Get things done by letting go

In the beginning of 2020, I posted almost every day to Instagram, was making digital paintings and watercolor paintings, taking a course at CGMA, all while making my book and writing my blog. All that was in addition to my day job as a game artist. To some, it looked like a lot, so I got some messages asking how am I able to do it without external help.

When it comes to mindset, one of he biggest mind shift that helped me get things done is letting myself to be average when it comes to personal work. In creativity and productivity there needs to be a freedom to explore, and if you don’t give yourself that freedom, you can easily get stuck. To read more about that, read my previous blog post

There are also other background factors that grant me a lot of free time and energy. Here are what I consider to be the biggest ones.

1. Getting sleep, food and exercise

It’s funny that no matter how old you are: just like so many of us, you might be still struggling with finding a balance with these basic needs. It’s easy to miss and go to an extreme, and forget that if you eat only broccoli and chicken it’s a recipe for a miserable life. Finding a balance can be a lifelong mission.

There are lots of trends out there that promise that if you follow them, your life will transform. However, we are all different in some ways. My advice is to get to know yourself and not follow any given trends too strictly without bending the rules. Modify them to suit you, to a point you feel you could do this routine/rule willingly for five years. If you know what types of foods and activities make you feel good, you can try to design your life in a way that helps you automatically grab them.

If you can find a way to make it easy or even automatic for you, you can focus on more fun things, instead of maintaining an ”optimal” sense of self, which isn’t optimal if you have to constantly use energy, or even suffer, to maintain it. The best routines are the ones that add joy and postiive structure to your day, in my opinion.

For extra depth and ideas, I recommend a book I’ve been reading called Atomic habits by James Clear, which is a great insight to human psychology and how we can best design our environments to support better choices. Here’s a link to the book.

2. Good mood = good art

It’s a funny myth that a sad artist produces great work. However, this couldn’t be more the opposite. When we are happy, it’s easy to happily work and focus. This is also one of the most important aspects that I like to give my credit to. When things are great with your family and friends and you have a positive trust that life is going to be alright, it is much easier to put your energy into creativity. When I look back and look at the moments when I was under a lot of stress in my personal life, it wasn’t easy to focus.

Sometimes the pressure to perform can come from the outside, and sometimes from the inside. Are you demanding too much from yourself? If you do, can you allow yourself to make mistakes and be average this time? Life has the opportunity to become more joyful if you allow yourself explore and see a bad sketch as part of the process. If you’re able to breathe, you can exhale creative things. I

3. Turn those bad days into art?

Sometimes we all have bad days, no matter how positive we try to be. We’re only humans. And we can only control so much. In fact, if you had a day when everything went to hell, and you’d still be smiling, you might live in denial. It’s okay to feel crappy sometimes.

Especially in the dark season, especially in Finland, you can start to feel more negative towards the evening even if you had a good day. If that’s the case, try taking that emotion, fueling it with suitable music and turn it into art. That’s the best thing about art: it takes the common disappointments and pain in life and turns it into something entertaining, something worth getting off the floor for.

Also having differents kind of situations at work can spark out ideas that could be worth illustrating. Even just a bus ride, or a said sentence can fuel an idea – even when it’s negative. How about a comic strip that expresses the absurdity of what you experienced?

4. Combine habits

Did you get hooked on binge watching and suddenly time just went by? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

What comes to consuming entertaining material, I try to be mindful about things that consume my time more than is necessary. If you want to watch a show to relax, maybe just one episode of a comedy show is enough? Nathan Fowkes once said: If you have a guilty pleasure that sucks the time that you could use for art and studies, it has to go. I’m not as extreme with his view, but I understand where he is coming from. With thins like Netflix it’s just too darn easy to say: I’ll just watch one show to relax, and then I’ll paint. And then you watch four and notice it’s too late to practice.

It can be tough to get out of a habit, but awareness is your friend. Maybe you could decide to put the show as background after first episode and sketch out the characters from the movie or series?

As a whole summary:

if you make your life comfortable and enjoyable, it’s easy to get things done. Allow yourself to be average and also allow yourself to express the absurdity of life in the way you experience it. If you feel like there’s a sense of purpose in your creations that is bigger than you, it can also help you motivate yourself on the moments when you ask yourself: why am I doing it and does it matter to anyone? Sometimes when you are pushing through an uncomfortable moment in the process, that subsurface motivation could come really handy.

So here we go, let me know in the comments what you think about these tips or if you’d want more blog posts like this.

Hope you enjoy your weekend!


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