I get what you’re saying ^_^ haha . . working on becoming more decisive

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Catherine

Chris, thanks so much for this. These are tough questions, and answering them honestly leads to tough changes. This is exactly why I’m quitting my job (finally!) as a big-firm corporate lawyer in three weeks — to pursue being an artist. It’s exciting and really scary stuff, but I’m also really, really looking forward to it (and to getting started on the Magic Box lessons I’ve been signed up for since, I don’t know, um, October or November?).

(ps. apropos of #3, I will be doing law on a freelance basis for artists and entrepreneurs. Your work and livelihood are worth doing the RIGHT way, guys.) :)

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Jande

2.) What are you afraid of? That I will run out of time (I’m 65 and not in the best of health and my eyes are going bad) before I finish and fully publish my graphic novel, Aedre’s Firefly.
The fear/terror/anger that I won’t be able to finish the project drives me to just keep going forever until I drop from exhaustion. I have difficulty putting healthy boundaries on it. Must. Keep. Going. Finish. Fast. Which impacts my relationships and other important elements of my life.

This dovetails straight into:
12.) Is there an easier way?
I started looking for ways to simplify the process, improve the workflow, update my tools, change the way it has already been working, though slowly, into a way to speed it up. And what happens? I lose it. I lose the whole flow. It was working before but not fast enough and now it’s not working at all. Thanks to this list of yours, Chris, the whole thing is pointing back to the fear of not being able to complete this project.

What was working for me in creating my graphic novel was basically writing out the story scenes in penciled thumbnails, scanning them into Photoshop and finishing them. This was scary because I didn’t have the whole story. I was making it up as I went. And in the first year or so I was also learning how to use digital tools like Photoshop, as well as content publishing software like Word Press and Comic Press, and social media–mostly twitter.

So when Comic Press stealth-installed Comic Easel and destroyed my publishing workflow, I took some time off to do NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo.org) and finally write the story as a novel draft. But somehow that got me right off track because then I wanted to turn the novel into a script that I could use to finish the graphic novel, but I didn’t know how to do that. Soooo, research, and more software learning curves, and suddenly my graphic novel has been stalled for well over a year! That’s some serious fear/procrastination going on there. I find it ironic that the fear of not being able to finish it has completely ground it to a halt. :`P

Long Story Short: I’m going back to the simpler process that worked for me. I now know the whole story. I can thumbnail, finish, and upload pages of it on a regular schedule. It won’t resolve the fear that it will never become a completed full graphic novel, but that is an ongoing personal issue. I can get help with that.

So once again, Chris, thank you. I enjoy your Artcasts and posts and your enthusiasm very much! I learn a lot from those as well as from your commenters. I’m shy and don’t often comment, but I wanted you to know that I get a lot out of your site, artcasts, and your emails, which by the way I read all the way through before I click on the final link.

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will

Number 12:

“What is the minimum, viable version of your idea?”

I have to constantly rediscover this one. It’s the Holy Grail tho. The challenge I give myself is to do the version I CAN do with the available resources (usually meager but not useless), as opposed to the grandiose billion-dollar “in-my-dreams” version. Loved Number 16 also.

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David White

I could wall-of-text for every single one of your But-Questions, Chris.

Here’s the ones that hit me hardest (but really, they all did):

• 3 – What are you afraid of?
everything. all of it. success, failure, the process – you name it. WHY?
Crap, I dunno really… Time to search the old soul…

• 6 – Productive Procrastination
Plain and simple – that’s a bolt to the brain. Going to make a list tonight.

• 14 – Protect your zen.
I have no designated space where I can leave my work sitting there waiting for me to pick it up when a “productive-pocket” pops up. I wish Productive Pockets were a thing I could eat.

Chris, you never fail to grab us by our collars, give a good hard shake and a slap in the most charitable and uplifting way possible.

It’s like you’re the coach in the locker room after a devastating first half. You’re screaming and shouting and spittl’ing and pointing at people and gesticulating wildly, but every single word is kind and inspiring. :)

I’m gushing, but I mean it. Thanks dude.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks for the kind words, buddy. My entire website is really just here to ensure we all get to see the David White art book as soon as possible.

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Michelle

#8 speaks the most to me. Unrelenting 50+ hour work weeks with little in the way of breaks is kind of killing me these days and leaving me with little energy to work on my dream project. I usually can only manage an hour a night after taking care of those nagging things like in #14. But the idea of cutting loose and trying to make it off my savings is terrifying (though I could probably get by for 4-5 months.. I”m not sure if it would be enough :/) Meanwhile, job hunting has been incredibly slow when I barely have the free time. So I feel incredibly stuck these days. I’m so inspired by how you took that leap to leave Disney and strike out on your own, but I’m afraid that I’m not really “there” yet…

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Siesie

Others have mentioned waiting for the perfect idea to come along. My current problem is sort of the opposite of that. I have a few ideas that I would love to bring to life one day… But I don’t want to waste them on my first attempt! I want to save them for later, when I’m more experienced and can do them justice.

