I've been watching/listening to Shaelin's videos for over a year now, usually while working on animation/matchmoving tasks at work. She's a college student who posts insights on her own creative process, along with writing tips that have helped me as I started working more seriously on my own stories.
Though she talks specifically about the Authortube community, there are equally relevant insights in this video that apply to the art world and the world of artistic advice.
So cozy up, grab a tea, put this video on while you work, and then read on below!
Some valuable insights I drew from Shaelin's video:
Shaelin also describes how young creators can get overwhelmed by the high volume of advice/tutorials/guides on the internet that declare the best way to do things. I remember being in this place, where I couldn't decide which books to buy, which tutorials to watch, what I needed to consume to be better.
This mindset led to a subsequent problem. I believed that once I consumed enough of this advice, I'd be '"""ready"""" to make the perfect project. I would plan, and plan, and plan like the planner I am. I would figure out locations and situations and not allowing myself any room for organic change along the way through the process of drafting. I truly believe that just sitting down and writing would have lessened my anxiety and helped me learn more.
Towards the end of her video, Shaelin urges young writers to start writing. "The only thing that can prepare you for [writing your book] is just doing it." What a great sentiment! I'll be carrying it with me during this week as I draft and plug away on my own projects.
P.S. I highly recommend giving Shaelin a follow on Youtube. She is articulate, honest, heartfelt, and genuinely wants to help others succeed in the stories they make.
The reason I'm making this post is because I sincerely believe many people who don't call themselves artists would enjoy drawing if they (and others) allowed themselves to do so.
I have a few thoughts for anyone who has contemplated drawing more for any purpose.
Purposes of Drawing
At the comic workshop I went to over the summer, one of the instructors talked about how she coordinates her plots for her YA fiction. For each chapter, she will do a small drawing of the most important scene of the chapter. Though she isn't a trained artist, her thumbnails help her organize her book with visual anchors. I was so delighted with this idea and it stuck with me --drawing at any level has such powerful uses!
- If you draw things you enjoy, improvement will come more naturally.
- Make yourself laugh! Don't be too hard on yourself.
- Draw every day if it makes you happy, but don't force yourself if it doesn't!
We all remember a teacher who would preface their lectures a MILLION times by saying "Remember, I'm not an artist, okay??" before drawing a stick figure on the board. This preface can be put before many other activities that a non-professional decides to participate in. "I'm not a dancer, okay? Don't judge me."
There's an inherent need to give context to a lack of skill, lest us be judged for enjoying the experience. One of the first steps towards engaging in a fun hobby or starting the road to making a hobby a profession is resisting the urge to judge your own work so harshly that you decide not to participate in it further.
In other words, "I'm not an artist" can often result in a person giving up on drawing, when being good or bad was never a deciding factor in enjoying the activity. This is why children can draw carefree and confidently! They can hold up a scribbled crayon page and confidently declare, "This is a spaceship!" It doesn't matter whether or not the spaceship is in perspective or accurately proportioned. What MATTERS is that they had fun and created something they enjoyed making.
I generally don't invest in expensive materials for sketching. It feels intimidating, especially since my sketchbooks are for spitting out ideas rather than making finished drawings. I usually buy a cheap hardbound sketchbook from Michaels and work through that. I remember Rebecca Sugar once said she uses a binder full of blank paper as a sketchbook so she could easily tear out drawings she disliked without feeling bad about it. Letting your paper be disposable is an easy way to lower pressure on yourself! I also really enjoy drawing on post-its for this same reason.
As for actual drawing materials, all I can do is pass on the pens and pencils that I love to use. I also highly recommend checking out Jetpens; they have very detailed reviews of different drawing and writing supplies that weigh the pros and cons of each.
I'm happy to share which tools I use because they affect my enjoyment while creating! Working with tools you know other artists enjoy can be an encouraging starting point. Pen and program settings can also affect how natural drawing feels when working digitally.
Pens will teach you to confidently make choices.
Pencils will teach you to build up slowly towards an idea.
My final tip would be to take recommendations from artists you like, try some different materials, and find out what you enjoy the most! I generally like smoother sketch paper, thinner consistent line pens and soft colored pencils, but your preference may be different!
What should you draw???? WHATEVER YOU WANT!
Some cool drawing prompt resources:
The purpose of a sketch is to plan a drawing or explore an idea. When I draw a head, I draw a circle first. This marks where the head is going to be as well as its size. Then I draw a horizontal line wrapped around it. That's the eyeline. Then a vertical line - that's the center of the face for the nose and mouth.
