This article is meant to pair with my video discussing the topic, which has even more examples for you and may clarify some points! Please do have a listen.
When you're a creative dynamo, you still have to plan your time well, or you won't get much of anything done. It's an unfortunate truth -- you can spend hours puttering away at something that just isn't coming, and at the same time neglect things that would be easier or are more urgent needs.
I’ve used this particular method for many years, and it’s helped me immensely to organize my own work. Where once upon a time I might have struggled to produce two comic pages in a week’s time, I now find that fairly simple a task. In my two decades of professional work, I have produced well over a thousand comic pages, numerous series and stories, and worked for commission with a quick and reliable turnaround of less than two weeks, as a rule.
Perhaps more importantly than that, though, I’ve shared this method with numerous friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, most of whom have invariably returned to me with shining praise of how such a simple approach has helped them to be more productive and feel better about themselves.
And so, at the very start, that's where priorities come in. This is why planning your day is important.
Don't worry! It isn't difficult, and you can do it in just a few minutes as you start your day. It’s something you might want to try to do as you enjoy your breakfast or undertake your morning meditations. It needs only a few minutes; starting a new habit is challenging, but a helpful trick is to attach it to something you already do.
The way I plan my day, and the way I've done it for many years now, is this: decide what things need to be done today, decide what things you'd like to work on, and decide what things would be nice to finish, but which you're unlikely to get to.
The things that need to be done are things with a strict deadline, things you need to focus on, things which you feel urgently need to be done. It may be tempting to put a lot of things in this category, but don’t! Be sure you’re concentrating on needs. There’s room for the rest elsewhere in my method.
The things you'd like to do are exactly that: things that you'd feel good about completing, but which you don't strictly need to finish today. You can still put in some work on them, and it'll still be helpful, but if you don't get to them, at least you did some work on the essentials.
The last category, things that would be nice to finish, are really a bonus category. They're things that you don't think you'll be able to finish today, things you aren't really likely to be able to focus on well today, and things that you might be able to do if you find yourself in the frame of mind to address. If you finish those things, you can feel really good about it! But it's okay if you don't get to them.
Personally, I tend to do this at an early point in the day, just to organize my thoughts and my plans for the rest of the day. It’s especially important in a time where so many people have to adjust to new ways of getting things done. If I can consider my needs, wants, and whims early on, that makes it much more likely that I will be able to achieve the things most important to me in that day. If, on the other hand, I don’t focus and don’t try to organize myself, I might not get anything done, or I might only get done those things which were never that urgent or important, resulting in disappointment to me and possibly others too. I would prefer to avoid that!
It depends heavily on what works for you, as to what I would suggest you use. Some people like to write their thoughts down, so perhaps you could use bullet points or categories to organize your thoughts. If you should decide to do this, be sure not to spend an inordinate amount of time on it, but be sure you’ve considered all the things you need to do in the day.
I support rewarding yourself, even with just a little something special, whatever you accomplish in a day. It's important always to take time for doing things you enjoy, relaxing, and having fun. Planning can be a little difficult at first, especially if you’re not used to it. Don’t let it stress you too much -- plans can change, and that’s good for them to do! My method was designed to avoid too-stringent structure, so as to minimize stress in dealing with it. Don’t hesitate to change something’s category. Don’t make too long a list of things, especially at first, because that can seem daunting and prevent you from being able to face them, much less accomplish them.
Take things gradually at first, and take all the time you need to adjust to your new approach. Be sure to cut yourself plenty of slack, at least when you start out, because it takes time for every person to become used to new ways of doing things. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. That’s what this method is meant to avoid.
I do hope you'll find this way of organizing your day helpful, as I have for many years! I find it helps me to accomplish the things I need to do. By classifying things into priority groups, and by considering those priorities, anyone can make the most of their day.
Give it a try!
Topic: March 2020 release
These are absolutely fantastic changes, and the one that really delights me most of all is being able to tick a box and not be warned about going into the Red Curtain for a while! Great job on everything as always, and the little caterpillar next to the bug fixes section is so adorable!
