Ever wonder why you can’t seem to finish a project? Procrastination, it’s like a road block that holds you back. Whatever thorn is in your side, you can’t name it or pull it out. The bogeyman stalks all artists and miniature painters the same, and makes the work that much more scary. I’ve said it before: the unpainted canvas or miniature is the scariest thing in the world for the artist who want to get things done. What’s holding you back?
In this article, I briefly describe my experience with the bogeyman, also named procrastination, when it came to painting a few miniatures for a league. I think I’ve diagnosed the issue for myself, and share a few solutions I’ve picked up along the way. Read on to see what I think about this horrid procrastination issue.
The pressure to paint models never goes away
As humans, we tend to get attached to inanimate objects. Maybe, you had a teddy bear when you were a kid or a safety blanket you dragged everywhere like that kid in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Unbeknownst to our self-conscious, we are beholden to this hard-wired need for comfort and security. We often find this need satisfied in objects.
In my experience, this attachment could also happen with the models we paint for the tabletop games we play. They are after all “characters” with a story and life of their own. Take for example the rich world in which the Warhammer 40k miniatures live in. Don’t they have a hard-life, full of chaos and grim dark days?
And yet, all of these miniature fight on and become heroes of legend. Their storied histories are written in books; the lore inspires us toward a brighter future way from the dank mundane, and even tragic lives of the everyday man.
The pressure to paint these miniatures comes from a deep sentiment. We imagine ourselves walking in their shoes…
Okay, okay, not all of us have this wild imagination. We are not as attached as my melodrama suggests. But, let’s be truthful. Painting miniatures is super fun, and super stressful. The compulsion to paint models never goes away!
Why is it so hard to paint miniatures?
I’m a commission miniature painter, which is an odd place to be considering my tendency for procrastination. To the question of why it’s so hard to get my miniatures painted, the answer is complicated. The short answer though is “I don’t know”.
In league I played in at my local game store, one of the objectives was to fully paint your army collection. These were Privateer Press miniatures for the Warmachine/Hordes miniature games (check out why I love this game here).
There are a few reasons why people find painting miniatures difficult.
- Miniature painting is hard work, like a job, when you’re not enjoying it
- Painting miniatures is actually pretty difficult to do well
- You have too many models and you’re paralyzed by the sheer volume
- You suffer from a bit of anxiety and fear of the process
- You’re broke and can’t afford the ongoing cost for miniature painting supplies
Whatever the case may be, it’s an epic struggle to get paint on a model. Even the most avid artist finds himself stuck in this mire of non-motivation. It’s like writer’s-block, but the ramifications are worse. You have miniatures that demand to be played in full living color. They deserve your attention!
How do you motivate yourself to paint more miniatures and models?
So, how to motivate yourself to paint?
Well, first here’s what I’ve learned from my experience on Earth. The #1 enemy of motivation is judgement. It could be a stealthy dagger of self-judgement, that whisper in your inner self that says “you suck”. Or, it could be the fear of judgement from other people. From judgement emerges fear.
“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration“, said Muad’Dib in Frank Herbert’s DuneTweet
A keen sense of self-judgement produces anxiety. As a human being, we go to great lengths to avoid anxiety. We avoid triggers that make us feel uneasy. This means we don’t paint our models, and rather go to things that distract us from anything that we associate with negative feelings. It takes times to build up anxiety for miniature painting.
Okay, so what does this anxiety inducing association with miniature painting mean? How do we overcome the hurdle of the painting blahs?
There is not magical key. Instead, I think it’s a combination of relaxing a bit more and rewarding yourself with solid prizes for every bit of success you have with your miniatures. If you base coat a model, that’s a tangible achievement. Instead of telling yourself that you suck for only getting a base coat down in a single session, or beating yourself up for a sloppy blending job, you need to take a step back.
Yes, I did finish that bit on the model. I crossed a milestone.
Adjust your expectations for yourself and motivation will follow.
READ MORE: 5 SIGNS OF A MEDIOCRE MINIATURE PAINTER
The fatal danger of self-doubt
Alright, so you can’t do anything I suggest. What now? You doubt continues and your procrastination and avoidance haunt you. The bogeyman still lives in your closet. Here’s the problem with not coming face to face with the monster.
After a while, we associate painting models with true bad anxiety. It’s that thorn in your side, but now it festers. The thorn infects your entire body. Ultimately, you undergo a kind of fear-based conditioning, the little cousin of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Just the thought of painting makes you uncomfortable.
This, of course, all happens just under the surface of your awareness (unless you’re paying special attention). Soon, you’re telling everyone you “suck at painting” or “I hate painting”.
In the end, this is the chronic problem: I don’t have motivation to paint, because I don’t want to feel anxious.
My Final Thoughts
I struggle with completing all my miniature paint jobs. Even as someone who paints miniatures on commission, I have the hardest time finishing off that last 10-20% of any model. That last bit of a miniature paint job places the most stress on me because that’s where the final result appears and will have to be judged (from myself or my client).
Here are a few last tricks that I use to keep going with my miniature painting.
I take photos of my models to get a new perspective, as well as a future encouragement. For example, when I get stuck on a new model, I look back on what I’ve already done and get encouragement. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
If I’m a bit hesitant and feel the specter of the bogeyman, I run. I literally run through the paint job, e.g., speed paint. You can see my thoughts about how I approach speed painting here. Ultimately, I do my best to get ahead of the fear by speeding along without thinking too much. I trust my abilities to do the job. It’s a kind of faith I guess, knowing what I can do through experience.
Although it comes off a cliche, I also love seeing colored miniatures on the tabletop. It doesn’t matter how badly done the models are, I’m thrilled by the visuals. Maybe, painted miniatures remind me of a long-lost childhood. I don’t know. Either way, seeing other painted miniatures is a great motivator. Taken a bit further, painting the miniatures is a kind of child-like enjoyment.
Look, we’re all different. The weapons you choose to fight the bogeyman will be different for me and you. You may even use a different weapon everyday. Suffice it to say, fight the battle. It’s worth it!