There is no way around it. Animation takes a lot of time and one of the most common problems that animators face is the loss of motivation. With so many frames and drawings to do, how is it possible for an animator to find the mental fortitude to finish projects? As an animator for over 10 years, I’ve learned a few valuable strategies to keep yourself motivated as an animator or even just a general artist. If you feel like you just don’t want to open up that program or continue with your project, try following these steps to see if they’ll get you in the right mindset again.
Don’t look at the finish line. Look for the next step.
This is probably one of the most useful methods in any goal you’re trying to reach and it has very general implications to many things, but it does work quite well for animation.
Say you want to make a 3 minute animation. For a solo animator, that’s a pretty sizable project and one might not even know where to start with such a big project. The dread of opening a blank canvas knowing that you have to draw over 4000 frames is something you don’t want to be thinking about. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself like “I have to animate at least 4 hours a day” will set yourself up for just skipping those days, because at the end of the day you just don’t want to do it.
Instead of setting these big scary goals for yourself, try to split it up into smaller steps; Things that you can actually look forward to that don’t look as scary.
For example: “I will animate at least 20 frames today, any extra will be a bonus” That mindset sounds a lot better than “I need to animate 4 hours a day” or “I need to finish this entire scene”.
Now I know some people might be thinking; 20 frames a day will take forever and no progress will be made. It’s true when taken literally, but consistency is more important than volume. The hardest part of animating is actually opening up the program and starting, so setting easy goals like this will at least help you get started again. And since the goal is so easy to reach, your mind will be rewarded for accomplishing that goal of 20 frames and more likely than not you’ll probably do more than just 20 frames while you have the program open already.
The best analogy would be walking up a mountain. Don’t look at the peak and tell yourself how horrible it’ll be to walk all the way up there. Instead, look what’s directly in-front of you and set smaller goals like, “My goal is to reach that tree that’s a couple miles up.” Keep setting those small goals and before you know it, you’ll already be near the top of the mountain!
Find inspiration without comparing yourself to them.
When learning how to animate, watching other animations is a great way to get new ideas, techniques, and appreciation of the art. Some good places to watch animations are Anim8, Hyun’s Dojo, Twitter, Vimeo, and Youtube. But when actually learning animation, you might feel that you’re extremely behind compared to all those animators you look up to. It’s extremely important not to compare yourself to those people as it’s just as easy to get demotivated because of how big the skill gap is. Keep in mind that these people have been in your shoes before as well when they were starting to learn animation! You’re essentially following in their footsteps, not flying all the way to where they are in skill.
Finding inspiration also doesn’t have to come from animations as well. Watching live action movies / videos that you really like are also awesome sources to find ideas for your animation. Movies and animations are very similar in that they both use the same techniques for production like storyboarding, scripting, shot setups, and more. Next time you watch a movie that you like, don’t watch it just to watch it. Watch it and study each shot and how the director sets them up. See what angles and timings they use to cut to the next shot. You’ll find a whole new source of inspiration and motivation for your animations!
Animate with others or find an audience.
Another great way to keep up your motivation is to just surround yourself with people who are animators. Animation communities like Anim8 Discord or Hyun’s Dojo Discord are filled with people who also animate, so it definitely helps for people to motivate each other. Animation discord servers make it easier than ever to find productive channels where you can even screen share your progress or watch other’s who are currently animating. Odds are when you see other’s animating around you, you’ll want to start animating as well. It’s just a simple mob mentality tactic. It’s fun too when you can share your work with immediate feedback!
Burning out / Rest
Animating requires hours of your attention. Redrawing or re-positioning the same character over and over again, adding every single little detail for each frame is something that can get very taxing for your mind and body. Artist burnout is a very common and real thing where even if you could be having fun animating or drawing, your physical body and mental state cannot keep up and you will end up burning out. Remember to take regular breaks, step back and stretch, exercise, and eat to maintain your health as animating can easily make you forget to do these normal every-day things. Keep track of the time and make sure you’re not working to the point of exhaustion. THE GRIND IS GOOD BUT REST IS IMPORTANT!
That’s about all the tips I can really give to you. I for one am definitely not the perfect worker. I too get a loss of motivation or end up burning out all the time, but to have a skill-set that not a lot of people have where I can give life and movement to a drawing to entertain not only the audience but myself is something that I still appreciate very much. It’s just really cool to have the ability create something from nothing. So even if you’re not in the mood to animate or just feel too lazy in life because you just like playing games, it’s perfectly fine. Start by setting those tiny goals and see where they can take you.