Desire Vs. Frustration

A few of my Disney colleagues attended a painting workshop that was taught by Jedi Master Dan McCaw.

One of them (I’ll call him Joe) was expressing how hard it is to find time to do personal work and grow artistically while managing the demands of life, career and family etc…

Someone suggested that Joe wake up an hour or two earlier each day to make room for painting, sketching and other types of personal artistic growth and expression.  Joe had tried in the past to do exactly that but had not found the motivation.

Allegedly, Mr. McCaw said to him: “It’s because your desire has not yet outweighed your frustration.”

Now Joe gets up an hour or two early on most weekdays and even on weekends to paint the view from his back yard. It’s accessible, it’s consistent and he’s making some beautiful paintings.

While I don’t recommend doing anything physically/ emotionally/ relationally unhealthy, the point is, as we grow up, we take on more responsibilities and so we have to become less accidental and more intentional with our time.

What frustrations are all too familiar to you? How can you make time and find motivation?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Sharing your heart, will benefit everyone who reads this.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Zach Bosteel

I know that frustrated feeling, for sure. It seems you have a trajectory, a plan, but once you hit a certain step, and look up into the distance, the gulf between where you are adn where you want to get to stretching before you suddenly seems all the more vast for having closed the distance just a little. Standing on that ledge, you know you can’t stay there, that you have to do SOMETHING. But exhaustion or distraction or any of the other simple facts of being alive obscure any semblance of a path, and you know you will have to forge one. Face fears and take plunges. And even when you become ready to do this for yourself, you realize that the decisions you make don’t just affect you, that responsiblities you’ve willingly undertaken suddenly seem to be obstacles.

Even more challenging than the above is depression, that emotional weariness that numbs you to your desires, encourages you to subsist on what’s immediately available, and nothing more. Seeing the world as little too solid, a little too real.

To me, there is only one thing that helps when I’m in these states of minds, and that’s absorbing a good story. Good ol’ fashioned escapism. Visions of worlds, not as they are, but as the could be, as the should be. Stories of frustrations that unmake empires, and hopes that oblierate war and poverty. Tales and roadmaps not of the logical or practical guidelines to acheving yoru goals, but of the emotional fortitude and downright chutzpah it might take to really change things.

Looking inside such stories, finding that core, it’s almost incumbent upon me, as a listener, to shake off bonds and break through walls. And to realize that even if I, though my desire, increase my frustration by bringing my life crashing down around my ears, it is only so that I can rebuild it with a clearer vision of what it should be, using modern construction techniques. It is to live flexibly, to deny the rigidity of the world, for my actions to be predicted only by my hopes and not my fears. To wander, to love, to live. To never look up at the moon and realize you’ve only seen it from one angle. To die and to have lived bravely.

And I will begin to live this way, I promise myself, just as soon as I catch up on sleep.

Ah well. If we could cure ourselves of sleep we would all be lawyers by seventeen, artists by thirty, and divine on our death beds.



Blogs help! or podcasts too… If your commited to putting up weekly content on your site your hitting 2 birds with one stone. 1. your promoting, communicating, building relationships and sharing your passion which is needed if you want to do anything outside of just a hobby with your personal projects and 2. your creating on a regular basis.

I personally have many passions and am currently getting ready to launch/re launch three blogs on my site that will all be updated on an almost weekly basis. It will create accountability also to keep me doing what i love and at the same time building it into hopefully a living eventually!

And i can atest to the fact that frustration, depression, and struggle with my day job are a big part of my motivation to be productive on my website!!!

Thanks for this update Chris!


