to all of my creative, tired friends
Master illustrator Kelly Thompson recently wrote about the highs and lows of success - and she knows them personally, as a New Zealand freelance illustrator/photographer/art director who counts Lonely Hearts, Juliette Hogan, and Twentysevennames among her personal clients. In her recent opinion piece at Always Sometimes Anytime, she discusses the pains of pursuing your dreams and not finding that guaranteed happiness you expect as a young, doe-eyed beginner.
The article was exactly what I needed at the moment - refreshing, brutal honesty from an artist I respect and admire in terms of creativity but also in terms of success. After quitting my part-time retail job a month and a half ago in order to work full-time at home, I was prepared for an onslaught of creative inspiration and wonderful, sun-lit days spent doing what I love. Instead, what I mostly found was a frustrating and at times depressing bit of soul searching, procrastination, and a whole lot of laziness. I realized that being at home 24/7 was not as recharging as I thought it would be, and even if I labelled a sewing creation or photo shoot or thrifting hunt of mine subjectively "successful", it still wasn't filling me up with that sense of purpose I thought it was supposed to. Don't get me wrong - I love doing what I do, but it doesn't bring me that innate and overwhelming sense of satisfaction I expected. Not most of the time, anyway.
Rather, it's hard work without guarantee of a clear payoff. It's working a 12 hour day mixed in with a sense of not getting anything done at the end of it, sometimes. There is a lot of frustration. Working on your own terms by your own rules means there aren't those comfortable standards you can compare your progress to along the way - it means you don't have that positive affirmation or constructive criticism that you might find in a well-established career path, a path others have paved for you. It means you are your own boss, coworker, advice-giver, your own pat on the back, your own alarm clock and your own schedule-maker. It may sound good but with that power and freedom also comes a whole lot of responsibility.. and if you don't have it, you better learn it.
It's easy to hinge satisfaction and that personal feeling of success on the 'next step' - when I do this right or get this job or book this venue, I will have arrived and I'll be happy and content. But it's not always like that - in fact, it's rarely like that. There always seems to be a next step. These conclusions are what solidify in my mind that a true sense of being and joy have very little to do with what's on the outside (even if that's a dream job or overwhelming success) and have everything to do with a core value and sense of self on the inside. Who you are, how you see yourself, your relationships with others, getting recharged and relaxed and focused and loved. I get recharged by playing video games, by having God time, by being with friends and especially with family, by traveling, by pressure-free sewing. Those are my personal moments of contentment.
So as more and more creative people pursue their own personal dreams and as the internet makes it easier to translate those dreams into lucrative careers, there seem to be more and more people interested in finding a sense of self through their artistic goals - to hit self-actualization, to understand oneself and be understood/recognized by others, to be set apart but also to be a part of a community. Blogging specifically is a relatively new beast and we're all just figuring it out. The whole idea of a fast-changing, ever-evolving concept of communication and career through the internet excites me and drains me at the same time. I'm not very close to understanding it but I recognize that I'm a part of it. Is this growth too fast for our shrinking cultures and continents? Is it fueling the pressures and anxieties we feel as dream career-seeking adults bent on alternative lifestyles? Can the world become too small through the use of the internet? Can the world become too small, period?
I'm running into tangent city but I guess the moral of the story is.. there are frustrations and pitfalls and plenty of doubts with any creative vocation, even the best job in the universe, so pick what you really love because if you love it enough, it might just carry you through. But it won't always be easy, no matter how much love is there. We just can't put the pressure on a career or on success to give us complete fulfillment.
As internet users, bloggers, creative dream job holders, alternative life lovers/haters - what's your take on all this?