So, you want to get better at drawing.
You wish you could draw certain things better, that you could be faster, or be more confident, or proud of your work. Your desire is there, but the gap between where you are and where you want to be seems vast and discouraging.
Chances are that you do not have a drawing habit.
Drawing improvement starts with regular practice, but before you can even begin a habit, you need two things. Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with the definition:
Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
Before you can begin a habit, you need to be committed. Do you really want to be better at drawing? Ok… now act like it. Your desires mean very little without actions.
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
– Japanese Proverb
When you want to build a habit, the important thing to remember to not start out too big. Big goals and dreams are great… ideal, even! But oftentimes the steps to greatness are small, calculated decisions. Commit to your big goal to be better and commit to the small steps you need to take to get there.
In college, I had hundreds of cartoons published. I miss doing them, so one of my goals is to get back into cartooning. I know I can’t jump right back into that kind of output again (especially at the level of quality I want) so I’ve committed to drawing every day for at least 5 minutes.
It’s nothing, really. 5 minutes goes by FAST. But, 5 minutes is my minimum commitment. There are days when I really don’t want to draw. I’m tired, busy, have work to do, but taking 5 minutes to do something seems like an easy enough task. I get started drawing and before I know it, the 5 minutes are up! Sometimes I stop, but I often find myself wanting to finish my drawing, or work on a whole new drawing. The 5 minute minimum commitment turns into a 30 minute relaxing break from reality. By making a 5 minute commitment I’ve added even more time spent working on my goal. Eventually I will increase my minimum time, but for now, 5 minutes is where I need to be until it becomes a more regular habit.
If you’re a high achiever or super driven, minimum commitments sound like a lazy way to get started. If this is you, take your minimum commitment and cut it in half. There’s your new commitment. Start small! Minimum commitments build to a maximized future.
A habit will die out if passion is not part of the equation. There’s a very important distinction here: Not all habits have to be “fun.” For example, in 2015 I wanted to be healthier and use my time more wisely, and to do that I woke up around 5am every day. It was not fun. However, waking up early allowed me to have more time to work on freelance projects and to be more active, 2 things I am passionate about. The habit itself does not have passion behind it, but the habit should move you closer to something you are passionate about.
I was not passionate about waking up early, but I was passionate about using my time wisely and being healthier. Waking up early allowed me to do that, and so the habit stuck. The best part is that I really enjoy waking up early now! The more you do something that creates value in your life, the more you enjoy it.
A drawing habit might sound like fun, but sometimes the practice is mundane, frustrating, and repetitive. Sometimes I get tired of drawing eyes, faces, hair, hands and body positions over and over and over. While I may not enjoy the repetitive practice, I do see progress. I see myself getting better as I flip through old sketchbooks. I am passionate about being the best illustrator I can be, and practicing the mundane things is one habit that helps me get there.
To build a habit successfully, you need to commit and you need passion. What habit will you create?
Questions to ask:
- What habit do you want to build?
- What minimum commitment can you make? How will it be directly tied to your passion?
- What habits have you failed to build? Think about why.
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