I just haven't been able to stop thinking about this indie project I've seen going around on Twitter; where the creator was doing this strange humblebrag along the lines of "I know I can't afford to hire people to help with my indie animated film, so instead of exploiting artists, ewww, I've spent 20 hours a day 7 days a week working on this all by myself for the last two years! :D"
And I was just like...I...I see the good in that statement that you're trying to emphasize, but there is some real, real bad in that statement as well and it's hard to ignore. o_O Self-harm is still harm...being willing to put yourself through awful, inhumane working conditions is not the flex you think it is...
And then I saw another post today, I think by the same person***, adding additional info about how they're now starting a Kickstarter to finish their film because they quit their job and used their LIFE SAVINGS to shut themselves at home and animate it, and they're almost out of money. And that horrified me even more, tbh...
It's the realization that, after you're done pushing your body to the breaking point for the sake of this one project that no one knows about (let's be realistic)...you won't even have a safety net. ._. No money to tend to an RSI, or even just go on vacation and REST for a little while. Or to hire someone to promote the dang thing after it's done. Every cent is going towards just keeping yourself alive to make this project exist-- Why?? I get that art is important on a personal level; I'm no stranger to making questionable decisions for the sake of my work, but why go SO far?? Is it really worth it...?
I think what bothers me the most is the combination of the two ideas, devoting yourself body and soul and future to one project, AND presenting yourself as a positive example for others to follow. I hope to god they don't have impressionable young animators watching them who think this is anything close to a good idea. There is a reason why so many indie projects take several years to get done, it's because when you're a 1 or 2-man team, that's often the only SANE timeline you can manage. o_O
Taking the time to work your day job and have a steady income, or to just relax and not work on anything occasionally, to have fun and live a life outside of your art as well...that's not a waste. For most people, it's a necessity, in order to continue living as a capable, creative human being.
And honestly (this is a little unfair, but still) I would be wary of working with someone who's willing to do that to themselves. Because that's the natural expectation when you start an indie project, right? You'll work alone for now, get the first step of the project done just to show people what you can do, and eventually you'll have enough notoriety and/or funds to build a team to do more.
But I wouldn't want to join a team led by someone who damn near killed themselves just on Step 1, because I'd be asking myself "are they going to expect me to do the same...?" Are they really going to work like crazy for the SOLE purpose of simply having a fast turnaround time, and then lead a team of people who all have perfectly normal work schedules...? Without peer-pressuring them or shaming them into doing more, to go 12 hours a day 7 days a week, or 10 hours a day 6 days a week? I mean, neither of those (despite still being inhumane) are as much as THEY had to work...surely their paid employees should be willing to handle that...
^You see that kind of thinking every day from professionals in the art world; I would not be surprised at all to see it from someone in the indie sphere, and I wouldn't be willing to take that chance. =/
Anyway, to actually answer the title question: I just try to make regular progress; as long as something new got done since last month, I'm doing fine, and if I keep going eventually I'll finish. Slow and steady wins the race.
And even when I push myself to meet a deadline, I don't let it take over my life. I may have to work on a certain project every single day for like, three weeks (which in itself is enough to make me feel like I'm losing my grip on reality), but when I get tired I rest. If on one of those days, I can only work 2 hours before quitting, well, two hours is still better than zero hours. And if it comes down to it, I'd rather take more time to do something well and have the energy to enjoy my success, than to make myself so miserable over an arbitrary self-imposed deadline that I'm too tired and in too much pain to celebrate.
***It occured to me while writing this that they might've been two different projects (I feel like I saw different imagery...) but I chalk this uncertainty up to so many indie projects having the same bland character designs and 'tanktop-punk' techno-fantasy aesthetics, which is a whole 'nother rant that I'll probably write out someday. ^^; But seriously, folks, if you're going to bet the farm on an indie film/show/game, consult a character/environment designer to help make your work stand out, and not look like "Unoriginal Pipe Dream #258". For example, Studio MDHR at least gambled on something interesting and unique that stood out at first glance-- even now, there aren't many properties out there that you could mistake Cuphead for. 'Character A goes on an adventure in a post-apocalyptic world,' on the other hand...without a strong MC design at the very least, I wouldn't give you a snowball's chance in hell. :T