In the meantime, I keep waiting for an idea that is good enough to motivate me but not SO good that it will feel like a huge loss if it’s a flop (and by flop, I don’t necessarily mean unpopular—I mean something that I look back years later and wish I could redo, but I can’t because it’s already out there).

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Audrey

Such timing for this! I just got finished with Spring quarter for school and went on something of a gaming/Netflix binge for a few days. Since I’m going to be working on my portfolio for a class this summer, I thought it would be a good way to unwind after that project, but it actually made me cranky and depressed. I think it’s “Post Project Depression.”

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Chris

Hey Chris, Great post. I struggle more and more as they years go by to keep motivated in what I do ( animation). I love animating but the job is becoming more and more ridiculous. Constantly in and out of work and then many dry spells where studios have no work and it completely stops you having a life as you are trying to keep a roof over your head. And as you aren’t at a studio long enough you get all the crummy shots that aren’t showreel worthy. So in my down time (of no work) I make new content for my reel and this cycle for the past 7 years is wearing. I struggle to get ideas for animations theses days. Maybe it’s because I worry about trying to find work. And then when I’m developing an idea I worry that I should be out there looking for work…. And animation is a slow process. Most of my reel now is my own work as the studio stuff is blink and miss and not showing any skill. Which in turn is going against me as the work I’m doing is using free rigs or from an animation school I attended. Which make it look like I’m still a student. I have had recuiters ask me where are the films you worked on…. Ideally I would prefer to work in full CG features but the work mosly in the uk is VFX.
I have turned to drawing as an outlet but If I left animation I dunno what else I can do. I have worked in film and tv for 14 years (not all animation) and had many setbacks but I have kept going and through it all I have sacrificed a lot, worked many crazy hours, given up important events to put all my efforts into what I do. And I tell now I don’t feel it has paid off. If anything I feel I have missed out. I have worked on some great shows and I have played the game of studio politics and I have work very hard in the hopes I would get shots or be able to stay at a studio for a few years. But it seems them chances and opportunities are becoming less. And here I am making new showreel content again… Very slowly as lots of doubt creeps in on if you are good enough and the feeling I should get a real job….

Your post is great comes at a good time.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Chris. I hear you, buddy.

Generally speaking, I was very happy at Disney. I met many of my closest friends there. My genius art directors and fellow artists challenged me and taught me in ways that I don’t think I would have experienced elsewhere. I could go on and on about how great it was…

That said, the animation industry has been really unstable for decades and that instability creates a lot of messes – often big ones.

I also grew tired of constantly waving my hands in the air, hoping to get picked. (This dynamic exists whether you’re pitching ideas or looking for a regular gig on the next production. I was doing both.)

I figured if I was going to have to work that hard anyway, I’d rather do so on my own terms and build something with more stability and longevity.

Teaching has always been more fulfilling for me so I spent about two years building The Oatley Academy and when it launched I got enough of a positive response to justify quitting my job at Disney.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to make this about me. I just wanted to say that I know what you mean and that the studio environment is almost always inherently unstable no matter where you are in the world.

This is why I’m such a proponent of creator-owned projects and multiple revenue streams.

Does that even make sense? I apologize if it doesn’t. I haven’t had my coffee yet.

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Chris

That makes perfect sense. I have been told I would be good at teaching. But although I have done some talks and things at my old university. I think to be teacher apart from having experience I feel you need to have them real shots on your reel/porfolio to show your worth to aspiring students. I found from attending many animation gatherings in London, that students do listen to the mentors/teachers more if they have worked on high profile things. Rather than say something lesser known. It’s almost perceived that their feedback would better than someone who worked on something less profile. Which isn’t always the case.

I feel Having a Disney background does put you in a very good place on future work ventures. I have seen this happen with some of my animation friends from Disney. Their careers sky rocketed in some cases.

I think what you have done here is great and I like reading the posts and tweets. But for me I really don’t know what direction to take next and it’s very worrying considering this industry and or any creative path theses days is becoming harder to find stability and or long employment. It’s all to easy for companies to let you go. I did look into your course but as much as I’d like to get my draw up the jobs in London are even more niche :(

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MojoLiazon

Chris said: “This is why I’m such a proponent of creator-owned projects and multiple revenue streams.” I really agree with that, I’ve been studying the industry for years before deciding to dip a toe in and I don’t see any other way for almost all of us other than what Chris said there. You mentioned you might be worrying about whether you’re good enough — I’d bet you are, but the competition is fierce and talented and prolific and numerous. Your own projects, if you can monetize them, are possibly a better bet than trying to get into employment under someone else rather than yourself.

