One of my coworkers recently told me a story that really resonated with me. His family owned a beach house that they would visit a few times a year (must be nice, I know). For years there had never been any issues whenever they came to stay. Since no one had been there, there was never any reason to expect anything out of the ordinary. One time, though, they forgot to turn off the water main, and one of the faucets upstairs was accidentally left on a very slow drip. This happens all the time, and is usually harmless to anything but your utility bill. Months later, though, they returned to find the entire second floor sagging down and standing water everywhere. The house looked like it had been through a hurricane! Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage, caused by a drop of water every few seconds.
This is the power of consistency.
When I look back on my path to becoming an animator, this is the thing that has been the most responsible for everything good that’s happened. I don’t have an abundance of natural talent, but I kept my head in the game more days than I didn’t, and slowly those drips turned into a flood. It really is that simple. Not every day was a win, and breakthroughs didn’t come often. But I kept showing up.
The life you have is a result of the decisions you make and the habits you keep. I’m always trying to identify my own and weed out the ones that don’t serve me. I pay attention to successful people and try to adopt the habits that will fit into my own day-to-day. The more good habits I have, the more consistently I can have a day that pushes me forward instead of holding me back. They don’t have to be big things. For example, I start my day early before the sun comes up. I take a cold shower to wake me up and get my daily hygiene out of the way. I have oatmeal in the pressure cooker on a timer and ready to go for breakfast. My clothes have already been laid out the night before, and the food I’ll take to work is prepped and packaged. Starting every day this way frees up so much time and takes all the guesswork out of my morning. Then I can focus on writing, teaching, or whatever I need to get done before work. Then I’ll go to the gym, and finally head to the studio by 9:30. Whatever life wants to throw at me after that, I’m ready for it because I’ve already won the morning. These routines will change as my life evolves, but I’ll always make it a point to control the start of my day as much as I can because I’ve seen the benefits.
You can apply good habits to your animation practice, too. Just imagine what would happen if every morning you performed a one-hour, throwaway animation test. Every morning. One hour. That’s seven tests in a week. Thirty tests in a month. If you did thirty pendulum swings by this time next month, I bet you won’t be intimidated by quadruped tails anymore, would you? That skill would be with you forever, improving how you think about momentum, speed, spacing, overlap, and everything else that’s involved. Do that for bouncing balls, arm swings, foot rolls, facial transitions, and weight shifts, just to name a few. JUST IMAGINE how far you could come in a year with just one hour every morning! Or you could to two or three massive “dialog tests” a year like I used to. With the benefit of hindsight, I know which one I’d pick.
Habits don’t depend on motivation. They become second-nature, done as a matter of course. You brush your teeth every day, not out of an ever-present fear of gum disease, but because that’s just a thing you do because you should. If there’s something you know you should be doing, practice it until it’s as engrained into your day as brushing your teeth. This way when motivation fails, you’re still showing up and putting in work. Keep that faucet dripping and cause some damage.
See you in the morning?