The point is, I very rarely start just drawing high-level detail without plotting out the space where that detail will live. Give yourself guides and try sketching light! Sketching is planning and it'll make your drawings look more proportionate.
Something I didn't consider until later in my education was that the size of a drawing can drastically affect how it looks. The brush size you use and the size of the subject you draw is another aspect that many artists find a comfortable preference in, so it's definitely something worth exploring!
Skilled Drawing Requires...
Muscle Memory (Physical Repetition)
Visual Reference (Stored Information)
If you want to test the power of muscle memory, try drawing or writing with your non-dominant hand. Even skilled artists will have a harder time making the same drawing!
Building both of these requires PRACTICE! If you're interested in improving how you draw, I think both of these aspects weight in equally to success in drafting what you imagine.
Something I didn't internalize for a long time is that all drawing comes from reference.
ALL drawing! I'm mostly talking about visual reference, but reference can be emotional too. It's the same reason people say to "write about what you know." The important missing second part to this sentiment is "If you don't know it, research it so you do!"
The purpose of all of this is to say that ALL artists, even the greats, used reference and studies to make their work. Being able to draw things from memory is the result of repetitive, built-up reference of certain subjects in the brain. If I asked you to draw a face, you know from experience that a face has two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and that the elements of a face are somewhat symmetrical. You know that eyes are the highest, followed by the nose and the mouth. Part of growing as an artist is creating a growing visual library that is stored in your brain and kept fresh through use.
Another way to think about a reference is to compare it to an academic paper. Most academic papers require sources to be referenced, whether or not actual quotes are used inline. The development of a strong concept in any form is aided by the use of reference.
An example of great reference: Norman Rockwell's photographs he used for his paintings.
A very cool tutorial guide on creatively using photo reference.
From Wikipedia: "A study is a drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece, or as visual notes. Studies are used to understand the problems involved in rendering subjects and to plan elements to be used in finished works, such as light, color, form, perspective and composition."
I really love the idea of a study as "visual notes." Whenever I feel like I want to add new elements to the way I draw, I go into my giant folder of artwork I've saved from Twitter. I find a piece of art I like, or a part of a drawing, and I try to copy it to understand how it was drawn. "Hmm, I really like how this person drew this hand." It's like learning a new yoga pose or vocabulary word. If you like the usage of an element, you want to test it out in an example scenario before you can incorporate it into your own work.
Studies don't have to be copied from Renaissance artists or master painters! Though those are also good starting places to find visual reference. If you find art you like online, try copying the shape of it, or a certain aspect of it. See how they build/structure/draw eyes/whatever it is! Copying and studies is a great way to learn how to draw appeal. Print out art you like and draw along with it or use tracing paper! Build muscle memory.
There are great free drawing resources online - Pinterest, Twitter, and Gumroad are all great places for finding example artwork and drafting tips. Grizz and Norm's Tuesday Tips are an excellent series on how to draw different body parts/poses/appeal.
An example of a cool study: Alex Kolano's study of Gauguin's work.
VISUAL REFERENCE - Try it yourself!
If you want to see the power of visual reference firsthand, try this little exercise.
Bonus: Try drawing that anteater from memory a few days later!
This exercise is based on a post by Jack Stroud on Twitter.
I hope some of you found the information in this post helpful or encouraging. I always get excited when people who don't consider themselves artists try their hand at drawing or creating in any way. I'd love to continue to encourage people to draw if they enjoy it, and I think knowing more about the relationship between art and reference was an eye-opening equalizer for me.
Onwards, and happy drawing!
Hello again, friends! This post is doubling as a presentation I'm giving at my alma mater university for the Animation and VFX students there. I was invited to give a talk on resumes, websites, and professional documents in general. I decided to make little graphics to put in my presentation. Some of the tips in this post are more specific to animation-based work, but I feel that a good portion of what I cover can be applied to other professional fields and presenting ones' self in a polished manner.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is a collection of advice I've gathered from industry professionals, workshops, and my own personal experience. Feel free to pick and choose what resonates with you and leave behind what doesn't!
For free website building, I would suggest Weebly over Wix for free websites. This blog is created on Weebly, along with my portfolio site and travel sites! Squarespace and wordpress are also common, but I have not tried them out myself.
Look at websites for professional artists you admire! See how they lay out their information and what info they include! (same goes for portfolios!)
