Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

coffee01Raise your hand if you’re one of those people who start every endeavor with the intent of doing it successfully.

Since you can’t see me, I’ll just tell you that I’m raising my hand.

The desire to do things well isn’t a bad thing. The drive to improve ourselves is great! But the downside is that once we choose to pursue something (such as drawing or writing comics) we become very cynical of everything we do: it’s only worth our time if it visibly moves us towards our notion of perfection. Otherwise, we consider it a step in the wrong direction. But there is something dangerous about that mindset.

If we took that attitude towards other people, it would mean not speaking to them unless we somehow already knew that they were pleasant, interesting, and “our type.” Or every moment spent getting to know them feels wasted unless they’re valuable to our pursuits. The idea of conversing only for the sake of “progress” or “success” probably sounds self-centered and almost inhuman. But besides being a disservice to others, this is also a huge disservice to ourselves. We close off a huge portion of experience and sensation when we do this, and we limit ourselves to that which we already know.

The same thing happens when we treat our endeavors this way. When we start each drawing, each chapter, each script with the intent of establishing what we already know and understand, we lose the opportunity to learn from the process. Once a sketch is intended to be perfect, the odds are stacked against it. As soon as a draft of writing is treated like the polished revision that it isn’t, it has failed.

But if a drawing is simply seen as “small-talk” with your trade, the pressure is gone. If the writing becomes a metaphorical cup of coffee with your craft, then you don’t have to worry about “the long term.”

This is surprisingly hard to implement in practice, but here’s how I’ve been trying to do it lately: before drawing or writing, think of a goal that you can’t NOT achieve, such as “Experiment with line and shape” or “Describe the living daylights out of my fictional environment.”  If your goal is to just drink coffee, then you’ll succeed by just drinking coffee.

For me, this is the hardest part of both drawing and writing…  what’s the hardest part for you? How do you overcome your obstacles?

2 thoughts on “Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

  1. I really like thinking about, “We limit ourselves to that which we already know.” What a sad, sad thought! All that “exploring” time can feel wasted when we’re just trying to reach a predetermined goal, but that’s where I always find that I learn the most.

    1. Same here! Sometimes I feel better going in circles, because it’s my “comfort zone” but eventually the circle becomes too small, and I have to venture out.

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