One nice thing about keeping a blog (or, at least trying to) is that every so often something that you’ve written, or in this case, drafted, becomes relevant again.
I’m currently being inspired by the fact that last month (sadly too long ago for the show to still be available), a recording of my blog post about Kerplunk and wanting to follow the rules was featured on BBC Cambridgeshire: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09514dh . I was really chuffed by that, especially as I could share it with my friends. Life has got in the way of me managing to follow-up this success with a burst of creativity, but even though I’ve not finished any other writing I’ve still been thinking about things to write. While that continues, I hope you enjoy the blog post below. I started writing it back in July 2019 and have been modifying for quite a long time, so it’s probably about time I posted it!
As you can probably tell, finding a way for myself to stay motivated without external validation is still a work in progress…
A little while ago, something happened to me that I really wasn’t expecting, but made me incredibly happy: someone put some of my artwork on their wall:
This wasn’t something that I had anticipated happening, pretty much ever, as I don’t really consider myself as someone who is an “artist”. In fact while writing this blog post I had to go back and remove the quotation marks I’d automatically added around “artwork” in the first paragraph, clearly implying that I didn’t consider it “proper art”.
I’ve been creating sketchnotes like those Pete liked in the tweet above since late 2018, and one thing that’s been keeping me going is the fact that people seem to like them. It doesn’t take much to make me feel that they are worthwhile – just things like the odd person asking if I was doing them for a particular meeting, or a couple of thumbs up on the work Slack when I share a picture of them. It’s made me think about how much I seem to rely on external encouragement in my creative endeavours.
A good example of this is in terms of what hobbies I’ve kept going over a long period of time. The two big ones are helping to run a Scout group and performing comedy. Each of these provides me with some encouragement that I’m doing something well – mainly that people keep coming back – and I do think that this has contributed heavily to why I’ve kept doing these for so long.
By contrast, there are a few things that I’ve started and really enjoyed, but failed to keep up with. A big one is singing lessons. When I was little, I was in the primary school choir, but in my final year there I became aware that I wasn’t actually hitting the notes right. After that I grew up with the knowledge that I wasn’t a good singer, no matter how much I enjoyed it, and it was only when I was much older, during my PhD, that I actually tried to do something about this. I had singing lessons, and not only enjoyed them, but also enjoyed the practice between lessons too, which is always a good sign. Then my singing teacher left to go to London, where there were more opportunities for them. I found a second teacher… and the same thing happened again. After that I never quite got around to putting in the effort required to find a third, despite how much I had enjoyed singing. I did get some compliments while singing along to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, “Once More with Feeling!”, at a convention, so at least I must have improved quite a bit!
This blog is another example. In the past I’ve started off writing for my blog with a burst of enthusiasm, managing to blog regularly because I’ve set myself a target, only to find that I wind down due to failing to get any engagement.
Trying to find a routine
I know I need to get a routine going – and just enjoy the process rather than seeking external validation. When I’m actually writing, or singing, or whatever, I do tend to enjoy myself. I find myself getting into a state of flow, and it’s brilliant. But I can’t seem to do that consistently, and then as soon as some part of my life knocks my routine slightly it all seems to collapse in on itself. Nothing I’ve tried has seemed to be quite as motivating as external validation – but I’m going to keep trying different things out until I find a better way of creating.
For example, at the moment I’m trying different ways of writing posts, sometimes using my phone to help me get them done in whatever little gaps I can. I’ll also be trying to regularly contribute to the Den of Alacrity site, both because I like what Mac’s doing with that site, and in the hope that having deadlines there will motivate me. In the meantime, I’ll still seek external validation here by trying to build up more posts and hopefully getting people commenting – or at least liking the posts.
Maybe eventually I’ll just get into the habit, and wonder how it was ever any other way.
What experiences have motivated you to create art?
Have you managed to find a regular audience that enjoys what you’ve made?
How do you keep going when that external encouragement isn’t there?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section – I’d love to hear them..