Keep your ABOUT ME section professional! Look at example blurbs from other artists!
This statement is not original, unfortunately. BUT THAT DOES NOT INVALIDATE THE ORIGIN OF YOUR PASSION! Rather than talking about the earliest days of your interest, consider talking about how your interest in art became a professional endeavor. This will probably lead you to a more unique about me statement.
Consider having professional and private accounts! Especially if you want to work in children's entertainment, this might be a good idea for you. Use your professional social media accounts for posting artwork and connecting with other artists. Have your private accounts protected and use them...however you want! Beyond filtering out ranting/venting etc, having a professional account means you have a consistent stream of art-related content with no thematic breaks. Once again, this is up to your own personal discretion, and there are many different approaches to managing social media.
How you post can make a big difference in the growth of your following.
Experiment with when/how/what you post and find what works for you.
Here's some specific tips from a comics workshop I attended recently. In general:
Short and specific does the trick! JaneDoeArt / JaneDoe / JaneDoeDraws / JaneDoeAnimates -- something with your first/last name is a solid start for username ideas. If you already have an artist handle or moniker, use that! Consider adding art/draws/etc onto it to connect the account to the kind of content you post.
Identity & Profile Descriptions
Put some time and consideration into what username you choose. It's okay to not know what you want to do yet. It's okay to not have the perfect label for your profession! Many social media sites allow you to change your username.
I suggest gathering all of your information as a plain text document. Then, draw some thumbnails and play around with the space certain sections take up. If possible, try out photoshop for non-linear text arrangement and fine-tune your spacing. If you don't have access to photoshop, consider using text boxes in Google Docs rather than inline text. Also, don't be afraid to change parts of your resume structure based on where you're applying.
XP / Skills Bar Charts ...
Include an interest section at your own risk! The point of an interest section is to show your versatility or give a taste of your personality/hobbies. So, interests you include should be activities outside or adjacent to your art career. Be sure to be specific and concise!
The purpose of a portfolio is to demonstrate the work you have created that best showcases your skill towards a specific profession or ability. RARELY does one portfolio work for every purpose! Don't be afraid to make multiple versions tailored to what you're applying for.
A reel shows work that needs to be turned around (models) or viewed in motion (animation)
Here are some tips from my Pixar portfolio review:
My personal tip: Arrange your artwork from what greatest shows YOUR STRENGTH in your PORTFOLIO FOCUS to what best shows your VERSATILITY.
Interviews are a chance for you to showcase your interpersonal skills and preparedness for a potential job. They may be done in person, on the phone or over video chat.
Find ways to talk about studio properties in a passionate, but professional way!
Especially in entertainment, studios like to hear that you're a fan of their properties. For some studios, participation in their content (like games) is a huge bonus in their consideration. It's important to show enthusiasm for the job you're interviewing for and the content that job will interact with.
However, the pitfall in entertainment (especially children's entertainment) is speaking in a manner that is more fitting of a fan than a professional artist. My biggest recommendation for this situation is to think critically before an interview about why, as an artist, you connect with certain media. Being able to point out an aspect of production that makes you enjoy a certain show or game can be helpful to tie this down.
Regardless, try your best to read the room and the energy when you start an interview! Some interviews will feel very formal, and others less so. Being prepared with the kind of questions you may answer will help to adapt to either situation.
Business cards provide a quick format to exchange contact information at conventions, interviews, or chance meetings. When traveling and meeting people I usually end up giving out at least 1 business card to stay in touch with someone! It's worth it to have a couple tucked in your wallet.
Invoices & Pricing
When creating a pricing sheet, look at how much people are charging for that skill or experience level! Browse on twitter, tumblr and instagram in tags like #commissionsopen.
Regardless of whether or not you share your commission prices online, I'd suggest making your own personal guide for how you price your work, be it an hourly rate, rate per characters, color for illustration, etc. Use this guide as a reference to make sure you price yourself fairly.
For commissions, I have my own invoice form I fill out and send to clients. I also highly suggest Mishlist, which allows you to make several commission types for people to submit via the website. Money processing services like Paypal also have their own invoice-makers.
It is worth it to get used to documenting and keeping track of your freelance work early on!
This was a lot to cover! If you made it to the very end, congrats! I hope some of you reading this found this information useful, or at least interesting. As I said in my disclaimer at the beginning, there are many different ways of going about professional documents. To me, there is something very satisfying about making a cohesive set of work that showcases professional skills to the world. The art and animation communities are very unique, so if you have an insight you'd like to share with me, feel free to send me an email!