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Melissa

I am the ‘but’ queen!
#14 is my biggest but – I tend to have some weird practical goggles on. If a thing that I am doing doesn’t seem useful/practical I tend to not do it.

“Will this thing make enough money to pay my bills?” If the answer is no, I don’t do it. “This convention is going to cost you a lot of money.” – My goggles take that fact and slant it into: “That money could be better spent on replacing your garbage disposal, or put into your nonexistent savings account.” The insidious part of those statements is that they sound like good sound advice, when they’re actually excuses.

So I’ve signed myself up for a few totally non-practical just for fun art things! Hopefully this will let me take my ‘Grown Up’ goggles off long enough to get over making excuses for not doing art.

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Elizabeth

#20!!! I have a tendency to work for absurdly long periods bedore crashing from creative burnout. I’ve noticed the tendency somewhat, but reading it here made it click… I should be planning time for frequent, short breaks throughout my work periods. It would probably help me stay more sane and be more peoductive overall.

This entire list was really helpful!

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Linn

Thanks I really needed that! I have just finished art school and moved in with my boyfriend. That means that my “real” life has begun and i’m not living in this little creative bubble.
I have some little jobs here and there as a illustrator, but I didn’t knew how I was gonna get back on the saddle until now!
Thanks Chris, love your tips! :)

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Tamara Lee

“Procrastination is fear in disguise” that was probably the one that hit me the most because I have been procrastinating a lot, lately. I’m a high school senior who is attempting to start getting portfolios ready to apply to colleges, and I’m so afraid of rejection that I can’t produce any good pieces or am inspired to do so. This article REALLY helped, though. Hopefully I will be back to my creative self soon. Thanks for the awesome article, Chris!

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MojoLiazon

You’ve got some really good articles on this site. Most of it’s stuff I’ve already been mulling over for ages, and some of it’s new and helpful. Keep up the good work.

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Miriam

Thank you so much for this list, Chris. The questions that got me to think the most were “What are you afraid of?”, and “Where’s the fire?”

“Procrastination is fear in disguise.” So true. Procrastination is my biggest problem. My main BUT’s are “This project can wait”, “I don’t have the skills, need to study Art more”, “I didn’t finish school”, “I lost the passion for the project” and “Maybe I should just get a studio job to make a living and then work on my project on my free time”.
I had made a weekly study schedule, which I haven’t followed ONCE yet, because I have no discipline. I have to make a checklist with realistic small goals, one at a time. I always want to get things right immediately because I also feel this pressure to show my relatives that I can make a living from Art, and to prove my worth. Y’know, since they tell me to “get a real job” and all. But I already made up my mind, and I’m going to do it regardless of their moral support or not. People are always afraid of taking risks; they prefer having a “safe zone”. Life is so short not to be brave!

This reminds me of a Spanish proverb that says: “Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.”

Thanks again for the butt kicking questions!

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A.D.

Well I have to say my butt was definitely kicked big time by those questions. :)
“Where’s the fire?” really hit me as a few months back I got burned out because I was trying hard to create works that were “cool” and because it may land me a job. I ended up getting depressed because the works were s***.

I realized that the works were not as good as I wanted it to be because well, cliche and corny it may sound, but my heart was simply not in it. I had then to face the fact that I work best and is happiest with the fun (some call it cute) type or whatever you may call it work. I was always veering away from this kind of work of mine because deep down I thought: “No one would take this seriously.” But hey, what the hell it makes me happy.haha

Chris, It’s really great that your advice and tips don’t just focus on the technical and business side of things but also on the mental and psychological side too. You’re like the modern day Andrew Loomis for me. Cheers!

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Michael Endres

Chris,
your emails are great and inspiring.
This one in particular as the questions are so widespread that EVERY reader will at least find one which rings true. And hopefully gets everyone a step further to achieving their personal art goals.

The most important for me is #20.
Like a lot of people hanging out here, I have a fulltime job and plan to jump into ‘art’ at some point in the future.
If I get to bed later than 11 p.m. on a monday because I am workinh late on a personal illustration project, the friday at work will be aweful – at a certain age it is hard to recover throughout the week. And it puts my day job in jeopardy.
For me it is very important to stick to this ‘cut-off’.

As a tactic, I use time boxing for tasks i want to do the evening, just to not get carried away and to have smaller achievable goals.
Either i restrict the work to 2 hrs or make a cut off as 11 p.m.

