As I plug away at my comic book, one thing I’m really proud of is my growing ability to finish stuff. I never realized how important it is to develop this skill (or that it even was a skill), but if you want to take on anything big… you need to know how to finish! For a lot of artists (including yours truly), our ability to finish is hampered by our fear of failure. After all, if we’re going to finish something, we want it to be worth our time! But fear of falling short and disappointing ourselves and others often keeps us actually seeing projects through.
In my own work, I’ve definitely started building up a tolerance for finished-not-perfect work. I still die a little inside when I finish a drawing or a comic page, and I see a way to make it better… but the feeling of seeing 10 imperfect-but-finished pages is pretty special. I promise you: getting used to finishing things is one of the most important skills you could possibly develop.
But how do you develop the ability to finish?
There are 3 main elements to a “finish or bust” mentality: don’t sweat the small stuff, work no matter what, and finish before it’s too late. If you accept these 3 things, finishing becomes a lot less intimidating. Below, I wrote 3 practices that can help you hone your finished-not-perfect attitude and let you move on to bigger and better things!
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Give yourself quantity (not quality) based goals. 5 3-minute drawings, 100 head studies, etc. The purpose of this practice is to build up your ability to do lots of work in a relatively short amount of time. This prevents you from being able to focus too much/too long on a single piece. Obviously, you still want to put in effort and try hard, but get used to quick, efficient work as well!
Work No Matter What
Doing work on your project needs to be a regular, consistent part of your routine! Maybe it’s the same time everyday, or perhaps the same amount of time everyday. Your personal project needs to be such an integral part of your day that you miss it when you don’t work on it. Start small if you need to: just 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at night. Work your way up to an hour (or 2) a day. You’ll be surprised how far you get working 5 hours a week!
Finish Before It’s Too Late
Is it possible to finish a personal project “too late”? Yeah, actually: never is way too late. It’s like not turning in a school assignment because it’s not A+ quality. If you never turn it in, it’s automatically an F, regardless of your effort or skills. There comes a time when you just have to take the B-, and try to do better next time. With your personal project, maybe you want it to dazzle a million people. But if you never finish it and share it, you’ll never even dazzle 1 (no matter how lovely the product is.)
I haven’t finished the comic yet. But chapter 1 is completed, chapter 2 is well underway, and I know that I can do it. I cans start a project and work past the pitfalls and the potholes. It has become a daily habit for me, even if it’s just itty-bitty steps each day. Maybe I draw one rough panel, maybe I draw a whole page.
And often enough, I can’t use what I draw. But I draw it anyway. It’s like learning an instrument or a sport: you develop the muscles and callouses you need to keep going. It certainly hurts and causes stress in new ways, but learning to follow through on something I truly care about has been the most worthwhile lesson I’ve learned so far.