Finding Motivation

Motivation can be the backbone or downfall of many artists. Making new work requires it but often times we find ourselves unmotivated, procrastinating and even uninterested in making art. These feelings can be overwhelming and lead to thinking that you aren’t a real artist because a real artist doesn’t need to find motivation; it comes naturally. This might be true for a select few but for the majority of artists we all have periods where we find ourselves unmotivated and uninspired to create new work. It’s part of the natural creative process and the true test of your creative career is overcoming these down periods.  

While in school, my photography professor gave us a reading assignment. Art and Fear: Observations on the Peril (and Rewards) of Art Making by David Baylee and Ted Orland. The book is a great resource for emerging or veteran artists facing doubt about their creative careers. The second chapter is all about persevering through your creative work even when the outlook might look bleak. The book makes the argument that one of the hardest parts of being an artist is perseverance and it’s this perseverance that is most important. 

So we know that perseverance is important in our creative careers but how do we do it? In his TED Talk, Tim Harford lays out his argument that multi-tasking is the answer to building creativity and motivation. He calls it slow motion multi-tasking. Harford explains that by having multiple projects ongoing at once, moving between them as needed and letting them inform each other is a key ingredient to being creative. The difference here between Harford’s approach and what we normally think of as multitasking is that slow motion multitasking is intentional. Instead of multitasking out of need because we procrastinated until the deadline it is multitasking with a purpose. The purpose being that the multiple projects inform each other and can provide answers to problems we wouldn’t have thought of while working on only one project. In my creative work, this blog is a project that informs and helps my studio work. It lets me think through my own creative difficulties in order to hopefully offer some insight to readers. 

In an earlier post I wrote about my favorite art related podcasts and one of them is The Creative Pep Talk. In episode 208, host Andy J. Miller answers listener questions. Many of these questions revolve around motivation. Miller offers advice similar to Harford’s TED Talk. He isn’t against working on multiple projects at once but actually encourages it while following a few rules. Miller’s main emphasis is that you shouldn’t switch to a new project when one becomes difficult. Instead, you should push through your difficulties in order to get closer to mastering your craft. This falls in line with the idea of slow motion multi-tasking and working on multiple projects over a long period of time as needed. 

In my own opinion the idea of working on multiple projects at once is how I’ve always worked on art. It was a necessity in school when I was taking courses in mediums but after graduation I’ve continued the practice and it has served me well. If one project comes to a point where I’m stumped another project will often inform and inspire a solution. 

My advice to anyone struggling with finding motivation to be creative is to keep going. You aren’t alone. Every artist struggles with the same thing. The thing that defines successful artists is their ability to persevere. If you keep putting out work it will improve and be noticed. Get to the point to where your work is so good that it can’t be ignored and you will be successful.


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