How to Increase Grit?

  • How do people draw for 8 hrs a day?

    I can only draw for about 5 hrs a day before I feel done, like I just can't do anymore. I just watched Jakes video on the 10,000 hour rule and in the comments is tons of people saying they draw 10 hrs a day no problem. And I'm like what? Do I have brain damage or something.

    I want to go pro so, only drawing 5hrs a day is the biggest thing holding me back. One thing I started doing lately is working in at least 90 minute chunks. Where I sit down and commit to 90 minutes of work without break. And that's helped a bit.

    I've also been researching a lot about dopamine detoxes, where you completely stop doing all vapid activties for awhile.
    And a lot of people say that students of art need to temporarily give up everything in their life and make it completely out of balance. I'm willing to do that if it's what it takes.

    But I'm curious if anyone here has durastically increased their perseverance and have any advice on how to just be a human art assembly line day in and day out.

  • Pro

    @Frost-Drive Unpopular opinion: I think this is crap. Sure you need a ton of practice to become really good, but just clocking in hours without substance won't help any. Work smarter, not harder. Also, listen to your body. If you're exhausted, you're not going to be very good or productive.

    When I studied animation, I had a really rough time. The work load was very intense, and I was a slow animator to boot. I always stayed up all night finishing up my projects, then in class the next day I wouldn't be able to work for shit (or stay awake) because I was so wrecked. I'd get home, take a nap, then have to stay up all night again because I had no choice: I hadn't been able to get much done during the day. On and on it went like a vicious cycle. I barely graduated.

    After I left school I started working in a studio 9-5. It was the first time in my art life I had evenings and weekends completely off, plus an hour lunch break each day. My productivity SOARED. I'd never gotten this much done in my life!

    Since I left the studio and started working freelance, I've been able to reduce my hours further. Not right away mind you, for the first 6 months or so I was looking for contracts 24/7 (which actually isn't drawing, but "admin" work). But now that I'm more established with clients, I've been able to cater more to my specific body needs. I do horrible in the morning. I need 9-10 hours of sleep (sleep disorders run in my family) and I'm zombie for the first few hours of the day. So I sleep until around 9, stay an hour in bed on my phone just waking up my brain, then eat and wake up some more. I start working at 11, take a 30 minutes break in the middle to stretch my legs and exercise, and stop working at 5:30. Then in the evening after dinner, sometimes I do an hour or so of admin work, or research for future projects. That's 5 hours of drawing only each day, but it's 5 hours during which I'm FOCUSED. And you know what, I never even knew it was possible to get this much stuff done!

    I'll leave you with this graphic to ponder:


  • Agree with @NessIllustration. You'll get to your 10,000 hours, but making it a grind might grind you out of the profession. Find an amount that keeps you motivated and hungry to keep going. It's a marathon. Another key thing is that while drawing is very important, that old "creative bank account" can be sparked in lots of ways. People watching, walking to clear your head, etc can boost your idea machine and motivate you to create.

  • Hmm. How I said things might've come off wrong.

    I excersize everyday, wake up super early, meditate, write, read, eat healthy and get enough sleep. But doing all that is super easy to me. All that stuff is priority #1, and it only takes about 1-2 hrs in the morning.

    What's hard is just putting in that 40% more work hours that most people seem to do easily. I just need to train grit somehow.

    @NessIllustration You mentioned how getting a 9-5 studio job increased your productivity by alot when you were struggling before, but what made that change exactly? Just taking the weekends off?

    But if someone already works a full time job they can't afford to take any days off. The only option is to presevere. Sink or swim. And I keep sinking at the 5hr mark.

  • @Frost-Drive if you're a subscriber, @Lee-White has some great advice in his how to make money in illustration courses about staying focused, organized and being productive. I can't remember if it was in course 1, 2 or 3 tho, I'm thinking maybe 2...

  • Pro

    @Frost-Drive What changed for me was rest. You need to rest properly to do anything right. That includes mental exhaustion which is easy to get from drawing. Creativity takes a lot of mental energy! If you have a full time job or even a part time job, you don't have time to also draw 8 hours a day without seriously overworking yourself. If you keep flagging at the 5 hour mark, that means your brain and body have just had enough and you need rest. Trying to push yourself past this mark will only result in both lackluster work past this mark (because you can't focus) and burnout. I can't think of a better way to suck the joy out of drawing than this method.