Greetings from the word of full-time drafting. I've been keeping my head down and focusing on writing recently. Today, slightly unplanned, I took some time to rummage around my Notion page for my chapter book and clean it up a bit. I reviewed my wiki for characters and places, edited some wording for mechanics and made a more overarching decision for one of the settings. For those of you who haven't seen the home page, it looks like this:
I'll give a few notes about some of the more general sections.
Writing a first draft has been much more about overarching plot changes than word choice, prose, and finicky details. I don't worry about overusing words or repeating dialogue tags. It's interesting to make changes to an overarching aspect of the world and then figure out how to weave in that change through various details and dialogues over multiple chapters. Did that make any sense?
Anyway, there's a peek into how I'm organizing my project and keeping track of a world's worth of info. Have a great week and keep an eye out for a new post this Saturday!
This coming month, I am starting an exciting chapter in my life. I aim to complete 2 project drafts by the end of this year. One of these drafts is for a YA (young adult) fantasy chapter book that I aim to post online. The other draft is for a short YA graphic novel I started at a comics workshop this summer.
In order to accomplish this, I will be working full time in tandem on these two projects — one drawing, one writing. Since these will be the first drafts of both these stories, I am completing them with the aim for further editorial work and development.
AAVAN: An Illustrated Web Book
AAVAN is a fantasy chapter book with golems, ancient magic, and a music school. I started writing this book last summer and I'm hyped to finish it. It's a combination of many things I love: AI and free will, musical performance, and reclaiming your agency. I'm very much inspired by Phillip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, and Diana Wynne Jones.
I'm excited to eventually post this chapter book online when the full edit is completed. My current plan is to release each finished chapter weekly or bi-monthly, formatted with interactive and moving illustrations inline. Much like a webcomic, the site domain will host a dynamic reading experience. I'm also considering doing one-shot colored comic pages set in the same world. For the illustrations, I'm planning on using two methods. One will be using GIFs (animated pictures) made in photoshop. The other is a site called Sketchfab, which can host 3D models online and allows anyone to turn them around and look at them.
However, before any of this can happen, the draft needs to be FINISHED!
In the Near Future:
DRAFTING! I have scheduled out my time to have a finished draft for this book by the end of the year. I'll also be doing some concept development for the interactive illustrations on the site.
Small Towns: A Comic
Small Towns is a graphic novel I started drawing at a workshop this summer at the Center for Cartoon Studies. It's a YA story about a girl named Jean, who spends a lot of time with Rosie, the elderly caretaker for their town. Making my own comics has been an exciting process so far, and I'm excited to have a finished, multi-page work to share in the future.
I only came into drawing comics more recently, and it was so fulfilling to try different prompts and exercises during the workshop and to collect inspiration from everyone around me. I am sure I wouldn't have found this story without that amazing workshop group.
In the near future: Thumbnailing and writing! I will be creating layouts and dialogue for the story beats I've laid out.
What I'll Be Posting
This IS a tidy blog, after all, so I'm looking forward to documenting what I learn through working solely at home for the first time since college. Working at home can be tricky and requires a lot of structure (at least in my case). I fell into a rhythm when I was working on my short film, and it will be interesting to see how that rhythm has changed post-grad.
More specifically to writing and drawing, I have a feeling I'll learn quite a lot from committing full-time to these projects. I want to learn more about how I create, what kind of stories make me excited, and what potential my finished, polished work may have in the future.
Once again, I look forward to sharing this process with you all! I'm so excited for the future!
Happy summer to you all!
While beneficial to my performance in school, my college apps, and my eventual graduation, it has become more and more apparent to me recently that my habit of frontloading work over relaxation has become a toxic behavior. My friends — my partner David especially, have helped me realize this, and now I'm trying to take active steps to balance out my days.
The New Weekly Planner
While I didn't think I needed it for a long time, I made myself a weekly planner spread in Notion. I have a physical planner, which I still enjoy filling out, but if I need to move a task or an event around, I have to white it out and write it in somewhere else (pencil is not my jam).
(click to enlarge!)
This is my template for the week, Monday through Friday. As you can see, I have a top section that is divided off, with emojis for Morning, Afternoon and Evening. Under that, I have a palette emoji section which is specifically for personal projects. Then there's the work section, which is for any freelance or contract work I'm doing. Finally, there's the sparkle emoji, for non-work related chores.
