Tricking Myself (Cat Scully)

How I Trick Myself into Completing Projects

Cat Scully

I've gotten a lot of questions about how I balance being both a writer and an artist. I've had writers asking me how I find enough time to draw when I have to get a word count in every day and the hours as a mom and a working professional are stretched thin. I've gotten the same question from artists who draw every day, spend hours on painting, and can't find another hour in the day to sleep much less write a full novel. I've been trying to figure out a way to explain the balance, because I've also been told more than once that at some point that one of them has to give, that at some point I can only be an artist or a writer.

I finally found a way to explain how this works out and how I keep my production (and completion) level up for both.

I trick myself.

I get chronic writer's block every time I face a blank page or when I'm about halfway through a project. I get stuck and don't finish. I actually used to be pretty terrible at finishing things. I would get an idea and never get past fifty pages, never finish inking, never finish my personal projects. I hated this about myself, that I was more in love with the idea than the execution. So, years ago I tried to figure out a way to be productive always, and the key was in the balance between writing and art.

The key was I trick my own enthusiasm to work for me, not against me. When I write, I write until I get stuck and switch immediately to drawing, because it seems shiny and new. I sketch and sketch until I get burned out, then switch back to writing, which now seems shiny and new compared to drawing another line. It invariably works every time. If I trick myself into each task being new, my natural enthusiasm for projects takes over, and I finish every time.

If I get stuck in both, I read with Scrivener, Photoshop, and a blank sketchbook page open nearby. I become so excited about the book I'm reading, I can't stand to look at the blinking cursor or page any longer. I HAVE to write and draw.

This way may seem kind of manic on the outside, as some people like to sit down and move start to finish on a project with no distractions. I'm that way about book writing. I can only work chronologically. If I get stuck in chapter twelve, there will be no chapter thirteen until I'm done with twelve. It's just how I work. But what this tricking method actually accomplished was, by the end of say four hours, I would have anywhere between 2,000 to 4,000 words and several sketches completed. I stay on task.

Tricking myself ended up being one of the best things I could have ever discovered about my process. What ways do you try to motivate yourself to get work done?


  1. I do the same thing, only not switching between writing and drawing. I always have at least two very different writing projects going at once, and invariably when I'm working on one, the other seems SOOO much more attractive. So I switch until the same thing happens and I go back to no. 1!

  2. I love this trick! I wish I had something like drawing to switch things up with. I will definitely have to seek something. During my last big phase of writer's block, I knit.


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