Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ask the Three Tub Men ...

Question: When you have a project that needs to get finished and the last thing in the world you want to do is work on that project, what do you do to stop procrastinating and get started working on it?"

Ted Dawson: "I use the tried and true method of Visualization. I visualize holding the check in my hand.

Otherwise, one way I ease into a project is to do whatever mindless preliminary work is necessary. I'll cut paper, pencil in guidelines, search for and print out reference pics if necessary, whatever. That puts me in something of a work mode that can accelerate.

Oftentimes what keeps me from working on a project is the large number of drawings I have to do. I used to look through all the specs when I would receive them, but I noticed that would overwhelm me. Now I just start with the first one and muddle through.

Sometimes I'll use the Charles Schulz method. I'll just sit down and start doodling, or just do some free-flow sketching of nothing in particular.

I don't know if any of this addresses the psychological block. Probably the thing that works best is for me to roughly formulate what my workday will be like the night before. That generally programs me for the day.

One last thing is to prepare something that I look forward to listening to while working. I assembled a good playlist of Songs To Work To. I'm experimenting with audio books right now, listening to the first Harry Potter."

Wes Hargis: "It's hard, because there's two types of procrastination for me. The one where I'm avoiding the task and the one where I recognize I'm not in a good "zone" and I'll just blow it if I dig right in. If I sketch at it while I'm watching a program in the background that I enjoy, I can generally get myself interested. Ted mentioned that... part of the process is just keeping yourself at the table long enough to get going.

In this business, after a while (and quite a few tortuous all-nighters) you formulate an idea of just how long you can meander until it's go time and it doesn't matter if you feel inspired, you just have to start cranking.

I like getting started early enough on a project to be able to toss the first stuff I do if it sucks. Because it usually will."

Stacy Curtis: "I find myself in this position quite a bit and I don't know exactly why.
It's not like the projects I have in front of me are something I don't want to work on. Heck, lately, I can't ask for projects more suited to me!
I think a lot of it is because I was born a procrastinator. My first words were, "I'll do it tomorrow."

When I find getting started difficult, I usually go through a series of exercises until I find something that has motivated me to get started....
  • I start with thinking, "I can't get paid until the work is finished." That's usually good motivation, but usually not enough to spark work getting done.
  • I will go do research on images that appear in the book I'm working on. This usually gets me excited enough to start making sketches in my sketchbook.
  • I will make my workplace more comfortable, put on some music or an audiobook, toss in a DVD...anything to keep me interested in being in my studio.
  • I'll do a quick little drawing for myself, cut and rule off paper and clean off my drawing table to get me in "work mode."
  • If I'm procrastinating doing sketches, I'll pack up my sketchbook, some paper, pens and pencils and go mobile. For some reason, the constant chatter of a coffeeshop, a bookstore, the mall, the library, etc. inspires me to draw (and even write!). Some of my most creative and productive moments come from sketching in these places.
  • Last, but not least, I think about how I would feel if I miss my deadline. That usually does it for me.

    Sometimes, I think I procrastinate because I've envisioned the job to be more difficult than it is or more work than it actually is. Ever do that with something like painting a room, cleaning out the garage or mowing the yard? I don't know how many times I've procrastinated doing a painting for four or five days, when it has only taken me two days to actually get the work finished. If I could learn how to turn off that part of my brain, I think I'd have a lot less procrastinating happening."

    What do YOU do to get yourself motivated to work on a project?

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    1. This was a great question because I'm going through it presently. Compounding it is being worn out cuz the family has been sick. So the only thing that is gonna kick it in this time are the deadlines. Unforgiving little cusses, aren't they?

    2. This is far and away my worst demon. In fact, the very reason I am reading this post right now is because I have a deadline. Procrastination is my closest friend and oppressor.

      My best tip for breaking the cycle is lists. Like mentioned above, making a list of what I will do the next day makes it all the more likely I will actually do it. I am mentally prepared to do it, and I have a discreet, manageable chunk of work set out in front of me, and I can set my sights on finishing that one thing.

      A side benefit of the list for me is that I can put fun, non-work things on the list as well. Like later this week, after I am done teaching my class on Thursday, I have written down that I will go see Pan's Labyrinth. It's a game I find I have to play with myself to get my ass out the door sometimes.

    3. Lists are good. My wife just bought me a big ol' dry erase board, and I think that'll help. I like your thought on taking sizeable chunks and working on them. I guess you could call that "micro-processing."

      Lemme know if Pan's Labyrinth is any good. The trailer looks awesome.

    4. Sometimes I'll get really excited about a project/book, and after a couple illustrations in, I realize that my art work isn't they way I had envisioned it. Of course with tight deadlines, I can't go back and redo them so have embarked on a project that I'm not quite happy with. I'm probably way too self-critical, but this is one of the reasons I end up procrastinating. The wind is out of the sails, after which I have to 'press on' till it's done.

      A for ways to get past procrastination, I'll reward myself with 'just for fun' work after I complete a certain number of illustrations. Or I'll watch a favorite move..OR, I'll let myself play a favorite video game every half hour of work. :0)

      Good topic!