Jose Gonzalez

Wow, Chris, that was deep, and true.
Zach! Double Wow! That was deep, and beautiful! LOL!
I find, in these, my early artistic stages, and with very little time (I’m sneaking this post right now!), that there is a balance that is ever changing between frustration and motivation. I’ve learned to take what comes, and accept it. When there’s little time for one’s own art work, every second counts. My mornings (especially on weekends) are mostly about art and learning. I get to sketch during odd times (have sketchbook, will travel), and its a challenge. The time I have right now is not practical for real painting. Even digital drawing/painting suffers (maybe once a week!). So I try to mix anything I have to do, if possible, with art time. I mostly end up listening to art podcasts during errands/driving.
But I know its worth it, because every time I put pencil to paper, I end up cherishing the results dearly (even if they’re bad!!!!). Every time I draw, I learn, and that’s good motivation for me. That’s what I have accepted.
OK.. enough skeaky posting.
Great post, Chris!



I am a novice in the the field of art and I am self teaching myself how to draw ect. I have had to dedicate my evening free time to learning the skills. My day job is looking after my toddler. Its hard sometimes when Toddler is ill and wakes in the evening as it interrupts my progress, I’ll drop every thing for my little lad though :) no matter how frustrating it is.

My desire to be good at drawing has only just kicked in and even if its just one sketch in the evening when I have put my little lad back to bed is one step closer to me becoming a pro someday.

I even started a blog charting this progress.

I used to dream of being good at drawing but thats what it was a dream as it was in my head a daytime fantasy. The reality is some pretty hard graffting is needed to become good at drawing and the dreams become a real thing (though it can take a while).


Damien Baumgart

I haven’t been to your site in a couple of months, Chris, and the new site is looking good!

I’m finding myself in this same state of “frustration V desire”. I’m a teacher and I currently work with ‘at-risk’ youth teaching short film making and radio broadcasting. As well as this I’m currently doing a course in 3D animation and games design. On top of this I’m also trying to get a photography career started. Hmmm… now that I write it down it looks like I’m doing a lot, creatively speaking. LOL

Each of these aspects of my life have a major frustration attached to them. With teaching I facilitate the learning and creativity of others and not myself and by the time I’m done with them for the day and all the subsequent paperwork the last thing I feel like doing is getting creative.

With my course it’s ended up not being what I was led to believe (to the point where I made a 3 page complaint to the Head of School). I would like to point out that I had a number of other students also frustrated with the course approach me and ask me to make the complaint. As a teacher I knew they weren’t meeting minimum requirements for the students to pass the course (no curriculum in place, lack of communication between teachers, poor quality teachers etc). This is a battle that’s been happening for a few weeks now (they’re now in the process of fixing the issues) but this whole scenario has been building for the last 18 – 24 months now and it frustrates me that it’s been allowed to get this bad (especially since the students are paying $11,000+ per year).

In regards to my photography stuff we had our house broken in to a bit over a month ago and the person stole all of our cameras, laptop, jewelry, etc etc etc… We finally got it all replaced as of yesterday (yay for insurance!) but it’s really stopped the momentum in regards to my photography.

Everything has sort of fed into this frustrated malaise that I find myself in now. This year it’s followed this path: “I’m not keen on teaching but I’m doing this course so I can be creative there…” Then it became: “Well, the course isn’t going well but I have my photography to be creative with and I can push into that arena…” Then, since the break-in it’s been: “Well… damn… I’m in a job I don’t enjoy, doing a course that’s turned into a real battle and where I’m slowly sliding backwards, and I don’t even have my photography now…”.

I shouldn’t complain because I HAVE a job that pays well and the cameras have been replaced (finally) but trying to pick myself up from the last month and a half is difficult. The best part, though, is that I have a wife who believes in me (god knows why LOL) and I’ve learned enough that I know what I DON’T want to do (it’s a start).

I apologise for the rant. I wasn’t intending on doing that. As well as this I feel like I have this creative energy bursting to get out and I’m finding it hard to find the outlet for it. Is it 3D? Illustration? Photography? Concept design? Animation? Which one am I best at? What will be the best fit for me? Am I good enough? Is my lack of confidence the biggest thing holding me back? How do I deal with that?

