To be the best you can be, to be the best there is, to eat, to eat the finest. To grow your talents, to be highly regarded and to be respected. For the love of your craft.

Motivation is what drives us. Motivation to be the best you can be, to be the best there is, to eat, to eat the finest. To grow your talents, to be highly regarded and to be respected. For the love of your craft. Unfortunately, you can run out of fuel from time to time and this is a resource that’s a lot harder to come by than the stuff that gets your car moving. Even worse – it can be debilitation if the engine that is your creativity goes boom. So how do you avoid and get out of the slump that this can cause?

The first and easiest solution is pretty simple – just let it happen. Ride it out. There isn’t always a quick fix solution if you find yourself in the middle of a slump. In my, albeit, rather short thus far, creative life, I’ve had two major slumps worth remembering. These things would last a week or two and I’d have no interesting in doing my work, didn’t worry about what the results might be and simply – just didn’t care. Luckily i was studying both times, so it didn’t really affect things a great deal. The reason they lasted so long was because I kept trying to break through it. I thought that if I kept doing my assignments, that eventually I would just explode and be flooded with amazing ideas. Turns out, this isn’t quite how it works.

Ideas have to be nurtured and loved

Now I know that it doesn’t work this way at all – ideas have to be nurtured and loved before they’ll grow into anything, you can’t jump up and down on them and hope they’ll bloom. In the end, without even realising, I pulled my self up out of each slump by forgetting about all the work I had to do. I watched far too much TV (sci-fi can help you go to another planet.. heh, heh, get it? You’ll laugh later), browsed the net too much and most importantly, didn’t think about my work. After a day or, at most two, you get the itch to look at the work of others. You start to smile at their ideas and are moved to opening an Adobe branded product, picking up a pencil or whatever is that you gives you creative pleasure and make a mark. Then.. here it comes.. you start to get excited again.. your heart thumps a little more at an idea and your brain kicks into over drive and another idea hits you. Then another. And another. You start writing them down furiously and eventually you have so many projects you want to do for your self that all of a sudden, a very small idea for your project hits you. It’s only small, but it’s all you need – away you go. Just don’t forget to say to your self “it’s ok… I’ll be fine”. If only I hadn’t spent a week aimlessly forcing my self to try to get to this point and just let it happen.

There are hundreds of ways to get your motivation going, and each person is different and will have a handful of solutions that work great for them. For the sake of this article I’m just going to look at a couple that work for me. Let’s start with quantity. If i have a lot on, I’m too busy to be unmotivated. As long as I’m careful to not rush through a job (which produces poor results, which can make me disheartened which.. well, you see where I’m going), but am aware of all my responsibilities, things go smoothly and I’m happy. A nice list of tasks gives you options. If you don’t feel like kerning headings, then correct some photos. If you don’t feel like playing in Photoshop, whip our your notepad and draw up comps for an upcoming project. If all of the above seems too daunting for you, then get all that paperwork off your desk.

I just had to get it done,
letting go of all my pettiness and concerns

Once I’ve gotten through a large quantity of work, instead of taking a break, I often just want to keep going. A good example of this happened when I was studying under the tutelage of possibly one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Of course, at the time I didn’t regard him quite so highly at times, but that’s what happens when you’re studying, isn’t it? I made the, unbeknown to me at the time, mistake of telling him that I had recently fallen in love with the work of artists who used ink as their main medium, but wasn’t all that confident with it. His solution was for me to get a brand new quill, a bottle or two of ink and an A4 sketch pad – and fill every page. In a week. After the usual, “what an arsehole” comments, I got to work – what choice did I have? The illustrations were clumsy, unplanned and so far below average that it hurts. But, wow, was it fun. I managed to fill every page and learnt a lot in just a week. I had a clear goal and just had to get it done, letting go of all my pettiness and concerns. Seven days rolled past and I was looking forward to showing off my work, even though it wasn’t top notch stuff, I had grown a lot in that week and didn’t have time to be unmotivated about it. Made it worth it when he smiled and pointed out pieces he liked and congratulated me. Smug bastard made me double it by the next lesson.

It’s those “that’s fantastic!” moments that can help
push you to a higher level

Another motivator is competition. Right now, there are better designers, illustrators and writers than me, working their arses off because there are better designers, illustrators and writers than them. I feel that as long as your competitiveness comes out of love for what you do, rather than jealousy, it can work wonders. It’s those “that’s fantastic! Why didn’t I think of it?” moments that can help push you to a higher level. Other peoples brilliance makes me want to be brilliant.

By the age of 22, Charles Darwin was on his way to the Galapagos Islands. Within a few years he was the driving force behind a branch of science that changed almost everything we knew of who, or perhaps what, we are. 22! By that standard, I should have a publishing empire, instead of living off instant coffee and battling the seas of paper-jams. Argh Matey! When I read about Mr. Darwin and countless others like him and their deeds, I feel horribly lazy. What excuses do I have for not being far more ahead in my career than I am?

Why waste the three pounds of meat inside my head? We can do such amazing things. Truly spectacular things, that aren’t even inklings in any ones mind yet. We can illustrate the most beautiful of thoughts. We can understand more of our selves and one another through creativity. Love and hate. Lust and greed. Tolerance and understanding – all things that can be explored through creative endeavours. We can make the lives of others brighter, whether it be through pushing their profit margins up, or more rewarding, making them smile or laugh or cry. A slump? Lack of motivation? Oh please.

The biggest motivator is love for what you do

The biggest motivator is love for what you do. Like any relationship, the one you have with your creative self needs to stay interesting and be always in a state of growth. Try different things with each job. Do your sketches with coloured pencil instead of a fine liner. Be willing to writer every heading in an annual report by hand. Even if the client hates what you do, at least you gave it a shot and explored. This will keep you excited about further jobs, as the one that’ll be perfect for one of these methods might land on your desk at any moment, and, you’re having fun while you’re at it.

Perhaps, it’s also worth looking at why you are unmotivated? Not getting enough fruit? Drinking too much coffee or too little water? Not looking at the work of others to help stimulate your own ideas? These are all things that can be easily fixed and can make a world of difference to your creative psyche. Perhaps where you are working isn’t fostering your creative outlets enough? If that truly is the case, then do your own thing when you get home. But there is only so much blame that can be placed on the shoulders of others. I’m willing to be that most of the jobs you do, really do have enough opportunity in them to let you produce fantastically creative and rewarding work. You’ll find happiness in the cracks in the armour of a seemingly poor brief. Make sure you look hard enough, because once you find what you’re looking for, you’ll need a lot of ink and paper.