I draw something in my sketchbook almost every single day. I say almost because I’d be lying if I just said every day. There have been 3 days so far this year that I haven’t drawn. Funny enough, all three of those days were in January. Apparently it was a crazy month.
Usually when I draw in my sketchbook, it’s pretty quick. Most days I’ll draw for about 15-30 minutes, and that’s it. But the cool thing is, each of these little drawings gives me something back. Each time I put in a block of time, I get a block of something back. A sense of accomplishment. A happy feeling. A boost of creative confidence.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed this benefit of small consistent steps. Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker who often talks about how to inspire people to take action, has a glorious quote about consistency. Here’s a snippet of the quote below, along with an awesome animated short of the whole quote made by RSA Shorts. He’s talking about this in terms of company culture, but it’s applicable to all sorts of things.
“Great culture—no matter where we are, no matter how big the organization—is not about intensity, it’s about consistency. You can’t get into shape by going to the gym for nine hours. It won’t work. But if you work out every single day for 20 minutes, you will absolutely get into shape.
Intensity is like going to the dentist. It’s fixed in time, we know exactly what date we’re going, we know how long we’re going to be there, and we know that when we come out our teeth will feel smooth and look pearly. But if that’s all we do, all our teeth will fall out. In other words, intensity is not enough. So we’re also supposed to brush our teeth twice a day for two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening.
What does brushing your teeth do for two minutes? Nothing. It does absolutely nothing. Unless you do it every single day.
Can you leave out a day? Sure.
How many days can you leave out? I don’t really know.
How many times do you have to brush your teeth before before it works? I don’t know that either.
And this is why companies don’t do it.”
The same is true for art. We can’t become great artists by only working in intense 9-hour bursts once a month. We can’t become prolific artists by only making one epic painting a year. We become great and prolific artists by making art every day.
Can we skip a day? Sure. But not too many.
To be clear: this doesn’t mean drawing for hours every day, it means doing something simple consistently. And this simple habit will help us be able to stick with and complete our bigger projects and more intense artworks down the road.
Each time we put in a block of time, we get a block of something back. The more these little blocks of consistent work build up, and stack onto each other, the more creative energy grows. The more our sense of accomplishment grows. The more our joy grows. The more our confidence grows. At some point, our creative energy expands so much it’s about to boil over.
And that’s when the real magic happens.
That’s when the flash of inspiration comes. That’s when we get the intense feeling to make something. That’s when our grand and glorious ideas come to us. That when the motivation to sit down and work for hours on a project we’ve been thinking about appears. That’s when we have an epiphany that solves the problem in our art project we’ve been having recently. That’s when we sit down and really get to work. That’s when we make deep progress. That’s when we get in the zone. That’s when we get sucked into our work completely.
What we’ve done is both simple and magic—we have created our own inspiration.
We didn’t wait around passively for inspiration to come to us. We created it ourselves. We made our own inspiration by sitting down, taking consistent, small steps, and drawing every day.
And that inspiration leads to a different mindset, and different way of art making. It’s fueled drawing. Invigorated drawing. In the flow drawing. Your creative confidence is high, and you’re pulsing with creative power. Every line you draw, every stroke you paint, and every word you write flows out and feels so right. Your art pours out of you like it’s the most natural thing you’ve ever done.
Those moments are rare. Making art is often much more of a struggle, and involves a lot of frustration and head banging, to be sure.
But drawing consistently in our sketchbooks allows us to collect and stack up these small, simple blocks so we can create those big, electric moments, instead of just waiting for the next one to roll around when it feels like it.
After the strike of inspiration has passed, we’re wiped. Our creative bank feels depleted, and perhaps our confidence level has dropped back down.
But we don’t stop. We go back to our regularly programmed schedule of drawing daily in our sketchbook, patiently collecting blocks of confidence, joy, and motivation, until the electric wave of inspiration hits us again.
Because we know we don’t have to wait for inspiration to come to us.
We can make our own inspiration.