No matter what your art is (writing, illustration, game design), you’ll often hear that you should work at it every day. If you don’t do this, some people say, you’re failing as a creator.
Now, that might work for some people, but I’ve tried writing every day on several occasions and it just doesn’t work for me. It makes the whole thing a chore that I start to hate very quickly. Instead, I’ve found that three scheduled sessions of at least a couple of hours keeps my juices flowing, my motivation up, and my productivity on track.
The most important thing for me is that I have a plan. Every time I sit down for a creative session, I plan out ahead of time exactly what I want to achieve that day. And at the end of every session, I figure out when my next one is booked for. That stops one or two days off from slipping into more.
Another thing that works for me is to always have deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed, and to make sure that I’m accountable to someone else for those deadlines. If the only person I have to answer to is myself, I will inevitably let things slip. What I would recommend is having a partner in creation, someone else who also wants to achieve things and may need a nudge every now and then. If you can arrange to meet up physically and keep each other focused, then great! If not, maybe keep a chat window or video call open during creative sessions and check in every half hour or so, to make sure you’re both still on topic. And, if all else fails, just email each other your schedule and your plan, and then report back after the session to celebrate your victories. If you’re a writer who is more motivated by spreadsheets, streaks, or games than by a creative partner, consider using something like 750words.com, 4thewords.com, or getyourwordsout.net to encourage you to meet those writing goals. Artists might get practice ideas from artprompts.org or the challenges, timed practices, and random poses on quickposes.com. And no matter what your art, if you respond to gamification, something like habitica.com might be just the thing to get you making the most of your creative time and give you a sense of accomplishment as you make progress toward your goals.
That last point is important—make it easy to celebrate your successes. If you have a big project, then just looking at the whole thing may make it seem insurmountable. But if you break it down into small tasks with sensible deadlines, you can have the satisfaction of ticking off tons of little victories that you should absolutely congratulate yourself on. If rewards help you (like “I can have a chocolate after I finish this chapter” or “I can watch an episode of my favorite show once I’ve filled a page with sketches”), then don’t hesitate to use that.
Most crucial of all is to find a system that works for you and just go for it.
What works for me is a rolling spreadsheet of upcoming submission opportunities (theme, word count, hard deadline, and possible publication all right there), sessions scheduled outside my flat with an accountability partner, and a list of very specific targets for each session. But the thought of all that organization might make you want to curl up and die. So try things out to see what fits, and once something works, don’t ever let anyone tell you it doesn’t make sense. The only person it has to makes sense to is you. And if it keeps you creating, then it’s doing its job and you should stick with it no matter what.