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  • Naomi Blayney

8 ways to improve your motivation

Motivation is a funny thing. Some days it's there in spades and other days it feels like it ran for the hills. Some days I want to get stuck in but on other days I just can’t bring myself to pick up a pen or a pencil. It's the same with most things in my life. Some days I want to eat well and exercise, other days I can't drag myself from the sofa and only have the motivation to eat chocolate. Can we do anything to encourage our motivation? Or is it something that comes and goes as it pleases?

I asked the opinion of a bunch of creatives in the various groups I’m part of. I asked them what motivates them? What demotivates them? I got some fabulous answers. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me. Together with my own experience I've narrowed it down to 8 areas that can kill or cure our motivation.

  1. Do what you love - The most common answer was that as creatives we really love what we do. The passion for creating new things makes us happy. Many of us love to experiment with different styles, different materials and it brings something new and fresh to our lives. Some are lucky enough to do what they love and earn a living from it. Others are on their way and are loving every minute of it. Maya Angelou said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have". Whatever stage you are at, doing what you love is a great motivator.

  2. Get in the right mood - Our mood and how we are feeling at any moment has a big influence on our motivation. Whether that's due to hormones or a crappy day - if we feel less than tip top it really affects our motivation. For me the biggest motivation killer for the past few years is tiredness - sleepless nights with my two beautiful girls that just do not sleep! We often don't realise that doing the thing we enjoy might actually help with that mood. For many of us, once we've made the effort to pick up a pen and draw, write a few words or get out for that burst of exercise - it can make use feel a whole load better. It's probably the cheapest form of therapy you can get. At the end I feel grateful for having made the effort and I feel better. But I easily forget. In future I'm going to try harder to remember that feeling so that it will encourage me to just do it, even when I don't feel like doing anything. Others have said that meditation really helps them to get in the mood - it helps to quiet the brain and focus on what we find most important - our passion.

  3. Learn from others - I often look at someone else's work and find it inspirational. It's better than mine and I want to be that good. They may be a more experienced illustrator and I try to pick apart the piece and learn from it - how have they structured it, what is the style, how does it convey a message? I want to close the gap in my skills, I want to get better at what I do. Sometimes it works the other way, especially if I'm working on something unfamiliar or if I'm struggling to capture a concept. I might see another person's work and think mine will never be that good and I give up. For the rest of the day. Then I'll pick myself up again the next day and start again. I am trying to look at the work of others with enthusiasm and optimism for how much better I can get.

  4. Notice the simple things - Many people told me that simple things in life give them inspiration. Going for a walk and seeing an unusual shape in a shadow or the sunshine highlighting a tree. The shape of a cup (when we are finally allowed to sit in a café) or an unusual street sign. Sometimes these simple things spark an idea for an illustration or a story that wants to be told. After the year we have all had I'm sure we will all spend a good while appreciating the simple things in life.

  5. Feedback is a gift - I love doing courses because they usually come with a fantastic community that gives you feedback that is incredibly helpful. Having likeminded creatives point out areas I can improve my work really spurs me on to do better. It can also discourage me when I feel I've worked really hard and the feedback is critical. It's quite easy to lose heart a little bit. I try my best not to take criticism badly. I choose to believe that everyone means well and if I'm not keen on a change that is suggested, I don't make it. I remember something a lady I work with said to me. 'Feedback is a gift' - and it stuck in my head. You don't always get the opportunity to know how others view you or your work so when someone offers you feedback - take it as a gift that enables you to grow and change.

  6. Create deadlines - Deadlines are a very practical motivator. I've been taking piano lessons for two years and I start practicing about two days before my lesson so I don't show myself up. Every week I promise myself I will start earlier in the week, then I don't. I have had a guitar for two years and promised to teach myself how to play by reading 'Guitar for Dummies' - how hard can it be? It has been out of its case a handful of times because I don’t have a deadline to work to. 'I'll have more time tomorrow'. Tomorrow is a day I never quite get to. I've been doing quite a few writing and illustration courses and I have definitely produced way more work than I would have done without prompts and deadlines. Whether you give yourself plenty of time or are a bit of a last minute Larry, a deadline is a sure fire way to add some rocket fuel to your motivation.

  7. Make a plan - This one is for those really organised people. That used to be me until I had kids and my plate seemed to overflow overnight. This one is about making a plan, several plans, or at least thinking about what direction you are travelling in. Some people have a plan for their lives. Some have had one career and want to switch to something more creative. Others have a plan for later in life when they are secure enough financially to slow down a bit and switch to a slower pace and not worry about a creative career that also pays well. Creative careers can often be stressful because income can be irregular so many still have a 'day job' to help cushion this. I've never really sat down to make myself a ten-year plan but I keep meaning to. Making a plan and setting out some milestones can help us focus on where we want to be and how to get there. Self imposed deadlines if you will. I know others have found it massively helpful. Spending some time early on to figure out what direction we are heading in can really help us forge a path towards a goal, and motivate us to reach for it.

  8. Set an example - My last one is to set an example. This wasn't really relevant to me until I had children. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up…way way after I actually grew up. Picasso said, "Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up". That definitely applies to me. I keep telling my girls to reach for the stars, they can do anything they want to do. So why am I not doing that? It really hit home this past couple of years that I can't just tell them how to reach for their dreams. I have to show them. I have to be able to say I had a dream and I tried my hardest to get there. I plan to tell them I made it…someday. Until then, I'm going to work as hard as I can every day to show them that with hard work and perseverance, they can do anything.

So that's my 8. Do any of these resonate with you? Can you think of any more that I haven't mentioned. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I bet you all have a story or two to tell. Please leave me a comment below :-)

So that's my 8. Do any of these resonate with you? Can you think of any more that I haven't mentioned. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I bet you all have a story or two to tell. Please leave me a comment below :-)

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