When struggles keep you from your personal projects – 3 tips to keep going

Let`s face it, sometimes you can`t, or even don`t want to work on your personal projects.
The last few weeks have been a struggle to keep working on my comic, illustrations and especially blog posts, due to my day job and some personal stuff. I feel like I had less creative energy.
Yet I managed to finish a new blog post and to thumbnail my way through the intro pages of my comic. I want to share with you three tips that can help you to at least keep going and not give up working on your own projects in between work, sickness or other obstacles that stand in your way. Even though your passion project is asking for your time, sometimes it`s hard to work on what you want to do when other things come first.
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 Not all artists can afford working on their passion projects full time. Sometimes a day job takes a lot of energy and time away. People have families or their social life next to their job as well. Obviously that`s a very important aspect of life and needs investing time into.
A consequence of these things is simply having little time and when you do have time you feel like you have to make something awesome right away. This pressure (especially when you also have less energy) can lead to creative block.
You can have problems with your health, physically or psychologically. Depending of what you suffer from it might affect your art making too. Less energy, pain, fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, feelings of self doubt, feeling down all lead to less creativity and the idea of working on your big personal problem may feel like a mountain you`ll never be able to climb.
Other problems in your life can also affect your attitude towards the project you`re only working on in your free time. Studies show that problems in your personal life affect your behaviour and focus at work. A personal project may be your passion but problems can still influence your motivation or ability to get into a creative space. Especially because you often work from home and personal problems might be more obvious to you there.
So, what to do if you still want to keep a deadline for yourself or you don`t want to break your streak of working on your personal projects every day?
A few simple tricks I picked up lately helped me to still keep my focus and keep working on my comic and blog despite personal issues and fatigue. Here are three tips, I hope one or more will help you:

1 Make a list of different tasks you have to do and sort them by difficulty.

Sometimes you don`t have the mental energy to do thumbnails, to write a blog post or to come up with interesting shapes. But you might still have some left to search for a specific kind of reference image, to tweak that one thing on your website, to do some flats with colours you already picked out before or make some Photoshop actions to speed things up. Write down even the smallest tasks and if you still can`t find anything small and simple enough to do, simplify it even further.

2 Pick something to work on that you`ve been looking forward to.

You know those scenes that you just can`t wait to get to because they`re so awesome? They often require less brainpower because it`s already very clear in your head as opposed to the scene you know is coming up but you`re having difficulty with. Save those awesome scenes for the “Blegh I don`t want to work on the comic today” periods. It might just give you the motivation or the energy you need to start working and have fun. It might not always be the most economical thing to do to work on such a scene that`s supposed to come very late in the story or that cover that`s not very relevant yet but at least you`re working on your passion instead of looking at cute cat videos.
I got this tip from this 99U article that has even more tips on how to keep a streak unbroken.

3 Decide to find a little block of time in each day to still get something related to your goals done.

This can be as little as ten minutes a day. It might seem like nothing but multiply it by six or seven workdays and you have an hour of work done in a week, where you otherwise would have gotten nothing done. You can finish a small task in an hour, so you`ll at least have finished *something* related to your project by the end of the week. Search for really small and simple to do`s on your list and keep working on your passion in little chunks. You`ll be amazed what you can get done over a longer period of time.
Sometimes you`re simply too ill, have worked too much or have to put all your time in more important matters (let`s be honest, some things *are* more important than your art) Your brain might feel like a plate of scrambled eggs and all you want to do is sleep. That is fine. Sometimes the problem is more severe and you need a period of healing in which art is difficult or impossible. Think of strain injuries like Carpal tunnel syndrome. Health comes first if you want to keep this up in the long run. Sometimes you need a few days of sleep, tea and a little TV. Or you might need to take a longer time off to heal or recharge your batteries. Take that time.
Don`t beat yourself up if you *have* to take time off of your passion project. Make a conscious decision not to work on it for a short or longer period of time and actively pursue other things like relaxation, bringing in money you need, getting better or spending time with your loved ones. Come back with a fresh perspective. But it`s very rare that you have absolutely *no* time whatsoever to work on what you want to achieve.  You can always do *something* even if it`s just a simple thing for ten minutes a day.
I hope this was helpful in any way.
What do you do in difficult situations and periods to not lose sight of your goals and keep working? Share in the comments!

6 comments

  1. Tiffany says:

    Great post!
    I usually create a list and bock out a time that is non negotiable. It’s usually 20 min to an hour. Sometimes I make a public statement so I feel as though I am accountable for doing that time and task.

  2. Nela says:

    Wonderful post, Henrike!
    I’m a really moody person and this affects my ability to work on my own stuff.. I’ve spent the majority of summer just moping around and ignoring all my personal projects, which is a shame. I’ll try to keep these tips in mind for the future 🙂

    • Yeah, I recognize those feelings and the direct effect on being creative. Keeping work simple and short in these periods make it less hard to start working for me and usually gets me into gear to continue working even after those 10 minutes. Thanks for commenting and I`m glad you found it helpful!

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