These are the questions that keep tumbling through my head and because I feel like I can’t answer them satisfactorily then I freeze up and don’t take the chances…

Have I made any sense or has my comment just reflected the mess that’s going on in my head?? 😛



I have just begun feeling this balance tip in favor of frustration.

Its currently a bubbling feeling in my chest. It flairs and boils when I’m driving to a client site. Or when I’ve spent an entire day in meetings about work that I *dont care* about.

I am tired of doing work I don’t care about!

I’m also approaching my 30th birthday, and I’ve had this voice talking to me for months now saying, “If not now, when?” I think the key to all of this is what Chris said “…as we grow up, we take on more responsibilities and so we have to become less accidental and more intentional with our time.”

Be intentional with time, and don’t get overwhelmed with the greater picture. Be mindful of the present moment day to day.


Chris Oatley

You’ve GOT IT! A couple of my mentors say “focus on PROGRESS not perfection.”

It’s amazing how even just a small amount of daily progress can completely change your attitude about the status quo. …for the better, I mean.


Kevin Cameron

I like the notion of waking up earlier to get more done.

I find that my own motivation takes a dive based on work schedule. I have a non-art job to pay bills right now, and it involves working all odd hours.

Sometimes this leads to good things – such as being in ‘midday’ mode when everything’s closed and so, I’m more productive due to lack of distractions.

Other times, it can be a hindrance. Feeling like the only one alive at these hours makes it difficult to connect with others in meaningful ways, which also feeds into my enthusiasm and work. Not to mention sometimes I just physically feel off some days thanks to a sleep schedule that is all over the place.

I don’t mention all of this to give excuses. Just to set context, since I’m honestly coming up short on my own as to how to power through this context. I want to continue creating, growing, and improving in a meaningful, consistent way. However I feel like if I just tackle this on my own, I’ll keep coming up with the same solutions that lead to mixed results.



Hi Kevin, I’m in a very similar situation with my non art related job working nights and odd hours that change through the week. You’re right, working odd hours to pay the bills can take a toll on energy levels. Some days I’m a zombie and have to fight to make progress with my studies and portfolio building. I just wanted to post a reply to say you’re not alone! Here’s to fighting the good fight.


Kevin Cameron

it’s good to know that even if we’re fighting, we’re fighting together right?


Chris Oatley

Yeah, it’s all about just creating the time. Great stuff, Cody.



I’m actually in some same crossroad here.
I’m a graphic designer, always wanted to be an ilustrator but now, at last, I have a job to pay bills and still keep some of the money for studiying something else…
I’m thinking if going trough an art carrer or something else. Since I’ve always drawed and I know a lot about compossition, perspective, color theory and those things (but never learnt to paint in, any format) it’s “easier” for me studiying something else and keep the selfthaught routine in art…more, now with this advice…but what do you sugest?

should I go deeper in arts as a career or course or is it fine with all the resources that are nowadays?

I eventually (in 4 years as a finish line) would like to be a full time ilustrator, but here in Chile is not that easy, so I mainly are beetween a stronger secure career and my life dream…


Chris Oatley

Nicolas, if I were you, I would just start building an illustration portfolio, put it online, keep your day job and see where things go. It never hurts to try.



Husband and father of 4 here. Single income home in So. Cal. (ughh).

Graphic design by day.
Family, dishes, laundry etc. by night.

By the time all he toys are put away, and all the teeths are brushed, and all the noses wiped and I’ve spent time with my wife, all I want to do is drink a beer and pass out in front of Netflix (Eureka re-runs FTW). All my dreams of writing and producing a graphic novel, or building a concept art portfolio were left somewhere under my desk near the waste basket earlier in the day.

Getting up early seems to be the only way to get some quality uninterrupted time to chip away at the dream. The time is there, I just have to go get it. Easier said than done, but still, it’s doable.


Chris Oatley

Yeah, David. You are already so productive online I know it’s possible. It does get harder with kids but you just have to optimize every single minute. That, and understand that you don’t actually need a HUGE amount of time to feel the difference.

