by: Chey Rasmussen
For my whole life, I’ve wanted to create something amazing.
Things I loved growing up like The Legend of Zelda, Harry Potter, and Disney cartoons inspired my young mind and caused me to dream big.
Human beings made these awesome things; maybe I could too!
As creative people, expressing ourselves effectively and making things that are of great value to others is the lofty goal in mind. While the desire to create may be baked into our personality from birth, the specific skills required to bring a vision to life are not! As a result, we often look at where we are compared to where we want to be, and that gap seems more than just a little intimidating.
It doesn’t help either that we’ve been conditioned as a society to be all about instant gratification and convenience. An entire world of information is available at our fingertips– you don’t even have to walk to a library anymore!
You can drive up to a fast-food chain and expect to be eating food within five minutes without even getting out of your car. You can talk to someone you care about on the other side of the world and even see their face without leaving home.
This is why when something’s difficult and takes a lot of time, it’s more frustrating in our day and age than it ever has been before.
Creating something amazing is by its very nature not instantly gratifying. Building skill, worthwhile art, and an audience to follow that art just takes a good ol’ fashioned daily grind, no matter how you slice it up.
As we develop patience within our creative pursuits, we gain the power to follow through.
We grow in the ability to resist giving the canvas the middle finger or slamming the door on whatever we’re building. When trying to create something truly amazing, that ability to forge ahead and push through discomfort is EVERYTHING.
Without it, unfinished masterpieces pile up, and we’re left with nothing to show for any amount of work we’ve put in. We lose confidence in our ability to finish anything, and we begin to doubt our skill and ability to create.
We can then lose sight of the worth our own work holds to us and the potential it has to move others. Creative block sets in, and it’s hard to pull out of that mess.
Trust me. I’ve been there. It’s not a fun place for dreamers like you and me.
Patience requires three things:
1. A goal or dream; something we want to see happen
2. An understanding of where we are right now, lacking the thing we desire
3. A process; a plan based on something we can rely on consistently to get us from point A to point B
Without the gap between where we are now and our dream or goal, there is no need for patience. We aren’t waiting for anything. Without something to rely on to navigate this gap, there’s no patience, only frustration.
Patience is when our burning desire to reach the end goal is complemented and reinforced by trust in a reliable process that we know will get us there eventually. This desire to achieve and this contentment and trust can seem to be antithetical to each other, but with practice, you can learn to have them cooperate and balance each other out quite nicely.
You can be accepting of where your skills are now while also deeply desiring improvement, and great creative power comes from this balance.
We have lofty goals, and these should serve as motivation to improve rather than stumbling blocks to bring us down and prevent us from working hard.
While I have not yet fully mastered the virtue of patience, I have made some progress, and the following have helped me greatly:
1. Give yourself permission to dream big. As a result of past experiences, many of us try to temper our dreams a little too much. It’s OK to want to master your craft. It’s OK to want to make something amazing. It’s OK to want to build up a group of people that adore your work. Don’t let stinky old disappointments sour the process of dreaming. Throw them out. They are in the past.
2. Accept that what you make won’t be perfect, but that it will be human. In working on my own animation, I have to remind myself often that I’m not Pixar, Disney, or Dreamworks. I am one person with limited skill and resources. Regardless of the flaws that will undoubtedly be present, it can still be great, and it can still measure up to my lofty dream given enough time. Keep in mind that people absolutely love all kinds of deeply flawed and imperfect things.
3. Give yourself a process and trust it. This involves believing and acting on truths on which we can base a specific daily task. These truths often come in the form of if/then statements. For example, If you do one sketch from a reference every day, then you will look back in a year and see progress. That’s a solid, reliable truth you can base a process on.
My own personal trusted process for my dream project is this: If I sit down to work every day for 30 minutes after my 9 to 5 job, then there will come a day when my project is done. Trusting this process helps me to be patient with the fact that what I’m making might take years, and it puts my focus less on the joy of finishing and more on the joy of the process itself.
When it comes to creative work, patience is truly a necessity. Work to cultivate it, and you’ll find the ability to stay motivated to improve and create amazing work, while still remaining confident and content throughout the long process.
What steps have you taken to cultivate patience or to better enjoy your own creative process? What insights can you share from your work and experience?
Let us all know in the comment section below.
Chey is a graphic designer by trade, an animator by passion. After spending years bouncing from personal project to personal project and struggling to see anything through to completion, he's now in his spare time working on the animated series he's always wanted to make. Passionate about helping other creative types stick to and succeed In their own dream projects, he writes about his experiences, and about how he cracked the code of his own creative psychology here.