Four steps to level up as a creative

How focused learning and a solid plan can help you achieve your creative goals

Sarah Healy
Nov 25, 2019 · 5 min read
How to level up as a creative (illustrated by Sarah Healy)

In an interview with Ash Thorpe on the Collective Podcast, François Leroy aka the Friendly Robot lists this as one of his seven rules for creativity.

Rules which I discuss in greater depth here.

The friendly robot stresses

When you learn something you have to be focused on it, and not be a robot

In this post, I would like to delve a little into Focused learning and how this combined with a clear plan can help you level up in your creative field.

So, what is focused learning?

I like to think of this as acquiring knowledge by using a laser-like focus.

When you immerse yourself fully in a topic or choose to commit to it fully you will gain knowledge much more quickly.

This sounds obvious, but it can be easy to go through YouTube videos and pick up bits and pieces of information without gaining a comprehensive overview of what it is that you have set out to learn.

Today we have such a vast expanse of knowledge at our fingertips, it can be both a blessing and a curse.

It is a blessing because we can virtually learn anything, often for free.

The curse lies in the fact that this endless array of options can be overwhelming and we struggle where to begin.

It does require you to be a bit relentless.

Life will get in the way and through obstacle after obstacle in your path.

Doing an hour or two every day sounds pretty doable until you try and commit to this for an extended period of time.

I have tried this and failed many times.

One of my main reasons for failing is that I did not follow the following three steps.

Where to begin?

Step 01:

The first step is to decide what you want to level up in.

Do you want to create your very own game?

Do you want to become a freelance illustrator?

Or do you want to become a junior motion designer?

It really pays off to be specific in what it is you are trying to achieve, even if you do end up going off course.

Being specific is not easy. It can cause fear to rise up.

If you are unsure about where you are going then any road will take you there.

You need to be clear so you can map out what action to take.

Step 02:

After initially choosing what you are aiming for, it is not time to make the goal clearer or at least actionable.

For example, if you decided you want to move into the field of motion design, and actionable goal could be to gain an internship or junior position at a motion design studio within the next 6–12 months.

It helps if the goal is big and inspires fear inside of you.

This gives you a clear goal but also a timeline to work with which leads me onto step 03.

Step 03:

Ok so you have chosen a path to commit to or at least venture down, now we have to figure out how we are going to get there from where we are now.

I like to think of this as an adventure, or a scary-ass journey.

I really love the advice Ash Thorpe provides on this topic. Once you have a goal in mind he advises to reverse engineer how you are going to get there.

For example, if you have a timeline of 6–12 months to become a motion designer what do you need to do?

First, we need to breakdown the timeline into months, weeks and then days.

Secondly, we need to map out what we need to achieve and mark out goals we need to hit along the way to ensure we stay on track.

Once we have a rough map, we can then search for courses and online resources which enable us to learn what we need to and ensure we hit that big scary goal.

This map serves as motivation when it is 9 pm and we have not done our work for the day but need to sit down and do it anyway.

Hanging this somewhere we see it every day will help us feel consistently motivated or at least guilt us into doing what we need to do.

Step 04:

Use what you have and start from where you are.

If you know someone who has already traveled this path, reach out to them and learn what you can from their experience.

If not then you have work to do.

You can reach out to studios that you admire, not asking for a job but asking what they look for in interns or junior designers so you can be prepared. You might not get a reply every time but most people are kind and they too were once starting out and in need of help.

You can watch random YouTube tutorials, and glean what you can from these for free or if your budget allows you can invest in training that will serve as an investment in yourself.

You can also research artists you admire, study their work and try to find out where were their inspirations, what courses did they take that helped the level up or what book do they cite as pivotal. Absorb as much as you humanly can.

Unless you have a clear goal it is difficult to take action.

The way forward will remain a little foggy, unclear as will the path you need to take to get there.

Often I found myself saying I wanted to do certain things. Yet I took no action.

A year passed and I cam to the realization, that I had done nothing to get any closer to that goal I uttered a year ago.

That really scared me.

I didn’t do the hard part. I did not sit down, make a choice and map out how I was going to get there. I didn’t realize my goal so it remained a dreamy notion inside my head.

I now realize what is necessary to achieve creative goals.

It is hard.

But it is worse if a year passes and you have not progressed.

Choose wisely, my creative friends.

Sarah Healy is a designer, writer and adventuress, focused on motion design and visual storytelling. She authors content over on Design Digest and Happy Human.

Follow her on Twitter, Dribble, Behance or her website.

Design Digest

Design Digest publishes curated stories weekly on creativity, design and why it matters.

Sarah Healy

Written by

A multidisciplinary designer, storyteller, and adventuress with a penchant for endurance feats and exploring blank spots on the map. sarahhealy.net/

Design Digest

Design Digest publishes curated stories weekly on creativity, design and why it matters.

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