Striking a Balance
NOW, I am trying to sequester out a few things a day for myself. I get my personally fulfilling art, my freelance work, and my chores out of the way bit by bit, in any order I choose. I don't HAVE to do chores or work first. When I cross out everything for that day, like I did on Monday, I have fulfilled my obligations for today and it's time to RELAX. Today, I'm using my relaxing time to idly write this post. Later in the evening, I'll be going out to get drinks. I'm DONE being productive for today.
Perhaps this format seems obvious to others, but it has taken me a long time to arrive here. For years I was dividing my tasks by what was most productive and piling that on first. It's almost like a person eating only brussel sprouts on a Monday, only steak on Tuesday, only noodles on Wednesday, only pasta sauce on Thursday, and saving ice cream only for Friday. There's a reason we're supposed to eat balanced meals (I'm still working on that too, lol), and the same goes for a balanced day.
Once my vacation is over, I'll hopefully be back to 8 hours workdays and a regular work week. When this is the case, the "work" part of my day is accounted for. David reminds me when I get home that I've done a huge amount of "being productive" simply by being at work, and being at home is a time to relax. I shouldn't be piling on the chores or trying to jump right into personal project work, even if it's fun.
I want to feel more in control of my schedule and not always ride the wave of productive guilt. I'm hoping this peek into my schedule may help others with the same thing.
A popular explanation for the clutter of one's house is the owner's lack of organizational skills. "I'd keep it cleaner, but I'm just not organized." It is perfectly fine to not enjoy organizing. To those of you out there that could take or leave labels and categories, I have good news for you: You don't have to be organized to be clean. And unfortunately, the inverse is true as well: people who are organized don't necessarily keep clean houses. In fact, people who obsess about organizing (like me) often have a harder time with minimizing and staying clean!
Change your habits for accumulation.
Monthly photos on your phone.
Every month, I go through all of the photos on my phone and delete anything I don't want to save. Once I'm down to the bare minimum I need to upload, I log onto Google Photos (where my phone albums are backed up) and download them onto my archiving hard drive. I try to be good about doing this once a month so I keep storage open on my phone and review my photos often.
A quick easy disposal regimen for mail.
As far as mail goes, I have a "deal with it now" policy that I enforce if taking action will take less than 5 minutes. Mail that I need to deal with goes on my desk keyboard so I'm forced to interact with it. Junk mail goes right in recycling. This way, there's no mail buildup from day to day in our living room or kitchen. Avoiding "for now" piles is a great way for less organized people to get through tasks without needing to categorize.
If you finish a book and don't think you'll read it again, donate it to a used bookstore or give it to a friend who may like it. If you're anything less than 100% sure you won't read it again, I urge you to donate it. Worst case, if you are overcome with a burning urge to reread this book, you can buy it again or get it for cheaper on kindle. ( I DARE YOU MIKHAIL )
When everything has a comfy place, the sensation of clutter fades.
My favorite example for this is shoes! Shoes, when in excess and without the right "organization" to seperate them, can be a huge source of stress. They're an object in which the force of habit can be very strong, and so we hide away shoes we never wear but might need at some point, and at least if you're me, wear the same 3 pairs of shoes every day. If we feel motivated to bring more shoes in the open in order to encourage wearing them more, the result can be a cluttered space full of guilt fighting habit.
Shoes are a great item to narrow down to your absolute favorite pairs for each occaision. Push comes to shove, when that party comes around, I'm going to wear that one pair of heels that don't hurt like crazy. I'm going to wear my converse, sneakers, or docs to work. I keep all of our shoes under the bed just at the edge, so they're out of reach of being tripped on but are easy to grab. These days, I can reach under the bed at a certain location and know the pair I want will be there. The distress and guilt I felt about owning a giant shoe-bag full of shoes I never wore has faded away, and I feel a comforting sense of familiarity with the 6 or so pairs of shoes that are still in my life.
Organized clutter is still clutter.
Too many books that you organize by color, genre, and type, are still too many books. You can check out my tidy trilogy post for more info on this. In addition, less stuff means less of a need for labels, file systems, folders, and containers. If you decide to discard your collection of NatGeo mags, that means you don't have to figure out a place and a system for keeping them organized.
Open spaces are easier to clean.
A giant rack full of DVDs or books is a challenge to clean or dust, since you must take out all of the books, wipe them down, wipe their surface down, and put them all back.
