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Creative Plateauing

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Simply posting this looking for others to join me in being frustrated. Also, if you have suggestions for getting past this, I'm all freaking ears.

Been doing video work for some time, and been doing creative work in the realm of design a little longer. I'm 29 and feel pretty well into my career. But the past 3-5 years have been so. incredibly. frustrating. I remember earlier being so excited to learn new things, try new skills out, see my work grow, etc. But it's been more like treading water. I've learned new things (Cinema 4D being chief among them) and made a living, but my work just sucks by every standard I have. 

My newest employer is all about professional development, so I'm well-supported now to make room and spend money on training. I'm planning to sign up for Explainer Camp with School of Motion, and besides that have been trying to make more time for learning. And other than that I just work really hard and get projects finished. I'm hoping a combination of all of this can help propel me forward. We'll see.

Just sharing this to vent and wonder if anyone else has had this experience in their career. I feel like I look around and don't see anyone else hitting these kinds of walls. 

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Yeah, its pretty easy to get pigeon holed. Especially when you are good at something. Because it becomes an easy way to make money. Since you already have the necessary skills. 

It's why its important to pick personal projects and really push yourself in new directions. And be your own art director. Make revisions, act a shitty client :) Sometimes you need feedback from others. This used to be a great forum for that. Maybe with the reviving of it, it can be again. 

Also a good idea to branch out and learn about something unrelated. I love watching crash course videos on youtube. anatomy, biology, chemistry, history. They have plenty of useful stuff to get your brain churning. 

In the last couple of years i seem to have drifted towards a more technical role, rigging, etc and now i want to go back a bit towards design and aesthetic development. So im trying to get personal projects finished with a strong focus on design. Shapes, form, composition etc. 

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Yup, been there. Definitely personal projects outside of the daily work grind and stepping outside your comfort zone. Also, taking a break from learning tools and diving into design, art and strategy. If you're interested in getting more into the art direction side, I highly recommend Carey's latest video:


If you want to share your work we can give you pointers on where your improvement opportunities are, finding a mentor or support network that challenges you to improve is also great.

Getting back into things like typography, drawing, creating stories helped fuel learning the tools part again for me, but totally unrelated interests like Aleksey mentioned are great too. Get out of your rut and try and get a bit of wonderment back :)



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Sounds like me when I worked at Microsquish (and before I started learning animation last year).  How many people have I known that got their blue badges saying this was temporary and then  the siren call of free coffee and mountain dew made them so comfortable that they don't notice that their spark has extinguished.  I can think of four just off the top of my head.  

This may be a hard thing to hear but you may want to start thinking about getting out of the field before it sucks your soul into hell and next thing you know you've been miserable for twenty years.  If you've got a family you're probably scr*wed and need to  put your shoulder to the grindstone and just take it.  Their happiness is more important than yours.  But if you don't there's still time.  You just have to confront the possibility that there might not be a trapeze there when you jump and you'll wind up both miserable AND homeless.  Remember, all life is suffering and suffering with Cinema 4d is better than suffering while digging ditches or telemarketing cremation services.

On the other hand it may not be animation itself but where you work and what you do.  Doing work that doesn't rock your world in the right field is almost as bad as the wrong field.  Let's face it, a job is usually just a job, whether you're working with Maya or some tax software.  When I worked at Sierra Online, you know, the awesome fun video game company that made Half Life, I'd meet testers walking around like zombies because they've spent the last three months playing the same screen of arcanuum or empire earth for eight hours a day.  Once I asked one of these guys how his day was going and he said, 'kill me now.'  And he's playing a video game all day.  It stinks when you're really smart and creative and spend most of your day doing what a trained monkey could do.

With the exception of spending nearly fifteen years doing a job that I hated within six months of starting, I'm lucky.  I knew I'd discovered magic within fifteen minutes of loading up Daz.  In my first animation journal entry called, '96 hours later', I figured that I spent over 60 of those 96 hours playing with Daz.  I'd never experienced anything like that.  And that was just Daz.  It was before I bought Cinema and discovered what true love could feel like.  And it hasn't diminished one little bit.    

Of course I have no idea what it's like in an industry job (and I hope I never find out.  I'd rather eat my own face than ever have a boss again.)   But I'm so happy now that it's actually weird.  If you believe Joseph Campbell, then when you follow your bliss you'll start to notice  invisible hands helping you along.  That's what happened to me.  I've made nearly as much money this year with no job as I with my job at Microstupid.  But that could be weird luck. 

Keep in mind that you may not have what it takes to figure this out.  After all, your decisions got you into this mess.  I would have never have been smart enough to choose animation off a list if it didn't come with this massive orgasmic feeling that I'm doing exactly what I should be doing.  God plopped it on my lap.  Doesn't sound like that's happened to you yet.  You may need to look to others.  There is help out there.  

So your choices are follow your bliss, don't follow your bliss, or kinda follow your bliss.  You got to know what that bliss is though, and it sounds like you're not entirely sure.  I'd start there.  It may have nothing to do with Animation.  

Best wishes

The one thing I'd say is in your favor is that you seem to be self aware.  



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