    Persevere? Yes I totally agree. But like @Ryan-Ehr said this is a marathon, not a sprint. Practicing just a little every day, but mindful and efficient practice, will win the race in the long run. From the look of your Instagram you seem to be chugging out a lot of very quick character illustrations very often for your followers. While it seems fun and I'm sure your followers love it, Instagram followers do not a career make. If you have a job and not that much time/endurance to draw, I think you need to narrow your focus and reflect on "what is the ONE thing I can focus all my energy on right now, the ONE thing that would bring me closer to my goal?"

    I think that one thing is probably putting all your time into high quality, high complexity pieces for your portfolio. If it takes you 40 hours to make one very high quality piece, and you draw just 4 hours a day, you can make a new piece every 10 days. You could have a finished portfolio of 12 pieces in just a few short months and start your career. A high quality portfolio is an asset that never goes away and you can keep reusing to get professional work. An Instagram post gets a few hundred likes and is gone in 2 days.

  • SVS OG

    @Frost-Drive i think working for 8-10 hrs straight is just unattainable. When on a deadline, I’ll be working about 12+ hrs everyday but I have a lot of breaks in between. I probably take a 15 minute break every hour. So I may not really be working 12 hrs per day 😅😅😅 People who say they’re drawing 8 hrs straight are probably lying or are just deliberately leaving out their break time. Anyhow, don’t feel down if you think you’re not working as hard as others. Remember to go at your own pace, enjoy what you’re doing, take breaks. Don’t over exert yourself or you’ll probably burn yourself out.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @NessIllustration I absolutely love that graphic. It reminds me of a quote I used to tell overworked students: "The lazy person gets nothing done. The perpetually busy person doesn't get much further."

    One thing to keep in mind is different tasks require different levels of energy. When I'm painting my final painting and getting into the last stages, I can stay there for hours. But when concepting something at the beginning, I can only work 2 or 3 hours before I'm totally exhausted. It just takes so much energy.

    So plan accordingly to the energy levels needed for each stage of work.

  • Pro

    @Lee-White Agreed, I'd even say for me after as little as one hour of concepting or sketching I start to flag. I usually have to take an half-hour break every hour! But I'm fairly certain I really should push myself to develop more endurance on this, or my work will suffer. Creativity just takes a lot out of you!

  • @NessIllustration No one ever believes me when I tell them about the healthy eating and exercise part. Blows my mind, lol

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz
    Even with your breaks that's like 9 hrs a day. Woah. Almost twice as much as I'm doing.
    So, how do you go back to drawing after just 15 minutes of break?

    I always feel like I need an HOUR break. lol (though I do get back sooner)

    What Lee said makes sense! Not all creative activities take equal mental energy. Maybe planning out things and alternating from low energy to high energy would help!

  • SVS OG

    @Frost-Drive well, I’d like to mention that this is my job and I have no choice but to put in the hrs or I’ll end up penniless. Also, I only do this when deadline (as mentioned previously) is very near and I still don’t have my shit together. 😅😅😅 I can’t survive if I did this everyday. Heaven knows I’d go crazy. I also failed to mention I take a 1 hr break for lunch and another hour for dinner. Also, I take naps in between when I feel my body can’t handle it anymore. And yeah, sometimes my 15 minute break turns into an hour or two. That 9 hours of work is spread throughout the day from 8 am to 10 pm.

    This was my routine last February to May. I worked on 3 books and it was hell. 2 of those books are finished and I only have 1 left. I’m currently taking things VERY slowly.

    On a regular day, I’d work about a couple of hours in the morning, 3-4 hours in the afternoon, and maybe another couple of hours after dinner. My work ranges from drawing and painting to answering emails and messages. I’m very scattered and unorganized. I’m also very lazy.

  • SVS OG

    I felt like I really need to adress this

    @Frost-Drive said in How to Increase Grit?:

    So, how do you go back to drawing after just 15 minutes of break?

    My Answer:

    I think about all the bills I need to pay.
    I think about how empty my bank account is.
    I think about how much money they’ll pay me.
    I think about how I won’t see a cent of that payment if I don’t finish the book.
    I think about how close the deadline is.
    I think about how my career will be over if don’t finish on time.
    I think about how I’ll die if I lose my job.

    Depressing thoughts but they do the job. 😂😂😂

  • This is a great book - Well researched, well written and a good read.

