The social media comparison trap is always very real for an artist. To make matters worse, the overwhelming success of the Inktober movement and its subsequent copycats have turned October into a comparison nightmare. For every one drawing I create that I don't absolutely abhor, I see 30,000 other far better illustrations fly through my Instagram feed immediately after my post finishes uploading. It's maddening.
Somewhat related to this, a week or so ago, I came to an unfortunate realization that has been equal parts depressing and liberating depending on my mood. When I was still working full time, I didn't draw a lot. When I did manage to squeak something out, I didn't love the result. I blamed this on lack of time and creative exhaustion. The creative exhaustion was real. The amount of creative energy it takes to design investment graphs while playing political games with leadership definitely depleted my creative stores without providing any fulfilling rewards at the end. However, I'm learning that the time thing may have been a lie. I have much more time now (despite how much I try to limit that with procrastination) and I still hate most of the art I create. This tells me that the problem is not scarcity of time, it's scarcity of skill. I am just not good enough yet to consistently execute the kind of art I set out to create.
There are many obvious ways this sucks:
- Does this mean I left my full time job too soon?
- Am I not ready to be doing this full time?
- Do I have enough time to improve before I run out of money?
- Will any illustration agencies represent me in my current state?
- If I can't make the top 16 in these SVS contests, does it mean I shouldn't be doing this professionally?
- Also... it just sucks to underperform.
All the imposter syndrome-y things you tell yourself when you think you're not good enough for x, y, z. Frankly, these are all the things I was already telling myself; I was just blaming time for it. At least I'm less delusional in this state.
On the flip side, here are some ways that this is liberating:
- Regardless of whether or not I like what I'm putting out today, I'm going to look back at this work three years from now and hate it anyway based on how much I've evolved.
- I don't have to like something to put it into the world. No one dies.
- I don't have to post everything I make. If I make a ton of shit, I can leave out the bad ones and no one will miss it.
- Knowing that time is not really an issue, I can stop being so defeatist about it every time I find myself in a time crunch. Several of the Inktober pieces I like the most are the ones I did in the least amount of time. Time elapsed and success are not necessarily proportional when it comes to my artwork. In fact, sometimes, they are inversely proportional.
- This gives me a concrete reason to be less precious with everything I'm creating. If there is a pretty high chance I'll hate something I make because I have an underdeveloped skill, I might as well begin working on it because I'm not going to get better without screwing it up a thousand times first. Like I said in my last post, gotta work through my shitty lines deductible.
If I draw (mostly) every day for this year of self-employment, I HAVE to get better, right? This is what I'm banking on.
Here are some new commitments:
- I'm going to commit to showing up and failing every day. The brochure didn't tell me how large my shitty lines deductible is so I'm going to have to figure it out by working through it.
- I'm going to stop kicking myself for procrastinating. It doesn't have as big of an impact on my art as I thought it did so this anxiety is unnecessary.
I've been thinking a lot about the things we hate about ourselves and wondering how we determine which ones are worth changing and which we'd be much happier simply accepting. My sleep schedule is a good example. I often wonder whether it's worth the hard work to adjust this or if I should just accept my nocturnal lifestyle. Ultimately I decided that I want to be available for my friends and family during the hours that they are available which means that my schedule has to align with theirs. This is a good reason to change in my opinion.
Alternatively, I had always thought that my procrastination was a nasty habit that absolutely needed to go away in order for me to cash in on my greatest potential. This recent realization suggests to me that perhaps I don't need to spend time on this. I've been a procrastinator my whole life and have always had a lot of success. The thing that sucks is how much I hate myself for it. What if I just... stopped hating myself for something that has almost never gotten in the way of my success?
Dude. Why do we do this?