Chris,
how is your take on project post mortems or a project diary – to make future projects more effective or in general a better experience?
And if you do them, how do you do them and how do you ensure to take action in the following projects?

Have Fun,
Michael

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Aspen Aten

I’m afraid that a lot of these apply to me. Anything having to do with fear and procrastination, and even passion, as much as I hate to admit it.

I really enjoyed drawing and comics when I was in high school. I drew my own comics all the time, often in class. Even if I was worried about other people in my art classes being better than me, working on my own comics and creating my own stories with my own characters made me happy. Then I went to college, and it was fine for awhile. Then it got to the point where some days, I could barely make myself do my homework. I felt like I looked for distractions. “I’m tired, I need to take a nap,” or, “I need to eat something so that I have the energy to do this.” “I need a break.” And some days, all my fears and anxiety about being inadequate, about not being good enough were enough to keep me from working on things. Creating the things that I used to love to create began to feel like a chore. Even when I graduated, I felt like I had no idea where to go with this degree I had worked so hard to achieve. I was almost afraid I hadn’t gotten as much out of school as I had hoped to gain. Some days, I’m afraid that maybe pursuing art is not what I ultimately want to do with the rest of my life.

Then last October, I went to Disney’s Inspire Day, and I thought, “What was I thinking?? Of course this is what I want to do!” And I told myself that even if I don’t completely know what I want to do, I have a direction to pursue for now, and so I decided to pursue character design and visual development. And months afterward, I was able to stay positive about maybe someday getting to work in the visdev department of a big animation studio like Disney. But these kinds of jobs are hard to get into, especially if you have doubts about yourself and your work.

Now I think I’ve come full-circle again, and am starting to doubt myself and question if I really know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I am passionate about great animation. I love seeing character analysis, concept art, picking up on visual cues and motifs used to tell the story, and yet I can’t motivate myself to get there, even though I probably could if I set my mind to it. Do I need to re-evaluate what I want to do? Am I lying to myself?

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Scott Wiser

Aspen, the best advice I could give is the create a project you really care about and do THAT. As you progress, you’re work may begin to appeal to large studios. Either way, at least you’ve had a great time creating work you love. It’s definitely possibility to make money as an artist, in or out of the studios. We just have to be tenacious and start creating NOW!

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Elizabeth Muller

Bahaha o lawds, it’s a window into my soul!

The bit that affected me most was “plan your escape”, because that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. For the past 4 years, I’ve worked…at a law firm. In my spare time I studied at Animation Mentor and I’ve since grown more interested in conceptual art and illustration.

Now I’ve decided to finally stop putting my dreams on hold and PLAN THE GREAT ESCAPE. Suffocating in the daily drudgery of creative unfulfillment is making my heart sad. So I’ve gone crazy and begun decking out my own studio downstairs, buying all the books on freelancing I can find and drawing as I’ve never drawn before. IT’S HAPPENING. *eye twitch*

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Lara M.

I love this post! It put in perspective the things I have yet to work on, but also made me happier with where I am now comparing to the me from a bit over a year ago.

I’ve had a lot of downs in my life, personal and artistic, but concerning the latter one, two years ago was probably the worst of times. Living in the house of an artist friend for while, who was SO ON IT all the time, didn’t help, as I felt intimidated and all I could think of was ‘I suck at this’ and ‘I should quit’. Of course being concerned about it only proved to be a sign that I cared, so I couldn’t just stop drawing. The turning point for me I think was when I took responsibility for the lack of progress that my work was suffering. It wasn’t the fault of my friend or of all the amazing inspiring artists out there – it was mine, and by learning to accept this and cope with it, I stopped the behaviour. And I don’t mean blaming myself in a negative way of course, I mean it in a ‘I am the problem which means I can definitely fix it!’ way. It was when I stopped giving myself excuses that I started moving forward. Drawing something every day, could be a sketch or a background piece, was a good exercise, and after a year and a half of doing it I do notice a different in both the quality of my work as well as in myself and how I look at my work. I still don’t think it’s great, but I am happy about that now; wouldn’t want to make this journey boring! c:

There’s a friend I try to tell all of this to, but they have so many ‘BUT’s sometimes I don’t even know how to keep trying to help without them thinking I’m offending them…

Anyway, enough about my life heh. Thank you for sharing this great post Chris!!

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Akeem

I’ve pitched several shows to many companies and most said that we have something similar or it doesn’t cater to our audience. I’ve been working on these new characters and stories but now that I’m so attached to them I feel scared to pitch them. I feel if they get taken in, it won’t turn out as I imagined or worse, I’ll lose creative control. Should I do it any ways or is their another way?

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