Topic: Seeking Tutorial!
Painting has never been my strong suit, and I tend to stick with watercolors and pastels, and the occasional gouache. But I've always been fascinated with and admired so much art used for pulp novel and comic covers, especially the work of Emanuele Taglietti, who did most all the covers of a favorite comic of mine, Sukia.
You can see some select covers here, but of course there's plenty of nudity, sexy stuff, and violence, so be warned.
I would absolutely love it if someone out there with this skill could share it with me in the form of a tutorial video. I prefer to work in Clip Studio Paint, but just about anything would work, as long as it's well-explained or at least clear enough from the video and its approach. If it's speedpainting, please explain how you do it, because speedpainting tends to be...not much help due to the speed at which it's presented.
I've looked all over and haven't found anything like Taglietti's work, or really anything pulp-like. I think it's probably an acrylic approach with a stunning technique used to make every figure appear so vivid and real, but without the overwrought "photorealistic" nonsense I see in excess lately.
In advance, thank you! I hope someone can come up with something, and I will absolutely be sharing this video with every artist I know, because all of us do want to learn.
Well said! I think not enough is said seriously about creativity and depression, especially together. Yet so many of us do struggle with depression. For various reasons, though often I think it's to do with the fact that artists tend to see what should be, or what shouldn't, and are typically "ahead of the curve", so to speak -- so being surrounded by a world that's constantly behind really does drag a person down. Whatever the person's specific reasons, whatever the cause, it's imperative that they prioritize self-care, learn to let themselves deal with things, that it's okay, and express themselves about it. Get it out, it needs an outlet!
I'm very glad to see you addressing this in such an honest and eloquent manner. I hope we'll see more that can touch the lives needing it most.
I believe this "gearhint" is spam. Egh. Can't stand spambots.
Topic: BACK UP YOUR FILES NOW!
Dropbox has had a few problems like, on Macs, grabbing more disk space than needed and just...keeping going with that. Fortunately the bug was addressed, as far as I heard, but I rarely use it now because of that. Which isn't reasonable, so I should use it again!
I usually tend to backup my files to an external drive. I get them when I see them on sale, so I have a few pretty spacious ones. Since some of what I'm backing up is the same files, I tend to just make dated archives.
I should use Time Machine more, but it seems like I always forget. I love Macs and Time Machine is one of the best features of them.
A few years ago, my main work machine had some sort of critical hardware error and I thought I would lose everything. I was so devastated -- because I hadn't, at that time, been taking as regular backups as I do now -- and was just about ready to give up altogether if I lost my hard work of two months. Fortunately, the people at the Apple Store were able to save all of my data and put it on an external drive. Ever since then, I've tried to remember to take backups regularly and in some cases, even do redundant backing up with flash drives and files on my other system.
But I do think that people should definitely backup regularly! I still don't think I do it regularly enough, but I really don't want to lose files that are irreplaceable, like my as-of-yet unpublished creative work. That can't just be found and downloaded again online! It's important to think about how you'd feel if you lost, say, two months worth of work on something that you intended to show to the world but hadn't yet. It's a devastating feeling.
Topic: Finding Focus with OmmWriter
I try to write on a daily basis. It’s handy to keep my skills honed! As with visual art, it helps to keep in practice, even if you just write a few paragraphs. I’ve been writing professionally since my late teens, but I also write for pleasure.
The struggles with writing
The hardest part of writing, I’ve always said, is just getting the words down -- it’s telling the story, transferring the concept to something a reader can experience. Revisions come later; they’re the easy part, even if they can be tedious.
