Back to the monster: You know it will be worth the battle, but you’re still scared. Well, of course you are! You can’t be brave unless you’re afraid. It’s like walking in your yard at night. Everything makes you want to scuttle off back to the comfort zone of your living room. I mean, ANYTHING could be out there, right? The trick is to light the path and distract yourself with points of interest along the way.
To light the path, take a few minutes to map out the project from start to finish. This way you can see the big picture. What does the strange, big monster look like? Where does it start? Where does it end up? And what are all those scary bits and pieces in the middle? It may look a little overwhelming at first, but don’t worry! That’s just the monster getting nervous and baring its teeth. Be strong. Keep your focus. Trust me, you’ve already go the upper hand.
The next step is to cut the monster down to size. This is where the fun comes in. Break the project into smaller goals. If there are 5 steps between you and completion, treat the end of each step as a battle won. Reward yourself when you can check that step off of the list.
When I was working on my illustrations for Queen Calla’s Heroes, I set a goal of 3 2-page illustrations per week. Illustrating is one of my monsters. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating. I love water colors. I love being able to show the world in my words – at least a little bit – as it appears in my head. That doesn’t mean that I felt comfortable with the thought of 80 consecutive illustrations that all had to look like they belonged in the same book. The project scared me. It took me 2 ½ years to complete. It took that long because I only set smaller goals starting halfway through. Had I been smart from the beginning, I could have cut about a year and a half off of the project and been much less stressed by the end.
Once you have the steps mapped out, choose little rewards for reaching each goal. It could be an hour of reading time, or a special coffee from your favorite coffee house. Find something inexpensive but outside of your normal habits. Don’t allow yourself to have it at any time other than when you successfully achieve the goal you are working on. Make it feel like an indulgence! Then, when the project gets rough and you start thinking about giving up, remind yourself that after this little step, you can relax with a bowl of raspberries or point your mailbox red. Yes, you are bribing yourself to be responsible. That’s okay. A paycheck is a bribe to keep you coming to work on time, why shouldn't you give yourself something special for putting your all into the task in front of you?
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!