Motivation will always been an issue, regardless of the task at hand. If you have other obligations (like all indie developers), then you know exactly what I’m talking about. As for me, I have kids and a full time job, so by the time i start working on the game, it’s already 9pm and all i really want to do is go to bed. After my son falls asleep, I zombie walk out to the living room in hopes of getting some work done so I don’t feel guilty about the lack of progress the next morning. (sound familiar?)
The hardiest part for me has always been getting started. That initial awkward phase where you stare blankly at your laptop from 10 feet away, while trying to convince yourself to actually walk over there and say hi. Therefore i have to consistently find ways to motivate myself to get started. This started to become a daily issue, so some change was in order. Here are a few methods that have helped so far.
Quotes – I know it’s corny or cliche, but if you need a quick spark to get yourself started, this is it. All you need is that one moment that makes you feel like you can do anything. Just leave little quotes everywhere: in your emails and text messages to yourself, on little post it notes, on your whiteboard, or even set it as a desktop wallpaper. One of them is bound to set you back on track. Then once the quote is no longer working for you, just switch it out with a new one.
Use checklists – Nothing beats the feeling of completion, but you don’t have to wait until the game is done to feel proud of your project. Start using daily or weekly checklists that are posted somewhere near your workspace. Now every time you complete a task, just take a minute to stand up and mark it off. You really can’t beat the feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small the task.
Plan ahead – It’s always easier to sit down and work if you know exactly what needs to be done. Spend a few minutes throughout the day to write down what needs to be done tonight. Then make sure to break it down even further. The simpler the task, the more willing you are to actually sit down and do it. For example, instead of writing down “draw knight,” try to be more precise with the instructions to yourself. Use that checklist again!
– draw helmet (full face cover)
– add hair that comes out the back of the helmet (try ponytail and make it purple)
– add empty sockets for eyes (make it look evil!)
– and so on…
Find what motivates you – Seriously, figure out what motivated you to make that particular game in the first place. If your answer is “just because,” then you’re going to hit that motivation wall sooner rather than later. There has to be a reason, so figure out that reason BEFORE you start. Then run with it all the way to the finish line.
Learn from others – This is obviously time consuming, but definitely worth it. Try to find people that are also in your current situation (work, school, kids, etc…). More often than not, other developers/artists are more than willing to share their experiences. Read about how they dealt with their struggles and still managed to finish what they started.
The indie game development community are very supportive. So find some indie developers/artists/musicians and follow them on Twitter or Facebook, it never hurts to learn from others. Also, keep up to date with articles posted on sites like Gamasutra and Kotaku. You’ll never know where that next motivation will come from. Here’s a great article about staying on task that was posted recently on Gamasutra by Thomas Brush. This other article by Derek Yu article was what I used when I first started running into motivational issues. It’s a very popular article with tips on finishing your game.
All in all, just find what works for you and stick with it. No one said this was going to be easy, but there’s a huge community out there that are willing to support you. Now let’s finish those games!
I’m always looking for new motivational methods, feel free to share them below.