I recently confided to a pal that I was not enjoying my job much at the moment. Heck! It’s still basically winter (it’s MAY), it’s been a bit quiet in the studio, no one’s buying much of my stock for their shops, deadlines have been constant for months it’s all feeling a bit… difficult*. OK, whinge over. I need to check my privilege. My pal was basing their assumptions on social media. My instagram feed is full of colour, smiling children (not mine) and positive vibes. Of course it is! Illustration, etc. is all about spreading fun, education, eco (and other types of) friendliness, so that’s what my feeds should be packed with.
If I shared images of me occasionally crying at my desk or showing off some half-baked ideas, would folk pity-purchase a teatowel from me?
It would undermine all the good work I actually manage to do. That super feed of ‘success’ images doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about work or I’m not plagued with self-doubt constantly. I am. I have to at least make it look like I could be skipping past reams of finished illustrations and high fiving thousands of smiling fans.
I constantly doubt myself, my decisions and then, inevitably, my work. All it takes is a short exchange with a potential client or retailer in which I feel slighted or lacking in some way. Recently (based on one of these meetings) I questioned myself in terms of professionalism. It’s tricky if you pour so much of your character into your work to remain unoffended if people don’t like it. Turning up to a meeting with my cheery work, banter and wearing a jazzy jumper is my way of working. It doesn’t mean I won’t take your project seriously, I’d just rather keep the serious stuff to my desk and make the rest of my life as pleasant as possible. Plus jazzy jumpers make me happy.
I procrastinate, sometimes by using social media, but almost never by relaxing – no, no – but by creating more work. The other week I decided that Illustration, etc. needed compliment slips. They needed designing immediatelyand I should spend half an afternoon on them instead of drawing. Right this moment I AM AVOIDING WORKING ON ACTUAL PAID WORK because I am in the mood to write this. So please enjoy my social media channels if you look at that stuff. Just know that
behind the colours and the maps and the illustrations just-the-right-side-of-quirky-whimsy is a person just trying to get through the day
and trying to get their rent paid. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Sometimes I don’t get any drawing done for a week because of all the admin. Sometimes I have to basically beg someone to try out my wares in their shop. Recently I convinced a shop to take two cards. TWO. It’s not all swanky pens and petting dogs in the studio.
The past few weeks I have changed my approach a bit. I’m spending a bit less time in the studio to try and clear my head. I’m one of those hard workers you hear so much about. It doesn’t always pay off, but I like working hard and I want it to pay off. Having a rotten seasonal cold (IT’S MAY!), which followed another nasty cold means I have had to take time out. I feel a bit better. I mean, today I am coughing less, but I also feelbetter about work and myself. That time has been somewhat eaten up with Netflix in a sleeping bag on the sofa, but some was quiet reading time, reflecting time, calling family on the phone time, napping in the day time. I’m no nearer changing anything about my job exceptI am going to take more time off.
It’s OK if I don’t post to instagram every day, I won’t be immediately forgotten.
It’s OK if I ask for a deadline to be moved (clients can only say no), it’s OK to say, I’m ill / I need time / I have to take a break. This is the new approach and I like it. Hopefully I can stick to it…
* On balance, I have a studio, I have work, a roof over my head, I eat out sometimes and buy earrings occasionally. Things are far from terrible.