Have you checked out our Paper Wings series on Time Management?

I definitely recommend listening to that and making sure that you pick ONE completely DOABLE project and start working toward that. Get a win as soon as possible and make it as easy as possible on yourself to secure that win. …because that will really provide some fuel for the inspiration fire.


Chris Oatley

Dang Chris! Thanks for grabbing the links for me! I will begin digesting. :)

Putting it that way- getting the quickest and easiest win, would be to build up a char dev porfolio online. Each finished piece would be an easier and faster win to complete than starting and finishing a graphic novel.

On the other hand, with a little scheduling , I can probably break up a graphic novel project into smaller wins… maybe. :)


Chris Oatley


I don’t usually recommend portfolios as projects because portfolios can easily turn into moving targets and undermine the entire point of picking a project.

If you want to do just a series of characters, then get more creative than just building up a portfolio.

Do a book of characters that you will sell online or a series of fake dossiers or something like that. You know what I mean?

Maybe make it more measurable than a portfolio…


Leonardo Sá

I dont know wheres begins the frustration…after 26 years old the time pass quickly…until now what i just do is my portfolio and after 7 years i couldnt work professionaly with drawings and illustrations. But i dont give up. All the sacrifice make me better on this…but sometimes i reaaaaly become afraid if i found a job as illustrator someday…but i will. I WILL. I have to. Even the frustration wheights a ton in my head sometimes. I just have to learn how to use my time wisely…

Thanks, Chris


Chris Oatley

Hang in there, Leonardo. With your attitude and focus, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Stay strong.


Laura Reill

Thank you Chris and thanks all you posters for sharing. My circle of people that I interact with is very limited. It is great to find a place that is so motivating. I think too much and do little. I think Chris and all of you out there can help me change. One person I have to interact with daily admonished me by telling me not to give away the key to my castle! I was horrified to hear that! Now here I am collecting keys from Chris! WOW! This is great! I’ll be back!


mohan tamang

thanks chris and the rest for creating such a helpful blog. i am a fine art student and i get frustrated evry now and then.
chris, what would be an advice that you would like to give to someone who wants to get into the field of animation film making, who is just a beginner??


Rob Williams

This is my first comment on the site, which has been very interesting, insightful, and helpful. I’ve been striving to learn drawing, painting, and all things composition for what feels like my entire life — I have a MFA from the Graduate School of Figurative Art… but it all means nothing if I don’t get that pencil to paper on a regular basis, keep believing, and keep finding inspiration. Currently, I’m working at a spirit-sucking day job that isn’t related to art or creativity at all — but, it permits me to work when I have time… or make time, which is a key. So far, I’ve utilized a lot of weekends, but these posts have me thinking I just may try this stuff “Marine-style”, and get up at 5 AM to get more alone time with Photoshop. Good luck to everyone… and stay inspired-!



I guess my personal frustration is INSIDE my lack of motivation.
I know what fat things I could do,but I can´t choose which of them to actually pick and invest the time in.With every stroke of a pencil,there come ten new ideas for digital painting that would be worth it,and with every digital stroke comes the neccessity for at least one new maquette to sculpt aiding me in the process…these adding up,my problem with time-management literally consists of my limited lifetime.



Hi Chris,

You have really put an important issue in a short and interesting way.

Frustration do come in daily life, even if you are engaged in the world’s most interesting project, for a long time. Yes, it happens.

Currently, I am working as a freelance illustrator, designer and animator. I do get some interesting projects to do, but it is not in regular basis(ah, common for all freelancers…). The in-between time from projects to projects or even during some of ongoing projects, I quite get bored and frustrated,mainly due to the monotony. Monotony of no projects in hand or the projects in-hand(mainly in long running ones).