In Fumio Sasaki's book Goodbye Things, he talked about minimalism making cleaning three times faster.
To clean a table with a bunch of knick knacks on it, you need to:
To clean a table that has nothing on it, you need to:
This principle can be applied in many different places in the house at varying degrees. When thinking about how you want to structure your space, you will always benefit from thinking of the upkeep it will require. And less stuff will always equal less upkeep.
There are overlaps between this post and an earlier post of mine, which covered the difference between Minimizing, Organizing, and Tidying. What spurred me to write this post was thinking about the tidy material I've seen that talks about organizing like an immovable pillar of the perfect lifestyle. I think that outlook is a bit unfair to people who may not be suited for organizing, but still want to live a tidier life. The prospect of reducing the need for organization is honestly a huge relief for myself, as I used organizing as a band-aid for excess for many years. Minimalism, in my mind, is the critical thinking key to creating a space for yourself that you enjoy.
I hope y'all find these thoughts helpful! Until next time!
I'm not a procrastinator. I'm not saying it as a brag (though it was beneficial for school), I'm just stating the nature of my disposition. Putting things off makes me squirm. I love to multitask. I love to finish things early and move onto what's next. I love the satisfaction of getting all my chores out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of the day.
My proactive nature, however, is also a product of my anxiety disorder. I worry, I fret, I seek certainty, and there is a finality that is comforting in getting things done. I pester my boyfriend about throwing away empty amazon boxes. I seek to finish work all at once instead of taking what might be a healthy break to rest. I struggle to relax. If I go through a day without making, cleaning, or organizing something, I feel "lazy." I have to work hard to relax. It's something I'm trying to improve on, so that my daily happiness isn't tied so closely to how much I accomplish.
That being said, just as I'm working to integrate relaxation into my anxious disposition, I know many people seek to bring proactive habits into their own daily life. The opposite of procrastination, in my mind, is anticipation. By looking just a step further into the next moment, I believe you can better enjoy the present.
Put things back when you're done with them.
How often? All the time.
Prime candidates: shoes, coats, kitchen gear
Put them back where? If you're asking yourself this, hop on over to my Resting Space post to learn a little more about picking smart home bases for your belongings. Once you get used to putting things back when you're finished with them, you'll barely realize you're doing it. It'll become a natural part of using any object.
I very recently got rid of our shoe rack in the living room and stored all of our shoes in the ample border space under our bed. In this spot, they're just out of view but easy to grab. When I enter the house, I take off my shoes and tuck them in their space under the bed. I avoid leaving shoes out unless I'm putting them on or taking them off.
We now use the same technique for any kitchen gadgets that we don't use daily, but often. Our rice cooker has a spot in a cabinet where it is easy to reach and take down. When we're done with it, it gets washed and put away so we have room on the counters.
Reset your household.
How often? Every night for quick surfaces, weekends for vacuum/heavy cleaning
Prime candidates: fluff up pillow or blankets, clear documents/cups off desk
At the end of the day, I usually reset our living room area so it's fresh to be used tomorrow. This includes putting pillows back on the couch, smoothing out the blankets, throwing away any napkins or to-go bags, and returning glass cups to the kitchen/washing machine. This could also be done in the morning, so be sure to hone in on what time and spaces make the most sense for you. More involved surfaces like kitchen counters usually get wiped down once the dishes are put away and we're done preparing food.
The secret to making cleaning/tidying more manageable avoiding the need for day-long purges. Letting your mess build up to the point where you need a weekend and a hazmat suit will eventually build a negative association that cleaning = time consuming. This doesn't have to be the case. A quick vacuum every weekend, a wipe down at the end of the day, a weekly laundry routine — these things are so much more manageable when they're peppered into your daily life in small, easy amounts.
Prep to go before you go.
How often? Anytime you're going out.
Prime candidates: wallet, glasses, keys, food prep, clothes for the next day
Especially if your morning routine is involved or requires a degree of promptness, preparing your belongings for the next task at hand will lighten the load on your mind when that task rolls around. It's the same reason people avoid packing for a giant trip the morning of.
On Monday mornings, I put my planner and pencil case in my backpack, along with my lunchbox, sunglasses and key fob. With my belongings settled, I can sit down at my laptop and work until it's time to leave, and then I can get up and go.
Use a planner or to do list.
How often? Depends on the person. I recommend beginning and end of the day.
Like freeform analog? Blank dot grid journal.
Like structured analog? Daily/monthly planner.
Like freeform digital? Google docs, keep, or notion.
