Why working at your craft daily matters
Art and athletics both have something in common, they take daily exercise if you want to be any good at it. Just as the muscles of the body need regular exercise to develop athletic ability; the creative muscles also need regular exercise to develop artistic ability. This is true whether you are a graphic artist, a 3D modeler, a writer, a poet or any other kind of creativity; if you want to be any good you need to work at it daily. Lack of regular “creative exercise” means you won’t improve, or worse you’ll actually lose skill through lack of practice
I took a long hiatus from art due to other demands on my time, for over 10 years I did virtually nothing in the way of 3D modelling, drawing, painting, or writing; and right now I feel it. When I began working in art again my creative muscles were “stiff” from disuse. Sure, I still had the raw talent to draw, to write, to do creative things. But my skill level had dropped a long way from where it had been. It’s taking time to rebuild that skill, good work habits, good workflow. That’s been extra difficult as I ventured into new media as well which meant a whole new set of skills to learn. But working at it persistently pays off, those “creative muscles” begin to tone up, skill levels improve, and the process starts becoming easier.
Think of your creative pursuits as being your craft, its what you do. That makes you a craftsman, and like any craftsman you should take pride in your work. To be your best takes work, just like an athlete training for a sport. Athletes go to the gym, creative types go to their desk or workshop or where ever it is they create and they practice; both train themselves to be better at what they do. Some days you just don’t feel like it, you have to make yourself keep at it. Life throws distractions and interruptions at us all, but you can’t let them get in the way for long. Just like the habit of daily physical exercise can be hard to develop and easy to break, so it goes with the habit of creative exercise; if you don’t keep at it regularly its all too easy to stop. But if you resist the distractions, the urges to slack off or just quit, the hard work eventually pays off and you see your skill levels improve and the quality of what you do improves.
Creative exercise doesn’t mean you have to do something spectacular or big. Its not about doing finished art or creating something to show off. Take that kind of pressure off yourself. Creative exercise is about doing, about practicing your skills and challenging yourself. Its doodles and drawing exercises, its writing a few lines of rhyme or developing a story concept; it’s that short fiction you’ll never show anyone. It can take many forms as long as it about using your talent, practicing whatever it is you do or want to do better. But while what you do for practice doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) an attempt at a masterpiece or even necessarily a finished piece; it does have to be consistent. You’ve got to keep at it, every day.
So try doing some drawing exercises, write some fiction, try something new. Get your creative exercise and make it a habit.
Natural abilities are like natural plants, they need pruning by study. — Francis Bacon