We all have habits. Some are good and some are not so good.
Once a habit is formed, it usually “sticks”. This is why it is so important to commit to creating good habits in our life and ridding ourselves of the habits that hinder us.
It’s easy to talk about starting a brand new habit, but it’s another thing to develop one. Developing a habit takes dedication and will power in the beginning. Over time, the habit becomes easier to repeat, but it’s tough at the start.
So, why I am talking about habits here?
Well, drawing is a skill. Skills take time and persistent practice to develop. And like any other skill, they need continual attention, without long time periods between practice sessions.
Clearly, if your desire is to draw well, then you need to create a drawing habit.
Making a commitment to draw everyday, for even just a few minutes, will lead to drastically substantial results. You may not see these improvements everyday, but you will over time. Creating a drawing habit, and sticking with it, will improve your skills – it’s almost guaranteed.
Remember, drawing is not a “talent” that some are born with and others are not. It is a skill that anyone can learn and develop.
Okay, so maybe you recognize that you need to develop a drawing habit. So, how do we develop a habit of drawing when we know that habits are hard to start?
In order to create a drawing habit, we need to understand how habits are developed and how our minds work when it comes to habits.
How Habits Work
Habits, in a way, are a method of training your brain to behave automatically. However, when we start a new habit, there’s nothing automatic about it. We have to commit and force ourselves into the activity, doing it even though we may not feel like it.
I run everyday, well almost everyday. I don’t particularly like it that much (sometimes I do). But, I know that it is important for my health. I feel better when I run. I have more energy. I’m more creative. (I’ve always been athletic, but I’ve always hated to run.)
Even though it’s not my favorite activity, I can still recognize the importance of the benefits that it gives to me. You see, I run for the health benefits – not for the joy of running.
I’ve formed a habit with my running, but it definitely wasn’t easy when I first started. This particular habit has taken some time to become “entrenched” in my every day life. It definitely didn’t happen when I first made the commitment to start exercising. And I made some mistakes when I was trying to develop this habit.
My First Mistake
The first mistake I made was to run when I “had the chance”. I didn’t set up a routine or a schedule, I just told myself that I would run when I could, but do it every day.
As you can imagine, this didn’t work at all. I ran the first day and when I was sore the second day – I found I didn’t “have the time” to run. My habit had no chance of forming. It was doomed right from the start.
My Second Mistake
A few weeks later, I decided to give it another go, but this time I had a better plan. I decided that I would run as soon as I woke and hopped out of bed. I made a commitment to myself to never, I mean never, miss a day.
I was much more successful with this new approach, but I also made another fatal flaw. More on that in a moment.
My second attempt at forming a running habit was great for the first few weeks. That’s right, I actually got up every morning and ran. This lasted for about 5 weeks. I felt great, I was losing weight, and I felt like I had actually created a new habit for myself – a good one too.
Then it happened. I missed a day.
Remember, I had committed to never, I mean never, miss a day. And when I did – I felt awful. Not physically, but mentally. I felt like I was a bit of a “failure”.
But something else happened too. I saw that the world kept on going, even though I skipped a day. In fact, I kind of liked the extra time I had because a didn’t run. And guess what happened. That’s right, I missed another one. And another one. After a week, my habit was gone.
You see what happened there?
I was successful for those 5 weeks because I set my new habit to occur with another activity that I was already doing – waking up. When I woke up each morning, it became a “trigger” and I knew that the next thing I was to do was to start running. This is why the habit worked for so long.
But maybe you can also see where I failed.
When I missed a day, I felt terrible, because I had set my expectations too high. I had not “set my mind” to forgive myself when I missed a run. So, when I did, I felt like I had failed. And that feeling of failure eventually led to my demise.
If I would have just made the commitment to not miss two days in a row.
So, when I tried again several months later, this is what I committed to. I told myself, “If I miss a day – it’s ok. I can run on the next day.”
And guess what? I’m still running today. If I miss a day – it’s ok. I just pick up where I left off. My habit has stuck now and I almost don’t even think about whether or not I will run – I just do it.
So what did I learn about forming a habit?
I am by no means, a “habit specialist”, but I did learn a couple of things about forming a habit when I decided to start running. And if your desire is to start a drawing habit, then these principles can be applied to ensure that you are successful.
1. Make a Commitment – The first thing is to do is to make a commitment to improving yourself with your new habit. Understand that you are establishing this new habit for the benefits that will result, not necessarily for the joy that the activity will bring to you.
By establishing a drawing habit, even for just a few minutes every day, you will see results in your skill. Drawing is fun most of the time, but many times it takes real work. And real work isn’t always fun.
But you’re not making the commitment to form a drawing habit because drawing is fun. You are forming this habit for the benefits of drawing improvement that will result. This means that there will be days that you don’t feel like doing it. But if you’re committed to the benefits then it’s a lot easier to work through and continue.
2. Group Your Drawing Habit with a “Trigger” – I found success with my running habit when I committed to do it when I woke each morning. Waking up was my trigger. It’s what told my brain that it was time to do the next activity – which was running.
Decide what trigger you can “group” with your drawing habit. Maybe it’s that morning coffee. Maybe it’s right after dinner. Think of an activity that you know you will not be “skipping” and group your drawing habit with it. That way you are more likely to complete it every day. Over time, your brain will “tell you” that’s it’s time for drawing when you do that daily trigger.
3. Expect to Miss Some Days – Nobody’s perfect and it should be expected that you will miss a day or three. When this happens, don’t get too down on yourself. Don’t let it be the end of your habit. Instead, simply make the decision to not miss two days in row. If you skip a day, just pick up on the next.
4. Set a Time Limit – Our time is important and you may tell yourself that you just do not have the time to start a new beneficial habit like drawing every day. Saying that you “don’t have the time” is really just an excuse. Wake up 30 minutes earlier, or skip that hour of TV.
Setting a time limit to the activity helps as well. Commit to drawing for just 30 minutes, or even just 15 minutes every day. Surely, you can find 15 minutes in your day to improve your skills.
So What Do I Draw?
Be prepared for the ole’ “artist block” when you start your new drawing habit. That blank sheet of sketch paper staring at you can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You can’t wait for inspiration to strike. You’ll end up waiting for a while if you do.
Inspiration usually results from some sort of action. So, make a plan for what you will draw ahead of “drawing time”. It can be anything. Objects around you, photos that you have lying around, or even your hand. The point is to just draw something. As you start making marks, and get to the work, your artistic inspiration may just “kick in”.
If you need a little help getting started, this handy list of 101 sketchbook ideas will get things going…
Start Your Drawing Habit
Ok, so now it’s time to get started. Drawing well requires a commitment to developing your skill. And skills are developed with practice. And practice requires a habit.
Make a commitment to yourself to start improving your drawing skills by developing a drawing habit. With a drawing habit in place, you’re sure to see improvement over time.
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