10 Ways Learning Animation Improved My Life

Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. — Walt Disney

I’ve been an educational psychologist for the last couple years but even when I was getting my bachelor’s, I was pursuing a career as a writer for animated content. When things didn’t pan out how I wanted I fell back on psychology for a career but there came a point where I knew where I belonged.

The plan was to begin learning animation while juggling my job but it was akin to me having fun when I got home while taking daily visits to a torture chamber. And the more fun I had animating, is the worse the job felt. I quit.

Regardless, this new job is rewarding but it’s also really challenging. For someone who got an E in seventh grade art, should I really be doing this? Does it matter? I’m doing it anyway. Here’s some stuff I’ve learnt so far that links to life in general that you may find useful too.

1. You will make mistakes. You will have to redo.

Being a mistake-averse person will cause you to do nothing at all — and it’s even worse if you can’t take criticism. Now you have no choice. You must embrace error. You must even celebrate it and laugh with it. For some careers you might not laugh at your mistake because it might cause someone their life but the point is to embrace the fact that you will mess up. There’s no avoiding it. That is, unless you do nothing at all but even that is a mistake and it’ll lead to regret too.

2. It might not be easy but if you really want it, it will be done.

I love pushing my boundaries and seeing how far I can go without, you know, dying or injuring myself too badly. — Spencer Grammer

This is the part where you have to pull up or shut up. Now that you’ve realised that this goal of yours isn’t as easy/simple/lucrative as you initially thought, how bad do you want it? Nothing wrong with walking away if you don’t think it’s worth it. That’s bravery. That’s commendable. However, if you lie to yourself, you will pay a price sooner or later. I’ve questioned if I was lying to myself a few times. But when I see what I’ve done when I walk away from my laptop for a few hours, I’m proud.

3. Everything is connected.

I learnt this from rigging the body parts of characters. You have to ensure that the foot connects to the lower leg connects to the upper leg connects to the body. Everything is connected in a particular order.

In life, if you think things happen in isolation of one another, your life will eventually look like a mess when one action completely throws out another seemingly unrelated aspect. Also, some connections are more direct than others. For example, the arms and legs are connected to the body but they can move independently of one another whereas the lower leg must follow the upper leg. You have to pay attention.

4. If you don’t know, you don’t know.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something. Being competent at the majority of things in my life was a blessing and a curse. I did reasonably well at most things but there were things I wanted to be good at but I didn’t give any attention to because I was so weak at it. So when I found something that was actually difficult (that is, drawing), I almost wanted to give it up when it got hard. But as I wrote in point #2, if you want it, it will be done. The best way to power through this is to admit your limitations. Only then can you get the help.

5. Fear of the unknown will cause you to procrastinate.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” ― H.P. Lovecraft

This one is very tricky. You can easily convince yourself that you’re taking time out to learn something or to understand something before you put in the actual work.

The truth, however, is that you’re procrastinating because the only way you can actually learn what you need to know is to make the mistakes. “But what if I realise that there’s something I can’t do? That would mean leaving my job was a huge mistake.” Well, no one said it was safe to leave and try to do something new, but in taking that cold plunge, your body acclimatizes and then suddenly, you’re swimming. Happens every time.

6. Trying to be perfect and not having fun will cause you to procrastinate.

Fun is one of the most important — and underrated — ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else. — Richard Branson

It’s kind of sad that this even needs to be explained. After all, the whole point of this enterprise was that it gave me so much pleasure. And yet, I can get so stressed over it my head starts to burn. I know it’s due to my particular deficiencies but sometimes it sucks to not know what you’re doing. Fortunately, there’s a solution: have fun. If you don’t take it so seriously, you’d be surprised how easily answers flow to you.

When I was a psychologist, I lived for the fun moments I had with my co-workers. Without them I wouldn’t be able to stay in the job for as long as I did. We’d be cracking jokes and play acting but when it’s time to work we got the job done.

Sometimes the job took me to very serious, grave and sombre moments. People suffer and need help. There’s a time and a place for that, but you must have pleasure too. I have my deficiencies in drawing and some of the kids I saw had theirs in academics and behaviour. But when you see improvement, it’s awesome!

7. It is very hard to deny truth.

Earlier in the article, I admitted I got an E in seventh grade art. But at the end of the school year, I got it up to a C. In eighth grade, we had an assignment to illustrate unity. But knowing that I can’t draw and knowing that people were going to do some lame crap just to get a grade, I decided to be clever.

I went into Microsoft Word’s clip art (Internet was way too slow at the time) and looked through images until I found something different and that I could print, trace into my sketch pad and then I added a little something to tug at the heartstrings. Long story short, the art teacher wanted to enter me into a competition.

When animating, you might think that you can get away with a lot because it isn’t real. That would be a huge mistake. While many characters are only seen with four fingers, exaggerated eyes and are anthropomorphic, there are certain rules which have to apply to your character, scene and movement. You cannot evade them.

An object in front of another will cause the one behind to be blocked; drawing thumbs in the wrong place on the hand will have you looking at the drawing and feeling uneasy but not knowing why, until you look at your own hands and go, “ohhh.” It sounds obvious but you forget.

The point I’m trying to make here is that reality will not be thwarted even if it will allow you to bend certain rules — bend rules, not break them. Also, there are certain themes that will show themselves in your life whether it be in relationships, work or your personal growth. Again, pay attention because this too is truth and reality. Things happen for a reason. Despite the fact that I don’t have a natural affinity for illustration, I have vision and determination to improve things I value. That never left me.

8. Take a break.

Life is funny. I actually took a break before I continued to expound on this point. That’s because taking a break and recreation is important and just as underrated as having fun! If you don’t take breaks, you’ll burn yourself out. If you burn out, it’ll be harder to come back to work. Taking incremental breaks keeps you working longer and you’ll feel happier when the day’s done.

9. Things aren’t as easy as you first thought.

Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy. — Saadi

I think many of us chart a course for a particular career when watching the masters do their work. As awestruck as we are, we look at the work they do and think to ourselves, “Hey, I could do that!” Then you give it a whirl and you might find that it is difficult as hell. You might also realise that you’re a natural but eventually you get to a stage where you need to up your game but you don’t know how.

If you ever catch yourself thinking that something will be a walk in the park, don’t believe it. A job, a relationship, taking candy from a baby — all difficult. You can spend ten years studying the greats but until you put in that practise, it’s not worth much because you won’t truly understand it. Then after a while the practise becomes your nature and people will look at you and think what you do is easy. (The trick is to take the candy and run away before the baby realises, but you’d only know that after 10,000 hours of practise.)

10. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried.

Every day I wonder if I made the right decision to do animation. But then I think about what I used to be doing, laugh and continue watching my tutorials.

Failure at this venture would look very peculiar. I’ve grown a lot in an extremely short span of time. For the little work I’ve done, I’ve been encouraged to continue. I appreciate art a lot more. I’ve unearthed a me that I thought was dead. I’ve seen and addressed limitations I’ve long had. I’m a better writer. I live more authentically.

These are things I wouldn’t have received had I not started this adventure. I’ve kind of already succeeded. I even remember thinking this the very moment I began working on one of my projects. I felt this sense of completion just in doing the task. That was massive for me.

I still feel like an imposter a lot of the time but like I tell my friends who’ve just begun to write, if you’re writing, you’re a writer. Ultimately, not only am I glad to be doing this but I’ve received more than I ever expected. So if the money (a.k.a. the symbol of value) doesn’t come my way, animation still made me a better me.

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”