When I’m writing, it’s often a challenge to focus on what I’m doing . While I can get in a creative flow with visual art, it’s often much harder with writing. Multitasking sometimes makes it far more difficult to get out those tricky initial words. And it’s understandable to want to put it as well as possible initially, so you don’t have to do extensive revisions and editing later.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a truly remarkable writing program called OmmWriter . OmmWriter itself is a full-screen application and generally keeps out extraneous interference for the process. Not only does it come with a number of natural or naturally-inspired backgrounds, it also features several musical and ambient tracks and sound effects for each keystroke. Of course, sounds are optional and can be turned off, for you to put on your own music or ambient inspirations.
I wrote a novella in a week with OmmWriter! It was an impulsive little satire, and I was more than slightly surprised at how easily the creativity flowed. Normally, I would have sat staring at LibreOffice for far too long and produced less than half of what I did.
What set it apart from the other things I’ve used to write was, most of all, the creators’ commitment to creativity and creators . To illustrate this, let me tell you a little story.
A few years ago, when my comic Incubus Tales was still running, I also wrote serial fiction to accompany it for the wonderful publisher Circlet Press. The serial, entitled Incubus Tales: A Thousand Words, did very well critically and was exceptionally well-received in general.
But after I finished it, life started going a little more than slightly crazy. Not just the world in general, but my personal life and the lives of those dear to me seemed to turn into one strange, stressful event after another. I tried to start numerous stories, and eventually I ended up stopping with each and every one because something else would come up and derail my process.
Last month, I decided that I’d spent long enough not doing something I love. I was determined to write, however I could manage it. Whether for publication or for just telling the story, I knew I needed to write again. I made the choice to do it the best way I knew how, and I began to assemble the music I would need, inspirational images for setting and flavor, and I remembered the delightful program I used years ago when it was new, the one that had helped me so much: OmmWriter.
Support for creatives
I contacted them because I couldn’t find a download and had lost mine from a computer crash a couple of years ago. They wrote me back that generally the downloads are time-limited and transaction-specific, but they offered me a coupon for a free copy of OmmWriter since I supported them in past and they wanted very much to encourage my creativity. In the time since I used it last, OmmWriter advanced in a number of ways, and I love it more than ever. It’s also remarkably rare, in my experience, for a company that claims to support creators and creativity to actually do that.
But OmmWriter and its creators came through for me, and for that I will always be grateful. It’s important to me that creativity be encouraged, because so often creativity is just exploited. For the creators of this already spectacular program to be so generous, because they really believe in creation and writing...that makes a huge difference to me.
How to get started
OmmWriter is available at https://ommwriter.com for digital purchase. You can go with their suggested price of under $10 US, or add more if you want to be generous too. They have a new program called OmmBits as well, which is intended as a briefer experience for smaller pieces of writing.
If you want to try OmmWriter, you can Try the experience test on their site. They offer two experiences for you to take OmmWriter for a spin. Although they’re more limited by necessity than the full program, it’ll give you an idea of whether or not you might be helped by the way it does things.
OmmWriter is just so wonderfully different, to me, and that’s what makes it special. It helps with that hardest initial step. It’s effortless to just copy and paste what you’ve written into LibreOffice or Word or whatever you use, for later revisions and editing. Naturally, OmmWriter also sports the fundamental functionality of any text editor, both in auto-hiding top menus and in intuitive icons.
If you’re looking for something that can help your creative process get its start, think about OmmWriter. It’s uncommon to find such a creative thing developed in a dedicated way over years and committed to creativity.
Topic: Art and Community
It is indeed so important to connect to other creative people, and this site is honestly the only one I've ever felt connected to! Most other sites don't have much of a real mind to community, or even worse, some of them encourage (or have done in past) outright antipathy and play creators against each other. I think the most important thing to do is to foster a sense of trust and comfort between creators.
It's also important that your fellow creators understand what you're setting out to do, and that neatly segues into the one part of the article I wanted to just add my two bits to: I don't think you should ever feel like, or be made to feel like, it is necessary or even okay for others to "tear apart" your work. Some creators work well with that, certainly. But most people are really not very good at constructive criticism, or much any criticism or critique at all, and there's a strange attitude in this day that encourages people just to complain, often brutally. "Criticism" has a negative connotation, and oftentimes people feel like asking for feedback is asking for complaints, asking them to point out problems. There's a toxic trend in academia, too, of students being expected to accept or even embrace fundamentally useless feedback from people who neither know them and their work, nor understand their intent in their art (or any expression) or individual works.
