Ten Reasons Why I Struggle Finishing My Personal Projects


Daily Drawing #110215.
Daily Drawing #110215 – drawn with Harmony

If you’re a regular visitor on this blog, you’d probably have noticed that I have some issues to finish my personal projects as easy as I finish paid ones. If someone pays me I’ll do a perfect job in time, and that’s not an understatement. Because then it’s a job. I’m really, really good in doing a good job and meeting deadlines.

Recently I quit my job as a school teacher. I wanted to be a full-time artist again because that’s what I’ve always wanted. But even though I have time and space now it’s difficult for me to work on my own projects. And I want to find out why this is so.

So here’s my list of ten reasons why I struggle to finish my personal projects:

1. They’re not real jobs

A person very close to me cheered as I told her that I was going to work as an art teacher a few months ago: “Well, then you finally have a real job!” – Ouch, that hurt! A real job brings some money in, and my art and animation projects didn’t do so very much, so they can’t be real jobs.

2. I’m a scaredy cat

I’m afraid of so many things.
And sometimes this fear keeps me from doing things. This is a hard one.

3. Only 2% of all fine artists in Germany earn enough for a living from their artistic work

One of my professors in art school shared this statistical fact at every available opportunity. I don’t know his motivation to do so, but for a long period I thought it won’t be possible to join this 2%. Which causes fear (see 2.).

4. Others are better than me – always.

This is as bad as being rejected. No, worse: “Hey, we like your stuff, but the stuff this guy over there does is much more interesting… Perhaps next time?”

5. What if someone simply doesn’t like it?

I don’t like to be rejected. To prevent myself from being rejected, I just don’t do anything. If nothing’s finished, nothing can be rejected. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

6. I don’t know if it’s really art

Visualize an art exhibition. You probably have some idea about how artworks look like. Mine always look different. They just don’t look like art. It’s my impression that I don’t fit into existing categories. Am I so progressive? I can’t believe that. I simply don’t understand what turns a thing into an artwork.

7. I’m interested in so many things

I don’t want to miss a thing. Every time I read a book, watch a movie, do a walk I found a huge amount of inspiration. I generate ideas with every breath I take. And every time I have an idea, a little mean voice in my head asks: “Should you really try it? I mean, in fact, the idea is not too cool, and probably somebody else already did this better than you ever could. And: it doesn’t look like art…”

8. What if people find out that I’m not especially cool or creative but an ordinary human-being?

I’m always afraid that people may find out that I’m some kind of sham, some one only pretending being an artist. That’s why I spend so much time learning things to become an artist, but seldom turn them into products or works (as a real artist would do).

9. It’s much easier to implement ideas for other people or to encourage them to work on their own stuff instead of working on mine (also known as paid work)

For me it’s always easier to care about others and their needs than caring for myself. We all have our stuff, and this is part of mine.

10. A day has only 24 hours

I sleep approximately 7-8 hours. I do paid work for half the day awake. I’m recovering from driving and working with other people and/or kids for one hour (this often includes a nap). I struggle for two hours with all the issues mentioned before. And then I get something little done, something like a small test animation or so. Then I repeat step 1 to 9.


Why I share this? Because I’m learning. I learn these things about me and things start to change.
And I see a lot of people with the same issues. Perhaps you can learn from my experiences, too. These issues are part of my life as an animator/artist, and since I’m writing about this life here, it’s worth mentioning it.
You’re not alone.

If you want to share your experiences, I’ll appreciate that: feel free to leave a comment!

Next week: 10 Reasons Why Finishing Personal Projects Simply Rocks

19. February 2011 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. With the title of your next post, it sounds as though you are simply honestly sharing your process, Jessica, rather than currently struggling?

    Though if these items were still vexing you, I’d have a suggestion about it…

    I think I and many others can claim for ourselves all items on this list in some order at some time or another.

    And I think item #10, about the small amount that can be done each day is so true. I can tell you that even on the occasion of lovely long luxurious days ahead of me filled with dreams of sensational achievement I always have to settle for the smallest inch of progress by the end of the day. It’s absolutely infuriating. Grrrr.

    However, I have found over the last few months that even this sort of glacially slow progress adds up to real progress over time. I find that it’s the consistency that has the greatest impact. It’s a real Tortoise vs. Hare story come to life. And darn if the Tortoise isn’t seriously right!

    As for the not-good-enoughs in all their various incarnations, I know you really know this already, but it really is all relative. And, further, besides the point to me.

    For me, the artistic impulse that overwhelms the maker and erupts with great enthusiasm is art to me. whether others enjoy it and throw money down for it is irrelevant (And why artists often have to work at job-jobs to live on while they make art just for their heart.)

    Sometimes it blends where the art and the money for living can originate from the same source.

    But to me what’s important is that the art be expressed.

  2. Shelley, hi! You’re absolutely right: I’m just sharing my process because I see so many young artists dealing with these issues. I haven’t thought of *Tortoise & Hare* on this topic, but of course! This parable fits perfectly.

    With a more distant view on my progress I’m able to catch a sight of it and like it, but for most of the time it’s difficult to get this distance.

    I like it much when you said, it’s beside the point if something is art or not. – Not a totally new idea to me, but it is so true! Shelley, it’s so great to have you around and to share these thoughts with wise and lovely people like you! Thank you!

  3. 1. at the moment I’ve got a job that supports paying the rent/food/life. It has nothing to do with what I love to do, but it supports me. Which is o.k. by me. It leaves enough time to do my stuff.

    2.) Risking to support yourself financially (english ?) means that you have found people who will pay you for what you are creating.

    3.) When was the big counting ? “Everybody who is an artist and able to live from her/his artistic work raise her/his hand” – or what ?!
    And did your teacher just not want to live by his artisitic works and prefer to make a living by telling people (as I guess) younger than her/him what is art and what not ?!

    4.) Conclusio: there is always someone bigger than you. And may it be the weather when a hailstorm surprises you with too less to wear and too far to go without any support in sight. There are the ‘old’ masters (and where are the ladies there ?!), and there are some people who established themselves in certain circles with varying expansion (close friends / the world) with a unique voice. This is not a contest !

    5.) I can garantuee you, that there will be someone who can’t find any relationship to your work. Or ignores it because it doesn’t follow a certain style. Or whatever reasons one might come forth.

    6.) Who knows ? And when somebody claims to know: count the seconds until her/his devotees and his ‘worst critics’ start an epic war about it. With everybody screaming it’s head of, ‘what the true message was/is/will be’

    7.) What is wrong with that ?! I found persons drawn onto the sidewalk spontaneous – which were actuall pi$*stains… Inspiration might lurk in the next ten seconds in a sight you haven’t expected.

    8.) What if your ‘fans’ are boring ? I was pretty glad not to meet an excentric ‘whopeee’ but a very thoughtful, sensible and creative yet very bound to realiy person.

    9.) I alread drove people nuts with my perfectionism. Back when playing in bands I always was amazed of how simple the ‘hit songs’ were constructed – and that one of my own songs had enough materials to get about five ‘regular’ songs from it.

    10.) Nope. Ask a Zen Monk. Or your memory, of how long or short an hour can be.

    I was at a party lately (the first one since last summer) and some friends asked me, when they can see some of my works finally done. I showed them the International Gorilla Suit Day images, told them about the sideshow and that I will first finish my “I will built my own computer and it will work’ plan. Then I will start to finish what I started in the last two years. Everything as good as possible at the moment. Because there is so much stuff left to do…

    So I had to comment on this.

    List of people to shoot:

    1.) fundamentalists
    2.) people who make lists who to shoot
    [Banksy]

  4. Michael, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! It’s always welcome!