Read before you write. Look at art before you draw.

Get your head in the game, son!

A great trick I’ve learned for getting into the right mode is to psychologically ‘pregame’ before beginning any kind of creative work.

If I was to sit down and write an essay, then before typing a single word I would spend at least 15 minutes buried in some of the most inspiring and well-written essays ever written. Or, at least, writing from someone I enjoy reading.

If I was about to sit down to draw a cartoon, I would flip through the New Yorker and take a look at this week’s 16 or so cartoons that just ran, or flip through a cartoon collection book. It gets your mind well-and-truly in the mindset of that art form.

© Jason Chatfield 2019

If I’m about to go out and do a series of comedy spots at night, I’ll switch gears by putting on a comedy special on the Netflix app on my phone, or looking at late night spots on Youtube.

Look at art that inspires you before you paint. Read writing that inspires you before you write. Watch comedy that inspires you before you perform. It sounds like simple advice, but it really is profoundly effective when you’re having trouble getting in the ‘mood’ to be creative.

My studio wall right now. Everything from Bobby Pontilas to Searle, to Joe Ciardello, to Ed Steed, Richard Thompson, Barry Blitt, John Cuneo, Bill Watterson, Al Hirschfeld… you name it!

I have to create every single day, whether I feel like it or not. Since I was 15 years old, I’ve always clipped out art that inspires me, or sparks off an idea or a mindset, and stuck it on my wall (or in my childhood days’, my wardrobe doors.) I used to think I would subconsciously absorb some of the great artists’ styles, but I’m not so sure about that.

My childhood wardrobe…

These days I have art all around me in my studio (see above). If I’m about to draw up a rough for MAD, I’ll flip through the MAD 60 book, or a Sergio Aragonés or Don Martin collection. If I’m about to ink a New Yorker cartoon I might flip through some old Thurber, Addams or George Booth collections — or google other artists I’m enjoying right now and scroll through their work on Pinterest. My studio wall looks like a serial killer’s den, sure, and the art is now about 9 layers deep, but it does help kick my brain into gear every morning when it’s time to start work.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

New York-based Australian Comedian & Cartoonist for the New Yorker. Obsessed with productivity hacks, the creative process, and the Oxford comma.

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