Jeannette ChinoChinako cosplay

Cosplay 101: 10 Ways to Spark Motivation

Cosplay is an art, and just like other artists, cosplayers can suffer from burnout or simply a lack in motivation. Sometimes, finding ways to keep working through burnout or trying to drudge up motivation to even start can be tiring and hard to do. With two decades of cosplay under my belt, I’ve certainly felt the burnout more than once and had to tackle motivation head-on with projects that had intense deadlines.

Jeannette ChinoChinako cosplaying as Wooloo
Jeannette ChinoChinako cosplaying as Wooloo

So how can you manage this part of being an artist? Let me share what’s worked for me. Hopefully one of these will help you out when you need a jumpstart.

Take A Break

Sometimes the best way to jumpstart your motivation is to simply take a break. Do anything else, and don’t think about cosplay. I recommend:

  • Play a video game
  • Hang out with family and friends
  • Read a book
  • Watch a movie
  • Binge a new series on Netflix
  • Or watch some anime on Crunchyroll

By taking a break, you are allowing your head to rest and focus on something else. You’d be surprised how easily this can get your motivation going again. Doing something else within the art realm can open your mind to new characters and new ideas. Pretty soon, you’ll have a spark and will want to return to your crafting space to dive back into cosplay. 

Start Small

Wooloo design sketch
Wooloo design sketch / Photo credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

Cosplays can be detailed and sometimes these details can be entirely overwhelming. I often want to start a project, only to feel like scrapping it once I look at the design. What do I do instead of filing away the idea and never coming back to it? I start on something—anything—small. For me, once I start something small, I find I can complete it quickly. This motivates me to continue working and eventually I have all the pieces done! Small means small—make a hair accessory, a necklace, arm-warmers, bracers, gloves, socks, or shop for the perfect wig or shoes. Keep small cosplay projects focused and easy. This will relieve you of some of the stress that can occur when you feel overwhelmed. Once you complete the small project, congratulate yourself! Afterwards, zero in on the next small piece and get back to work.

Make A List

A variety of lists created for cosplaying
Don’t be afraid to make lists to stay organized! / Photo credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

I love lists! I make lists for everything. I literally have lists OF lists (I live a wild life, haha!). But lists can really help you sort out the details for cosplay. Cosplay can be super simple, or really intricate. But they all have multiple pieces that you need to account for.

A list helps you make sure you don’t miss any of the details or pieces that you want to create. The list can also help if you go fabric shopping (you can detail out how much of each fabric you need, or what type of fabric to sift through before you commit to a particular type).

Need a mobile-friendly list? Look up Cosplanner in your app section. Lists can even double as packing items! So you don’t leave an important piece at home, or forget to pack it after you’ve worn it. Lists can help you to organize how you want to tackle the cosplay project—head to toe? Bottom up? Small pieces to large ones, or vice versa? Lists can be great, plus crossing off items as you finish them is pretty fun, too!

Change Up Your Music/Movie Selection

I tend to give every cosplay their own soundtrack. I have a huge, eclectic music selection, and I’ll often create a playlist to listen to as I craft. Sometimes costumes scream out to be crafted to certain music (Fetch was made while listening to the Infamous Second Son soundtrack, the game she was introduced during), while others end up with a mismatch of sounds that help me focus on what I’m doing (Belphegor’s skirts were made while listening to Eminem). Sometimes I simply can’t find my focus. I’m crafting, but I feel slow and sluggish, or just unhappy with how something is coming together. I’ll take a break and choose different music and suddenly I’m inspired to give it another go.

I know I’m not the only one who crafts to music! Most of my friends craft with television series, anime series, or movies playing in the background. If you find yourself distracted or just unable to give your all to a crafting session, change up the background noise.

Clean Up Your Space

If you’re like most cosplayers, then your crafting space always looks like a tornado whipped through when you have a project completed. Some people can immediately jump into the next project. But I get easily overwhelmed seeing the mess from the previous project all over the place. Take a bit of time to clean up, which may include the following tasks:

  • Toss your scraps
  • Make a pile of fabric you can still reuse
  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Use canned air to spray out your sewing machine
  • Replace your needles
  • Take out the trash
  • Get your mannequin ready for another session
  • Put up your thread spools
  • Put away your patterns or lists from the finished project

When you have a clean crafting space you’ll feel more inspired to start something new because you’ll have a fresh space to use. Cleaning up doesn’t have to be super thorough. But it should be enough to at least have a good working space ready to go for when inspiration hits.

