26 July 2015

Notes on Productivity


I've struggled with productivity over the years. At some stages I have had superhuman productivity and at other times super slug levels of activity. I recently had an important project I wanted to finish without it dragging on. I was tired of taking months to make a few basic changes to a comic. I decided to try and find every moment I could within the day to grab some time to work on the project. In addition to working in the evening, I decided I was going to use every break I had at work to do something on the comic. I have a morning and afternoon coffee break of 15 minutes and a 45 minutes for lunch. If I was disciplined this meant I had:


  • 10 minutes morning tea break
  • 25 minutes at lunch 
  • 10 minutes afternoon tea break
  • 10 minutes immediately after I came home from work
  • 30-60 after we had put the kids to bed


In total this added up to approximately 1.5-2 hours per day per day.

The strange thing is that each little piece isn't much, but when I added it all together I found I could complete a whole page in one day. I have now adopted this as a working method and I'm using it again to compete my next comic. It can be hard to stay disciplined and some days I miss out on a morning break or afternoon break, I have to run an errand on my lunch break or I'm just too tired in the night. I remember in my first year of art school, I didn't have a TV or a computer and I carried my sketchbook around with me wherever I went. A classmate remarked how she didn't understand how I got so much drawing done. It was really an illusion, because I grabbed little 10 minutes blocks here and there and used my evenings for drawing instead of TV or surfing the web, all the little pieces added up to lots of sketchbook pages. It can be a trap to think that artists work in complete inspired and manic sessions. Sure this happens occasionally, but in the mean time you just have to get on with the work. As the artist Chuck Close said "Inspiration is for amateurs -- the rest of us just show up and get to work". I think this also relates to my idea on art comes from art, work comes from work. Just get on with it. Choose small amounts of time to chip away at something, those small amounts of time encourage other small amounts of time. It's a get rich slowly scheme, each day saving a small amount of time to amass a larger amount of time by the end of a month.

An important part I haven't mentioned yet, is having a good plan. You need some sort of structure or guide, so that when you do have 10- minutes you don't spend the time wondering what to draw. Have some go to ideas of sketching, still life, buildings funny faces. A with a comic it helps to have a storyboard or thumbnails or script to go from. If you have you work planned out, filling in 10 minutes with rules panel borders and adding lettering is easy. I used to only be able to work spontaneously but these days, perhaps due to time constraints, I work much better when I plan. But that's another blog post.

Post edit: Using the method mentioned above I plowed through the comic I had written in a few weeks, completing 20 pages. I then needed to scan and colour the pages, which is when I hit bit of a brick wall as I couldn't do this at work. I also hit a busy patch with home life so unfortunately the project has now extended to a few months instead of weeks. Once I do get this last project complete, I plan to work in a way that this won't happen again, by returning to my roots of black and white comics. I want to get back to B&W drawings with no extra special effects and colours applied. I will report back on how it goes.

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