  • @Frost-Drive I agree with what's been said here. My husband began our family business and works from home, I homeschool my children, and I am an illustrator-in-training. Due to my other obligations I have on average 3-4 hours (so far!) of art time in a day, scheduled around teaching, bookkeeping, and running the house. There are a few things that make it all possible.

    1. You must keep a schedule just as if you were working for someone else. PJs and odd hours detract from building creative triggers which allow you to get into the zone faster and more efficiently. But bear in mind, at any other job, you would have shifting activities so you don't stay focused on one task for too long and burn out (it also allows the brain to rest so it works smarter on each task). You also get work breaks, meals, time away from work (something you don't get when you work from home unless you force yourself), and rest.
    2. You have to build your mental capacity for intense focus as you would any muscle. If you can do 5 hours now, great! Work your way up to 6 next. (I learned this one during violin performance training in college where I practiced 6-8 hours a day with intense focus!). Just as you wouldn't start running by joining the Boston Marathon, you can't just expect to start drawing with intense focus 8 hours right at the start.
    3. Some books that have helped me keep going and focused:
      Creative Triggers by Twyla Tharp
      Grit by Angela Duckworth
      Deep Work by Cal Newport
      The One Thing by Gary Keller
      Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod

    I hope this helps some!

  • @Frost-Drive Since you're an early riser, have you tried starting your day off doing artwork first? I was always a night owl, but this past year when I worked away from home (not doing artwork), I started waking up at 5:00 AM, poured a cup of coffee and spent at least 2 hours drawing. I enjoyed this so much. I didn't have to hurry, no pressure. Maybe this would work for you.

  • Hi!
    I don't think you should focus on how many hours you draw per day, instead pay attention if they are productive hours.
    Don't compare yourself to others, that never helps. You can learn from others.
    Also drawing is not everything in this career, you have to do many more things so I recommend you that when you don't feel like drawing but you want to be productive start planning or learning things on the business side of the game for example. Or take that online class you have been wanting to take for months.
    And please take breaks. Your body can handle what it can handle and if you don't listen to it it will be loud until you have no other choice but to rest.
    Believe me, people that say they draw for 10h a day no prob they are probably not as literal as you think... Maybe they actually are 4h doodling while checking FB, 2h on youtube and 4h drawing.
    However I knew a starting illustrator who wanted to be a pro but she hardly ever wanted to draw, maybe 3 days a week (and never 8h per day). I find this very weird because if you are planning to make this as a career you should invest more to make a living of it. With this I mean that if you feel somehow like this, maybe you only want it as a hobby.
    When I started I was mostly learning things, practicing and having fun. I have to tell you that this is like a muscle so I'm sure that it will be easier for you to draw more hours in a while. Just don't pressure yourself🙂

  • I know for me it matters where I have myself set up to work. When I was set up near my living space I would find myself working more often, but taking more breaks. Now I have myself set up in a room up stairs. I spend more time once I start working, but I don't work on the fly, whenever I feel like it. Frankly, I got more done when everything was near me.

  • Okay so, I work an 8 hour work day as an Illustrator, and then I usually do another 2 hours at night on my personal work. On the weekends I do maybe another 2-3 hours a day if I have a deadline. I don't do extra work every night, I try to take a night off to do nothing and a night with my husband once a week.

    How I do it. Like Lee said some activities require more breaks. Like thumbnails, rough sketches etc. I have to take a break like every 30 - 45 min. If I'm doing clean up work I can go two to three hours before a break. I recommend going for a walk, eating while not looking at a screen, talking to someone for breaks. Something that allows you to look out or at others, not at a screen.

    I get off at five, I do dinner, family time etc. I start working again around 9pm until I feel tired and I go to sleep. I don't stay up past 12:30 as getting not enough sleep or working tired is less productive, and makes you less productive the following day. Better to end early and stay well rested. If I'm too tired to work that night, I don't work that night.

    On nights I'm working I don't watch TV as that ruins my desire to be productive.

    I also run by deadlines. Which is why I do the monthly contests. So even if it is a self made deadline like an Instagram post daily, it motivates me to do it. I need that motivation to keep the schedule, and I'm not working just to work, I have a goal like finish a painting etc. As my goal, not just to burn hours.

    It may also help that my day work isn't in my style so I get to do something completely different at home.

  • @Frost-Drive
    I learned a lot with this SVS class:
    Finding work/life balance

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