Finish What You’ve Started Or Start Something New

Wooloo accessories
Wooloo accessories / Photo credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako

I have too many cosplay that I started and never finished, or cosplay that I’ve bought all the fabric and accessories for but never actually began working on. I usually get swayed into starting something new pretty easily, then I get overwhelmed by the costumes I haven’t finished that are waiting for me to pay attention to them again. So, if you lack motivation, try to finish something that you have waiting around. Or, try starting something new altogether! Sometimes you’ll lose the spark that you first had when you started working on a cosplay, so starting to work on one that gives you that feeling can be helpful in reminding you why you started crafting in the first place. Do your best and inspire yourself. 

Try A New Method 

Maybe you are just tired and feel like cosplay is the same routine every time. I know this feeling, too. I’m mostly a sewer, so even though I can whip together a cosplay in only a few hours (if it’s not too detailed), I still sometimes feel like it’s too repetitive of a task to even begin again. So how can you tackle this feeling? Try something out of your comfort zone! Granted, learning something new can take a few attempts. And sometimes it takes a bit of time as well. So make sure you don’t have any crazy deadlines before attempting this “motivation fix.”

  • Sew with some new fabric you haven’t tried before.
  • Get some foam and try crafting an armor piece (bracers are a great starting point for armor).
  • Order some Worbla and mold with your heat gun to your hearts’ content.
  • Try casting resin!
  • Buy a prop and try giving it a natural weathered look with paint.

Sometimes, trying something new can give you that needed spark to motivate you to work on cosplay. Plus, it will give you new skills to hone and practice—it’s a win-win!

Get On Social

If you don’t have a social media account at this point, you should at least have access to social places that people post their cosplay progress or photos to just to look at. You’ll be amazed at how inspiring other cosplayers can be! Hop on Instagram and search for “#cosplay”, join a cosplay group on Facebook, pull up Twitter and search for cosplayers by name, or start following and supporting cosplayers on Patreon. Seeing what others are up to in the cosplay realm can be a lot of fun! We often share our progress photos or progress write-ups on social as well, which could help you discover a new method for something you already do. If you have a project you are proud of, share it to social media—you’d be surprised how much motivation it will give others.

Craft With Friends

  • Google Hangout, Skype, or pack your sewing machine and get to a friend’s house.
  • Hold a crafting party, or a crafting session.
  • Plan out designs together, or just laugh, eat, and craft on your own projects at the same time.

Being in the company of friends can help you tackle a piece of a cosplay that you aren’t sure how to create. It can also help you create lasting memories that will hopefully keep you smiling every time you wear your cosplay. I used to think that I’d be so distracted with my friends around that I wouldn’t get much cosplay work completed, but I actually crafted an entire dress (fully lined, with a matching poncho) in eight hours once, and I’ll never forget the laughs and future cosplay plans we came up with that day, too. Friends are so good.

If you don’t have any friends nearby, or maybe you don’t know anyone else who cosplays in your town, get into the creative section of Twitch or Mixer and let the cosplayers who stream their work be your background noise, and an online friend for your crafting session.

Attend A Convention

I’ve fallen way behind on anime titles that are out now and are popular. Seriously, leave me some comments on your present-day favorite anime series, or tweet them to me @ChinoChinako on Twitter. So sometimes I just attend conventions to see what people are into so when I get home I feel inspired to craft again. I can’t count how many times I’ve returned home from a convention and felt so exhausted, but also so ready to craft! I find my inspiration from those who are enjoying themselves in and out of cosplay, but who are always just geeking out with others who adore anime, manga, and games as much as I do! Attending a convention without a cosplay (or with only one comfortable one) can open your mind to ideas and inspiration. You’ll feel ready to dive back in once you get home—and have rested up.

I hope some of these suggestions will help you feel motivated and inspired to get back into crafting your next cosplay. 

If you have additional ideas, let me know in the comments or send them to us on Twitter @GeekGalsco. I’d love to hear your favorite things to do when you are facing burnout or lack of motivation. Let’s help one another out!

Featured image credit: Jeannette ChinoChinako/Geek Gals

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