4 Ways to Stay Motivated to Finish Your VN
I just hate it when project I’ve started slips into neglect and never gets finished. Feels so discouraging when I want to begin a new one. The most embarrassing is when someone asks me “Hey, how is that project going?” and I know it’s not going anywhere, it’s dead, dead, dead. Feeling of guilt creeps in “Oh, you never finish what you started”.
Then starting a new project gets more and more difficult. With my record track of killed, abandoned or projects parked indefinitely, new beginning brings fresh vigor which soon gets sapped.
Why this happens? Well that’s a topic so big it would require a separate blog post with various psychological and other scientific explanations.
Maybe you are just hooked on starting new projects, because they bring so much joy and elation. Maybe you don’t feel confident in your skills, so it’s easier to start again, enjoying the baby steps instead of pushing for finish and seeing yourself fall flat on your ass. Maybe you are afraid that your final product will not be good enough, or simply don’t like being judged.
No one can criticize your demo, after all, it’s just a stupid demo, not a full game. Sometimes real life just knocks you out. Project is alive as long as it’s rolling and once it grinds to a halt it’s nigh impossible to restart.
Some people simply lose attachment to their projects over time and sometimes the initial idea is not strong enough to carry your enthusiasm till the end of the project. Sometimes we simply lose interest and sometimes we don’t know how to keep the motivation high.
Talking to many of you, young creators, I’ve discovered that, being aware of the problem, you tackle it in different ways. So let me share some tips and suggestions. Maybe you can try it and see if it helps. If it does, please share your stories in the comments section.
It’s dangerous to go alone!
Starting your project alone can be daunting prospect. You will face all the difficulties by yourself, there is no one to share your burden. Since you are the only one on the project it’s, oh so easy, to simply let the project sink and disappear. You are accountable to no one. It never happened. RIP. So, get some friends and let’s do this together!
PROS: The best Visual Novels out there were made by small tight knit teams. It’s not so easy to procrastinate once you know your buddies count on you. Other than this silent support, there is a possibility to actually voice your concerns.
Suddenly to your every “Oh, I don’t know how to tackle this” or “Oh, I feel so lazy today” there are your teammates who can help you out, cheer you up or motivate you to carry on.
CONS: When the team disperses and the project sinks, it can be much more depressing than torpedoing one of your own projects. Also, projects can be stalled or canceled due to creative differences and disagreement.
TIP: Try to keep your team tight. For a Visual Novel I suggest 2-3 persons tops. If you need experts bring them in when you have majority of other content in place. Make sure your teammates are someone you can trust and even more important, people you can forgive if they slip. If you don’t know where to find your collaborators, you can always recruit your friends or someone experienced from CloudNovel forum or Discord.
Nulla Dies Sine Linea
“Not a day without a line” said one old Roman artist. Think of this. If you go to school every day, eventually you will finish it. The only way to fail is never to attend the classes. So even if it’s a project you don’t like, such is the school, it can be finished if you do it every day.
This approach, in fact, is very powerful. Think of dieting. If you starve for weeks, you won’t lose weight. But if you change a single eating habit and stick to it every day, your body will react. Substitute that Doritos snack with an apple every day and you will experience the change. So, create a habit. Decide what amount of time you will dedicate each day to your project. It helps to set time as well, “I will make my VN every day from 9.30 am to 10 am”.
PROS: Your mind will think that project is alive and kicking if you tend it every day. You don’t have to put a huge effort. Maybe today you can write for 10-15 minutes. Maybe the next day you can plan your structure for 30 minutes. Maybe on weekends you can do the art for couple of hours. But even if it’s a tiniest amount of effort invested each day, over time you will finish the project.
CONS: This approach requires basic discipline. Considering that effort you invest is so small and gradual, you can get disheartened. “With this tempo I’ll finish it in two years!” Maybe real life will rock you so hard that you will stop finding even the shortest time to invest. “Oh, it’s just 15 minutes work, I’ll skip today and then put in 30 minutes tomorrow”. Oops, it’s easy to slip, so watch out for this kind of traps.