I do some simple things to overcome that.
. Take a long hike and get some pictures thru my camera phone. Walking helps
me a lot
. sit in a coffee shop with a pen and pad to draw anything around me
. at home, I take anything in front of me to do a simple still-life study sketch.This one really helps me out , because rather than sketching an object study can really take your mind into itself. It really eases out any kind of looming thoughts and it takes out a lot of energy, because you have to concentrate in that object before you. I love it!!

Few years back, when I was still working in a company, I did 2 group painting exhibitions in 2 consecutive years. Those were never intended to sell paintings, but to keep my self engaged in any creative process, that can keep me out of frustration and monotony. I used to go at work around 9 am and usually come around 9 to 10 pm in the evening(office was far away and working hours were erratic). I didn’t have much of work to do at my place, apart from eat my meal and sleep. Moreover, I didn’t have a proper work space for doing any of my personal work(I was staying at my uncle’s place). But I had a very small studio like room on the roof, which was actually a store room for everything and my painting materials. every night, I used take out canvas and materials from room to the open roof (well, one portion was shaded with corrugated tin ). and then I used to paint, for next 2 or sometimes 3 to 4 hrs. Although number of paintings were not so high, but I kept doing it every day. I kept on experimenting and it kept me in motion and out of frustration. And the reward came from viewers of our exhibition. Yes, it was really refreshing and encouraging.
at that time,I didn’t know that I will some day start freelancing. But, these initial steps actually gave me courage to do more, to do out of the box things, to do what I liked to do. Otherwise i would have been struck with my monotonous graphic designing day job.

I haven’t achieved much, but yes, …rather than getting apathetic with your frustrations, it’s better to confront it. Tools are nearby, hit it.
I am trying it hard, every day. Some day I will reach…. somewhere. :)

Again, Chris, thanks for such wonderful series of discussions and posts.
Keep it up!! :)

thanks for the patience


Dan Trauten

Great post – the more you practice discipline with your intentions, the intentions that are moving you towards what fulfills you, the easier it becomes to push through frustration. I know this intellectually but am still trying to put this into practice. Personally as of now my frustration is regularly outweighing my motivation, but the motivation is still there, and I know it just takes time and repetition.

That pretty much answers your question – biggest challenges I face are securing time where I have space to be creative and overcoming frustration (you know, when things aren’t going as planned and your time is limited, and yes, age and responsibility become a factor, love getting older haha). I spend a lot of time in coffee shops since my workspace right now is my bedroom – aka procrastination station – so it’s easy to get frustrated when the other folks in the shop are distracting or you just can’t focus. I’m rambling now ’cause I’m listening to your current podcast and the music in the cafe is blasting! Keep the posts coming!


Isaac gillaspy

what responsibilities does a concept artist have in order to achieve his or her goal



Just thought this was pretty good. I have actually been getting up at 5am on my days off (4 each week) to work on my drawing for the last 6-7 months. I too have the goal of finding work in “Art” with the long term goal of making enough to quit my current career. But I’m novice and have a family so if I don’t get up early then I feel like I’ve wasted an hour or two of my most productive time alone.

I’m going the self study route but keep an eye out in the next few years 😉

By the way Chris, love your site, your podcast and what you do!



I’m at a weird point in my life. I was home schooled through highschool and I usually finished school entirely before 4pm. Often around noon I would be done, leaving the whole rest of the day free for drawing and exploring. It was great. Now I’m in college but my program doesn’t offer a lot towards the actual career I know I want and I know I’d be good at. As well as a college program that has many classes outside of my specific career path, I have to work a part-time job that doesn’t allow any time to sketch or really even take a break. So between those two things I get exhausted and them have no energy or inspiration to draw. How do you in similar situations handle this? I feel like I’m backtracking in skill when I get to paint an hour or less a day (which is how it often becomes in the school year. Thank GOODNESS it’s summer right now so I’ve been doing more, though!)



Few words but so deep and meaningful, Thank you for letting me know that what I am through is happening to every other artist :)


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