Bruce Stanley of Embody has written a great article for Freelance Switch about figuring out what motivates you creatively. The article is targeting creative professionals, but that doesn’t mean it can’t apply to your personal projects.
He’s put together a pretty good list of 5 possible motivations for your desire to be creative.
1. Competition – being the best or unique. What gets you up in the morning is the idea that what you will eventually deliver will be better than everyone else’s. You like standing out from the crowd or coming first in the pack.
2. Process – building something step by step. You love being there behind the drawing board, notepad or wherever the working surface of your job takes you. Just doing what you do, practicing your skill is your motivation.
3. Product – seeing the finished article. Even before you’ve started you can imagine the task completed. Pictures on a wall, pots on a shelf, an album being played. The rest, making the thing, comes second.
4. Effect – the audiences appreciation of the product. What gets you out of bed, tackling those moments of low motivation is the idea that people will love and appreciate what you’ve made and that, somehow, you will get to hear some of that feedback.
5. Oversight – controlling the whole process or team. You can see all of the stages needed to bring an idea to production. Your motivation is to oversee all of the work and ensure that it all joins up. This tends to only apply to groups working together.
He describes each motivation’s strengths and then points out possible pitfalls to be wary of, as well as some ways to steer your projects toward your strengths.
You can begin to restructure or craft your job to suit your particular strengths. Pick positions or tasks that naturally suit your motivation. Make the most of the stages of the job that you know you’ll really enjoy. Find a balance between your intrinsic and extrinsic motivation if you use this model to enhance your commercial work. If you apply it to your leisure time creativity then intrinsic motivation is more important.
I think the ideas in Stanley’s article have merit. For instance, I know that I’m a predominantly a Product person. I enjoy the feeling of having written more than I enjoy writing. I like to look at the finished page more than I like drawing it. So, knowing this, I have to focus on improving my process to make it easier and less daunting.
This is fairly easy to accomplish when making comics because the process has so many tangible milestones.
- Inventing the plot
- Writing the script
- Sketching the layout
- Penciling the page
- Inking the page
- Lettering the page
- Finishing the book (or season in my case)
There are many built in milestone and that makes it easy to step back and enjoy the feeling of having achieved one. It’s somewhat more difficult when inserting artificial milestones into projects where they don’t naturally occur.