Like structured digital? Any.do and Google calendar.
You don't need to be an avid writer or journalist to benefit from a planner. Also, feel free to use what medium works for you. I legitimately use all of the above platforms for different purposes and for different reasons. None of these ways are the right way, as long as they allow you to ask these important questions:
Morning: What do you need to do today? What's coming up this week?
Evening: What did I do today? What will I need to do tomorrow? Did my plans change at all?
Live mindfully the rest of the day.
How often: As much as you can!
If you're actively trying to improve on the other things in this list, it will take an amount of conscious effort to change your habits. However, as you build these habits, I believe that you will begin to take more appreciation for your surroundings and your daily life. Putting things back, cleaning regularly, preparing your belongings for outings, and keeping a planner — these are all things you can do while living in the moment. They will reduce second-guessing, forgetfulness, and letting clutter pile up around you.
And once you've spent your time accomplishing these tasks, you can live in the present without worrying about what you need to accomplish. Focus on the tasks you've made, and if new ones come up, you can add them to your planner or list. Then, at the end of the day you can reset and figure out what comes next.
You can probably tell from the existence of this blog that I'm a strong believer in the power of routine. When I have a routine, I feel the most centered and focused. My moods do better following the path of the day and I can anticipate and deal with challenges that come. In regular intervals in my life I've stopped to make an "Ideal Daily Routine" on binder paper or Google Docs or Notion, outlining all of the things I should do in what order in order to have a perfectly optimized and happy day.
However, life doesn't have much of a care for sticking to MY routine, no matter how well-thought-out and optimized I make it. When overtime cuts in, when I get sick, when I simply need more time to sleep — these are the times that concessions need to be made to get through the day on time. No morning yoga. No carefully-timed computer breaks. No meal prep or regular evening exercise. It's a frustrating exercise in what I consider important.
An example: I sleep in later on a weekday, so I'm obviously not going to have time to write. My priorities are: enough makeup to look alive and lunch to eat later, so I take my essential medication, put on makeup, make lunch and go. Everything else has been determined to be non-essential to me getting out the door. A tiny side note — having efficient resting spaces for my belongings and less belongings overall means I have an easier time prioritizing and finding what I need, even when I feel more rushed.
This past week has been challenging for my brain and I. My brain relies far, FAR too heavily on a sense of accomplishment in order to feel happy. Nothing especially harrowing has happened this week, just overtime at work which deters me from productive mornings. I still go to bed at 9:30 if I can, but the longer work days makes me more tired overall. I sleep in until 7 or 7:30. Since my priority is going to bed at 9:30, I missed my three workout nights this week. I didn't draft a new blog post. I didn't cook any dinners. The result is me on a Saturday feeling rather miffed and guilty because I "fell off the horse."
Since I'm expecting this dilemma to trouble me consistently in my tidy-aspiring life, I figured I'd make a post about it. Many of the youtube accounts I watch for minimal/tidy lifestyles showcase the best of the best of their lives. It is up to me to remind myself that other people fall off the horse too, and that's okay. The important thing is to avoid chastising ourselves for falling off and encouraging ourselves to get back on.
I'm taking this weekend to reset. I'm pretty sure this coming week is going to be busy too, so it's important to rest and rehabilitate both my mind and body. One of my goals in the future is to measure my daily happiness by experience rather than accomplishment. This is my reminder to whoever is reading this: Drink some water, take a break if you need it, and be proud of yourself for trucking along.
One of my favorite things to discuss with others is the personal projects they're working on outside of their job or school. I try my best to encourage my friends to continue with their ideas and make something new. In this post, I've collected some of my favorite suggestions that can turn an idea into reality.
Keep in mind that all of these suggestions are geared towards personal work!
It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to exist.
"I'm not ready yet" is even MORE dangerous.
If "readiness" is stopping you from moving forward, then it's a notion worth leaving behind.
People appreciate output more than ideas, and you will too.
Make it exist somewhere besides your head.
Imagine a painting you want to create. It's the most beautiful, Renaissance-era painting full of intricate foliage and skin tones and expressive, captivating eyes. Now think about painting it, and having it come out exactly how you imagined. Exciting, right? But, if I imagine actually making it, my mind begins to list off the things I'll have to narrow down or learn. What kind of flowers? What is the subject like? Can I really paint drapery in clothing? What if I mess up their expression? I'd really have to plan and draft to even get it close, and even then, it might not be good enough. There's no way it'll be what I want it to be.
