The Artist's Plight: motivation


Over the last few months, I've had the pleasure of meeting new people and getting reacquainted with old friends, many of whom are artists. In our talks, things that have come up consistently are motivation (or lack thereof), sadness, business and inspiration. Having gone through the gamut of emotional and creative highs and lows, I've made sure to mentally catalog everything for a point of reference. I'm not claiming any quick fixes or panaceas but rather, it's a slow process going from one point to another. Going by personal experience and heeding the good advice, here are some of the highlights (and lowlights). 



Long ago, I fell in love with a girl and made her things because I could but more so, because I wanted to. Creating hand-made, personal art is a lost practice that I believe we as artists should never forget we're capable of, (unless the person you're with has no appreciation for what you do.  If that's the case, run in the opposite direction and don't look back.) When she was gone, I still made her things, almost like unsent love letters. In time, I realized the inspiration she gave me was everywhere and the sadness that was there was replaced by other things - the hunger for undiscovered experiences, meeting new people, learning new skills, breaking out of my comfort zone and putting myself out there... Everything I went through brought me here. I'm striving harder than ever and haven't lost the spark since I started my company, (I still go through the more-than-occasional lull, though). I named my company mūz (pronounced muse) for a reason and it's my goal to share my experiences with you to help you find your own inspiration to pursue your dreams. 

I launched the latest iteration of my site last year and from all the different versions I've had over the years, this latest one is my favorite. With the help of a business partner, we launched an e-commerce site as well as securing methods of domestic manufacturing, (to be honest, he did most of the work).  I bring this up to give you an idea of the process we've been working on since 2010. We want to get it right and we're still working at it. I've gone through investment negotiations, failed startup mode, offers to be bought flat out, production halts and quality control issues just to name a handful of things. I still go through that but it's totally worth it since I'm learning something, (although it would've been nice to get an operations manual on how to do things right from the get go.) I've had disappointments you couldn't believe, had shit given then taken away and even got told that my (lack of a) presentation at one of my first investment meetings sucked, (the actual word used was "weak"; that one hurt).

The struggle is daily but I have a great feeling as to where I'm headed.

The following is based on my own personal experience over the course of the last 6+ years, sending emails, texts and PMs to and conversing with friends who have gone through the lows that artists encounter. This post is a collection of those communications, edited to fit within the context of a blog and (I hope) cohesive story, specifically about the topic of motivation.  



Where to start on this topic? Hearing and reading what others have cited, some reasons have been lack of focus, too many other interests, negativity, thievery, diminishing interest, disillusionment, heartbreak, things not happening to your liking...  I have to admit that I've fallen victim to all of these, particularly heartbreak and lack of focus.

Personally speaking, losing my motivation was a bitch. I didn't draw for over a year because of heartbreak. Even after I finally did draw something incredible, it took ANOTHER year before my next impressive work. Many incomplete pieces happened on that second year. For the life of me, I couldn't rediscover my drawing style. The motivation wasn't entirely there but along with my inspiration, it was trickling out yet I didn't feel whole. I made habits out of not finishing what I started and losing focus on my subject. Was I inking comics or working on a digital painting or writing a new story or penciling a portrait? Yes to all that but I was indifferent to everything. I didn't love what I worked on and just went through the motions of an artist. I kept at it and one day, it hit me: I didn't love any of the shit I was working on and that's what was missing. Concurrently, I didn't love what I was doing because I didn't have focus.

Too many hobbies, too many projects, too many goals. I tried to get too much done and in doing so, I got nothing done. My focus was spread so thin that I couldn't dedicate the attention to one goal to make it happen. I wanted to create a new comic book, expand my anime collection, develop the fashion line idea that was in my head, finish Halo, update the movie script I wrote in college, expand my freelance contacts, work out to look like Rain in Ninja Assassin, learning coding, teach myself how to play Mia & Sebastian's theme on piano (that's a recent one), etc. Too much going on.

The hardest part of choosing was that nagging feeling of if I commit to something, would I miss out? That's the caveat of commitment - it's all or nothing. I reasoned that the feeling of not having anything accomplished was worse than the feeling of missing out. I still think about creating that comic but to let you know, I chose the fashion line idea.

To prevent myself from going through the same, unfocused missteps, everything I did was for the goal of developing a line. If it didn't fit my "brand", I'd have to chuck it. At the time, though, I had no idea was my brand was (I didn't figure it out until the end of 2015) but I kept on creating. I was always able to edit later. The ultimate criteria for whether I would pursue art (or anything, really) to its completion was whether I loved it or not.

Love requires focus and if you don't believe me, ignore your significant other for a while, (see you on OKCupid in a week). Whenever talking to other artists and it becomes relevant, I always bring up 50 Cent and Robert Greene's book, The 50th Law. One of my favorite quotes addresses the boredom of the improvement process:

“Most people can’t handle boredom.

That means they can’t stay on one thing until they get good at it.

And they wonder why they’re unhappy.”

Dedicating time to improving yourself will lead to better things (dare I say happiness) but as all good things are, it's a process that requires focus. Creating something great takes practice and practice is boring as hell. Truthfully, it sucks. Doing the same shit everyday, doing the same shit again because you did it wrong the first time, doing shit wrong because you had no idea what you were doing. (This is normal for me.) You have to love the unfinished product to fight through the boredom once the initial excitement wears off. For me, that excitement fades away about an day after starting. It's a constant battle.

As artists, if you don't love what you're doing, you can't expect others to. Motivation comes from love. Love the genesis, love the process, love the results (good and bad) and love the learning, then do it all over again. It could take us hours, days, months to create. For artists, that's love; ain't nobody else got the patience for that. For others, that's called insanity but fuck those people. Love sounds better. You're not Vulcan so you can experience love and that's a prerequisite for artists. We didn't get paid to create art as kids; we did it because we loved it. Time to rediscover that love.

Find your love and you'll find your motivation.