Creative Chronicles: Thoughts On Doing The Work

Nubby Twiglet | Thoughts On Doing The Work

As much as I wish get rich quick schemes and programs promising endless short-cuts really had all the answers, nothing beats doing the work. The thing is, we’re always looking for that so-called shortcut because doing the work is HARD. And who can blame us for wanting to reach the finish line a little faster?

It’s so easy to fall into the procrastination trap when the work that needs to get done challenges you — but it’s a bit like climbing a mountain, in a way — going up is incredibly difficult but once you reach the peak, coming down is full of relief and a huge sense of accomplishment.

Prioritizing your own projects can be one of the most challenging areas because there’s always something more you can do for someone else instead (and see those immediate gains)! If you work for someone, maybe it comes down to taking on a few hours of overtime at your day job and collecting a bigger paycheck. If you work for yourself, taking on an extra client and getting a deposit provides a hit of instant gratification that your own projects just don’t have. The payoff is a bit more invisible.

Nubby Twiglet | Thoughts On Doing the Work

One project I’ve really struggled with over the last year is the Branch media kit. I had so many excuses — I wanted to learn how to use my camera on manual settings so I could take better photos, I wanted to re-write my packages and bump up my rates (that comes with its own sense of fear) and finally, I wanted to make the page layouts more comprehensive, adding in more work examples (which meant doing plenty of mockups). Basically, there was no quick fix for getting this project done.

So, I did what many of you will relate to — I found every excuse possible to put it off. I blocked out the time on my calendar so I felt like I was moving forward but it was an empty promise. If a friend wanted to go out for drinks, I said yes. If my husband wanted to go vintage shopping, I said yes. If my phone rang, I’d basically say yes to anything to escape thew work. What was I really running away from?

You already know the answer: the work. Nobody likes to talk about actually doing the work because it sounds like they’re whining. “This is SO hard! I spent ALL DAY on this! I’m SO TIRED!” And really, there are a million other fun things to do. I’d rather spend the day on the couch reading fashion magazines.

The problem is, when nobody talks about doing the work but shows off the shiny, beautiful outcome, it looks effortless. And then, when we do the same thing and fall short (basically, it always takes 10 times longer), we think there’s something wrong. That internal voice kicks in and we think that comes down to a lack of knowledge, skill or talent. Really, it’s none of the above – it’s simply unrealistic expectations.

Nubby Twiglet | Thoughts On Doing The Work

I wish I had some efficiency tips for you to get your own projects done but the truth is, it comes down to priorities and willpower. I ended up sitting in my office for a solid 15 hours over the weekend, slowly piecing together the 30 page document. It was slow, it was painful and I wanted to run from it. Trust me, I nearly did. But, I knew from experience where it would leave me so I powered through, finishing it late Sunday night.

It sucked. But it got done.

Instead of offering you inspirational mantras, I’m going to keep it real:

If you want to get something done bad enough, you’ll find a way.

Go after it with everything you’ve got and when the going gets tough and you feel frustrated, don’t give in.

15 Responses to Creative Chronicles: Thoughts On Doing The Work

  1. Hi Shauna! my name is Line and I took your Blogcademy class in Amsterdam in 2014 (I was the “Norwegian girl”) and I had always struggled with getting started on my own projects, that’s one of the reasons why I took your class. I showed you some of the ideas I was working on, and thanks to this class I found the inspiration to get started. I have set aside around an hour every day to focus on my own projects. The year after, in 2015 my cartoon went viral on and it was in Huffington Post, Bored panda and hundreds of other sites, and now I have a book out on Amazon called “I’m so pregnant” :) .. Thank you for the inspiration to get started!

    • Shauna says:

      Hi Line! It’s been a few years but I remember that class well. That is amazing that you’ve had such massive progress in such a short amount of time. I am so proud of you! :)

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is so true. I’ve been researching, learning, planning, and brainstorming my business ideas for quite some time now. I just need to start doing it. There will always be more to learn along the way, I can’t learn everything before I do it. I just need to DO IT!

    • Shauna says:

      Stephanie, one of my favorite quotes is “Perfection is a form of procrastination.” Things will never be perfect. And I’ve always found that the best learning usually happens on the job. You’ve got this!!

  3. Antonella says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this!
    Apparently no one wants to acknowledge that if you want to succeed you have to work HARD: many hours, sweat and tears…
    Apparently if success isn’t effortless you are doing it wrong, you haven’t manifested it correctly.
    Work is hard, but doing it is the best. The kind of satisfaction you get at the end is amazing! :-)

  4. Misaki says:

    I always love how real you keep it and just say it how it is, not giving us some delusional thoughts of the beautiful glowing designer world haha!

    Finishing a dreaded project feels so rewarding in the end and it looks so good, from what I’ve seen!

    • Shauna says:

      I wish it was all beauty and inspiration and while I do experience some of those moments every day, my inbox is also full and I can never seem to get through my to-do list because everything takes 5 times longer than I expect it to. As a designer, you know the realities all too well — it’s a mentally exhausting job at times! I think Instagram and Pinterest can give the illusion that creative jobs are somehow easy and magical and full of nonstop inspiration but that perception tends to mask the long days and moments of creative block. Gotta keep it real!

  5. Cinthia P. says:

    I’ve been “facing” this real work dilemma. I also find a lot of people sell the whole working online persona as a semi vacation/smooth sailing affair. Thank you for this real talk. Best motivational piece I read today!

    • Shauna says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I find the same exact thing online (especially on Instagram) which is why I felt the need to speak up. Yes, there are ways to work smarter and automate parts of your business but I’ve never found a legit shortcut to putting in the time to learn a craft and then offering up a quality service to my clients. It’s real work and glossing over it is a disservice.

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