When giving feedback, I always encourage people to think primarily of the things they liked about something, because it tends to make them have to think in greater depth about the work. It is easier for most people to find something they don't like than it is to find something they do. It's also something I've always said, that if someone keeps getting rid of things people dislike about something -- which is what they'll readily tell you if you ask -- there won't be much, if anything, left that belongs to the artist. It can be much more helpful for an artist to concentrate on the things that someone likes and cultivate them, develop them in a constructive way towards flourishing.
There's also nothing wrong, I feel it's important to point out, with not accepting critique that isn't useful to you. You aren't required to accept any of it, and you should never just blindly accept it, or else even potentially useful critique can be utterly wasted. It's important that you be able to use it, and that takes thought and examination. If you don't know how to use it but you suspect it may be useful, file it away for a later date; if you are sure it won't be, or you simply can't see the person's point, or even just don't like their approach, you aren't required by any means to just accept it.
But to bring it back closer to your original topic, cultivating a sense of trust and community can help so much for artists to get to know each other and to become more familiar with each other, leading to a more constructive environment in general. In a good art community, creators can engage each other and the admirers of art can do the same, and they are far more likely to give useful, helpful critique.
I hope very much that this and your wonderful article will help to encourage the already lovely community here to even greater heights of friendliness and understanding!
I think that's a great idea -- honestly, if there were some sort of system here or something, where people could learn from each other...learning from those with specific experience, who can help one to learn...would be a really fantastic experience.
I honestly think that any help, any advice, a foundation, a basis, would help so many, so much.
Too many tutorials and instructionals out there just don't help or concentrate on informing; too many of them assume way too much about people. It helps much more to maybe start a little slow, even if only due to major differences in the programs we use to create our art, or the media we use.
I totally agree with this -- so often, people set goals they have no hope at all of achieving, either because they believe it's expected, or because they just don't have a practical approach to goals and achieving them. New Year's resolutions are a good idea in concept, but so often they fail in the reality...just like crash diets and such. It could certainly be argued it's just not in human nature for most to do something they don't particularly want to, and change is always difficult; even people who give up something for Lent regularly only do so for forty days, and most of them don't even make it if it's something they like particularly much.
Gradual change tends to be much easier to adopt for most people, and setting less grandiose and more immediately achievable goals as you've discussed helps too. When one feels like one has achieved a goal, that encourages one to keep doing so. That's one huge reason I feel it's crucial to allow oneself reward for doing things like working at the necessary things one must do -- with consistent rewards, no matter how inconsequential they seem, they can act as incentives to keep at it.
I've always encouraged an approach of, at the start of every day, making a list:
What I need to accomplish, the things that I absolutely must do today; if I do not do them today, I must do them as soon as possible.
What I would like to accomplish; these are tasks that aren't strictly essential, but it would really help to complete them.
What would be really great to accomplish; these are things I don't really expect, even if I'm going exceptionally, to finish, but I'll be very pleased if I do.
Even if it's only a mental list, I find it helps immensely in actually getting things done. It's easy to make this list as one prepares breakfast, during one's shower, whatever one may do as a routine daily. I agree completely that it's important not to overreach. Know your limits, don't try to go crazy with an outrageous goal. Be realistic and honest with yourself, and set some goals that you can achieve in a shorter period of time, with consistent work. Sometimes you might discover that a goal is more demanding and elaborate than you had initially believed, but that's okay; being flexible and able to adjust to new data and circumstances is also important. It's also important to be able to assess the new situation and determine whether you need to adjust your projected work time, or whether you need to put that on the back burner for later, when you're more able to address it, and try to do something else for now.
These are such crucial things few people, artist or otherwise, ever seem to learn.