The solution is make it anyway. Make it anyway if it makes you excited, and fully expect it to be less than your wildest dreams. I HAVE to be this way when I draw animals at the zoo. Animals move around a lot, they have unfamiliar forms from what I usually draw, and I can't count on having a good view. It's very easy to feel like a crummy artist at the zoo. So, I take it in stride and try to make myself laugh. Bad drawing? Give it cartoon eyes. Not sure how to do the legs? Give that tiger human feet. It's far from perfect, but I'm still drawing and I'm still learning. And any silly drawing on that page is still more valuable to my learning than the ideal Joe Weatherley sketch in my head.
Go for good enough.
Good enough for what?
Good enough to move on, feel accomplished, and work on something else.
Make the project that captures your mind so a new one can take its place after, don't table it because you don't think you're ready or you may not "do it justice." Finished exported work also shows commitment and confidence, even if you have to fake it. This is an especially important point for students and visual art students who are trying to build up portfolios. Stock up on ideas. Small tests and little works will help you see what sticks, what makes you excited to create. Then you can refine those ideas and make them bigger and stronger and whatever you want them to be.
Don't be afraid to downsize your project in order to start.
Do you have a dream project, but you're not sure how you'd even start? There's a chance that you may need to break it down. Take that hundred page epic comic, that beefy novel, that giant mural, that home redecoration station, and turn it into:
You don't have to give up on the bigger dream, be it a movie or book or startup or Youtube Channel. Breaking this dream into chunks will make it more achievable!
BONUS BENEFIT: Sometimes the small project will satisfy the itch for your idea. Maybe you thought you'd write a YA series, but one book will do the trick. Maybe you thought you'd start a blog, but one post scratched the itch. By breaking the project up, you had a chance to test it and now you can move on to the next idea!
Identify what might be holding you back.
The problem may be learning a new skill in order to accomplish your goal.
Perhaps you're jumping into an area of media you haven't touched before and going outside your comfort zone. I certainly struggle with this. As a competitive person and a lover of routine, I get unreasonably perturbed at anything I'm not instantly good at.
Don't say: "I'll do this project once I'm good at screenwriting."
Say: "I'll do this project to learn how to screenwrite."
The problem may be finding the time you need to commit to your idea.
Solution: If you have limited free time and tend to fill it up quickly, make a pre-scheduled block of personal time to set aside for this project. This will discourage you from over-booking yourself. It will also take away the urge to only work on it "when you feel like it" or "when the moment strikes."
Don't create in a cave.
It is very tempting to imagine withdrawing from the world, keeping your project a complete secret, and then publishing it to the amazement of your peers. Or at least, I've imagined that before. While being secretive may be an effective tactic for a large-scale movie or game studio to keep their fans (and make sure nothing is spoiled), I think it's important to remember a key difference. Behind the curtain of NDA, collaboration is still happening. However, if you're one person, working in a secret private cave can be discouraging.
Tell your trusted friends about it.
I've heard this is a common tip for people trying to work out more or lose weight. By telling other people in your life, you're holding yourself accountable to others. More importantly, you're opening up the opportunity for a support network that will encourage you with your progress. This is the perfect time to appreciate the most supportive friends or family in your life. Ingest their positivity and their respect for what you do and bolster your own confidence along the way.
For this reason, I really enjoy telling people about my personal projects. Afterward, someone might say, "This sounds really cool! Keep me posted on this!" or even better, "I'd love to help out!" It's a wonderful, encouraging feeling and it helps me remember that my work doesn't have to exist in a vacuum.
Choose how much you share.
Want to keep your work private, but still receive encouragement along the way?
Share your progress with a trusted friend or family member.
Want an impartial but professional third party?
Take a class, join a workshop, or take private lessons!
Want a global location to share project updates on the internet?
Start a blog, dev log, or social media account!
It's all about finding the right balance of privacy and accountability to keep moving forward.
Learning to bake!
Baking and cooking revolve around sharing your creations with others. A wonderful cake is wonderful not only because it's beautiful, but because it tastes good and others can enjoy it. You can't make a wonderful cake without making a few okay ones first. A baker grows their skill by trying different things and sharing them. They can figure out what works, and also what they enjoy doing.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Imagining an experience is very different from the experience itself. Experience helps you grow, both by failing and succeeding. Go for good enough, break down your work into manageable chunks, and share your progress with others.
Whatever it is, I believe you can make it happen!