Tuesday, May 24, 2011

6 Things You Gotta Be if You Want to be Successful: #2, Work Hard.

Time for another post on the "6 Things for Success" series I'm working on! But before we get to that, I have made myself some lovely new buttons on my sidebar for my Etsy Shop and Deviantart Page. I've had several people approach me recently for some illustrative blog elements, which I'm considering batching and theming (as well as customizing) and possibly offering for sale. Is that something you or someone you know might be interested in?

2. Work Hard.
"All of the secrets of success will not work unless you do." 

I belong to several communities and forum sites, and I always see people ask the same question: "Any tips for doing such-and-such?" When someone answers their question honestly, telling them that achieving a certain skill level will take hours and hours of study, suddenly the result becomes much, much less attractive.

We live in a culture (well, I can only speak to the American perspective on this) that is centered around instant-gratification. There are so many get-rich-quick scams, and "work from home and make a 6-figure salary!" gimmicks, that perhaps we forget that the things truly worth having - like our masterful creative skillsets - are worth working and waiting for.

Any skill in the arts is a life-time journey. Your skills need time, life experiences, and practice to mature. Rome was not built in a day. I always try to remind myself that achieving solid skill does not operate in checklist format. I cannot draw one hand and go, "Okay, check! Now I can draw hands." The very idea would seem silly to anyone. A professional illustrator needs to be able to draw hands at every possible angle - and needs to draw them convincingly. To do this, one needs pages and pages of drawing hands before they're even marginally good at it.

It's overwhelming for anyone to hear that a skill level they desire is years (and thousands of hours of work) away. The mountain always seems the most insurmountable when you're at the foot of it looking up. In fact, it can seem downright impossible. However, a mountain isn't tackled in one gigantic leap. Try not to think of advancing your skill in this way. My mother always reminds me, "You don't have to do everything by tomorrow." Especially as we advance, we're even more aware of just how much farther we still need to go, and sometimes it's natural to become overwhelmed by our own potential and desire to succeed.

But skill isn't always achieved in sudden, huge leaps and bounds. Working hard doesn't mean busting out huge projects every week and burning yourself out. It simply means being consistent, persistent, and proactive in your choices. Little choices to be active everyday can be the key to working hard.

Have 30 minutes? Package up some items instead of clicking through pictures on Facebook. Jot down some ideas or thumbnails in your sketchbook for fleshing out later. Take off your socks and draw your feet for some life drawing practice. Read that business article you've had bookmarked for the past week and make some notes.

Have 15 minutes? Organize some supplies. Respond to a few threads on Etsy's forums and make some connections with other shop owners (you might even come across a thread that's helpful for your business, or a question you may have!). Research market trends for upcoming seasons. Do some 2 minute gesture sketches. Update your facebook page or blog with a quick update.

Have 5 minutes? Answer that email to a client real quick and impress them with your timely response. Renew an item on Etsy and promote it through your twitter/facebook page. Comment on a friend's blog. Draw some simple, compositional thumbnails.

Like I was saying in an earlier post, most of the time, creatives are daunted by long to-do lists; especially if the tasks on that list are small, menial tasks. But these small tasks create a much larger picture of who you are and how your business operates. It's so easy to say, "Oh, I'll do that when I get back" or "I'll get to that later." You'll surprise yourself if you use your small chunks of "interim" time to accomplish these small things; later you'll come back and say, "Oh wow, that's already done." It's addictive, really.

I encourage anyone who may be reading this to try making small proactive steps in their creative goals. Tell me what you did and how it went! 

 First and third images from Pinterest.com
second image (aqua & green screenprint) by Kathy Panton
small flower icons by me.


  1. Wow! Thank you for the advice and tips for being successful!
    So very helpful :))

  2. Great tips!

    I quit making the long "to do" list. I use the little tear off calendar pages. That way I get them all done in one day!

    Hope you'll stop by my blog. I arrived here from Bloggin' Buddies on etsy


  3. All very good tips!

    So glad you left me a link...love your blog! I actually remember seeing it the other day, but I guess I didn't bookmark it, so I'm glad you found me, so I can follow you now!

  4. Don't forget to mix it up. If you do the same thing everyday full time, you'll get burnt out. Thanks for sharing such great advice.

  5. Deanna - Hey! Glad this was helpful! Thanks for stopping by!

    Christie - Thanks! I agree - who needs long to-do lists? Checked out your blog - good stuff!

    jdavis - Heyyyyy love your blog! Thanks for the follow-back! :)

    Rebecca - Hey girl! Such good advice. Mixing it up is key to avoiding creative burnout. Thanks for commenting and sharing your advice!


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