Last week I spoke in my IG Stories about bad days and struggling to find motivation. Creating things to sell doesn’t just take hard work and passion… it can be very tricky too. There’s a fine line between art as expression and art for commercial consumption, and if you can’t manage or balance the two you can get burnt out really quickly. That “burnt out” phase can last a torturously long time if you’re not careful!
I know because I went through it. I went through it for two whole years and this whole time I’ve felt like such a fraud. Have you ever heard of the Impostor Syndrome? That was me. There were days when I doubted myself to the point where I considered closing this company down and just getting a job at an ad agency. There were months that went by where I didn’t draw or paint or create a single thing – not even a doodle on a napkin – because I was convinced it wouldn’t be as good as everything else I’d already created. What if I was a one trick pony? What if people were sick of my art style and my corny jokes? What if people thought I was trying too hard to be cool or edgy or artistic? It’s funny because it’s so easy to be forgiving of other’s flaws, and yet so critical of our own.
I’ve had to work extremely hard to let go of my fear of failure and gather enough courage to put pen to paper and create something, anything – create things I knew weren’t good, create things that were just for me. The greatest accomplishment wasn’t creating things that sold, but creating things that made me happy. That’s how I proved to myself that I could still do this, and that’s when I realized what being an artist truly meant (or at least what it meant to me).
It’s not about creating things that people wanna see or trying to be super relatable… it’s about creating something for yourself. Create things you wanna see. Paint how you feel. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad – art is relative! What matters is if you like it, if you feel fulfilled having created it… and if not, then you keep trying. An accidental byproduct of all that soul-searching was discovering my new creative process.
Another happy accident was that I started to understand abstract art – something that, before that point, I struggled to appreciate. I could never really understand the shapes or the mess and the (ignorant) proud person I was always thought, “well, I can do that. Anyone can do that.” and so I didn’t really understand the point of it. But after reevaluating myself and taking on a new creative process, I finally started to understand. I think it might actually be the most difficult thing to master, mostly because you’re not creating out of the image and likeness of anything else… it’s purely instinctive. It’s about learning to let go and just let the strokes flow, and it is the most liberating feeling ever.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from all of this, it’s these three important lessons:
- Trust your instincts. They’re there for a reason, and they don’t just appear out of thin air (even though it sure feels like they do). They’re a cultivation of your experiences, your logic, and – surprisingly – your spirituality.
- Trust the process. Often times you’ll find that things have to get worse before they get better. I think that’s true for almost everything in life, maybe that’s just the cycle of the universe. I remember reading somewhere that the true test for any artist, novice or professional, is pushing yourself to get through the difficult parts of your artwork.
- Trust the timing. As much as we’d like to, there are things in life you can’t force or fabricate or even predict. I’d imagine it’s a lot like surfing – you don’t know when the waves will come but you have to be ready to take them on once they do.
Have you experienced being burnt out in your career? I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or advice for finding motivation and inspiration. Sound off in the comments section! If you feel what you have to share is too personal, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you choose yourself today! And I hope you give yourself a pat on the back for it. <3