TIP: Try to discover what time is generally free in your daily schedule. Inertia of our everyday life is strong. It might be more difficult to allocate 15 minutes in your day, than you think. Seek that idle time. Maybe you can write while riding a bus. Maybe you can substitute playing games with working on your Visual Novel. Maybe you can get up 15 minutes earlier?
Time, gentlemen, please!
The school teaches us that deadline is correlated to accountability. If you finish your project on time, you’re good. Many of use are not used work on projects with no deadline. They provide that sense of urgency and remind us to finish our chores.
However, being responsible to yourself and setting your own deadlines is quite tricky.So there are varieties of ‘soft’ deadlines that we can set, respect and actually enjoy. Remember our weekly art challenges? It seems that no matter how busy everyone is, we all simply make it! Within a week, we manage to finish drawing our OCs. And it doesn’t even feel like a deadline, it is fun and challenging.
Why not employ the same tactics to your Visual Novel project? Join a game jam. It’s like a group challenge. It’s fun. It provides chance to team up and gives that friendly and playful deadline. Another benefit is that by the end of a jam you will have something playable. And you will train yourself to be more responsible.
Finishing small games can provide that confidence boost you might be needing. Try starting with short jams, like 24h or 72h jam. Then you can go for a 7 days jam and move on to month-long jams. You can join the existing jam, find a competition or start your own. Another great example of how deadlines can boost your productivity are our CloudNovel contests. Remember all the great Visual Novels that you made for Winter Jam or MLB Contest?
PROS: Finishing your game just in time can be such a rush. Combined with creative challenge of a game jam and opportunity to team up with you friends old and new is simply intoxicating. Not only jams provide deadline, but also the chance to improve your skills, test something new or lay groundwork for your Visual Novel that you will expand after the jam ends.
CONS: Fast pace of game jams is not suited for everyone. Also, it might be difficult to find game jam that fits theme of your Visual Novel project. For some people, tightness of jam deadlines can be frustrating. Also, when the rush of jam subsides, you might discover that you don’t feel like expanding on the work you’ve done.
TIPS: Keep the playful attitude. Join the jam with friends, it helps a lot. Make new friends during jam. Approach the jam as casual prototyping. Use the short burst of creativity and productivity to test your idea. You can also move your project from one jam to the other. No one says you have to stick to their rules. Just use the fun part of having a deadline.
Today I did…
Professional teams often write devlogs. It’s a diary that records the progress. They explain what they did and how they’ve done it. It helps to keep the players excited about new upcoming game, but it also has great effect on the productivity. If we observe the results, they come more easily.
Did you notice how much praise and support you get when you post something in #art channel of CloudNovel’s Discord? (and if you didn’t, then do join us and share your progress) It’s a boost, it helps you move to the next element of your project. So you can try blogging, tweeting or posting your progress.
Even if you don’t share it with others, you will have a healthy log that can keep you motivated. You can vent your frustration there or help you get that positive feedback that is so nurturing.
PROS: Starting a devlog or documenting your progress creates gentle obligation to do something, so that you will have something to write about. You will also have valuable feedback if you share it with others. You can benefit from observing your creative process in retrospect and discover things that you can do better or in different way.
CONS: Making progress and staying motivated to grind away can be difficult on its own. Adding another duty such is documenting the process can be too much strain.
TIP: You don’t have to record every day of your work. Maybe you can write devlog once you reach a milestone or overcome an obstacle. Hitting that first snag is always the most delicate moment of any project. So, you don’t have to burden yourself with this progress diary, write only the most exciting or most daunting moments.
Well, hope this helps and as always, please write in the comments did any of the suggestions work for you. Share with us your methods to overcome obstacles and stay motivated. And remember to – NEVER GIVE UP!