Apr 04, 2022
4 mins read
One of my goals for the first quarter of this year was to establish a routine around creating art and running my business. I did manage to do so at one point, but then it changed a couple weeks later, settled, then changed again not long after. I'm realizing that it will probably be a few years before I've hammered out a perfect routine for my new life. I shouldn't be surprised because it's just like starting at any new job. It takes time to understand the lay of the land and get situated. It's probably even harder when you're working for yourself because there are no existing structures to work around, like 9-5 office hours or meeting schedules.
After the mad dash of the holidays (which for me, consisted of working at a busy retail shop, vending my own work at various fairs, and visiting family internationally for the first time in 2 years), I started 2022 completely drained. It felt like such a paradox to want to do absolutely nothing when the beginning of the year is made to be such an event of starting anew and getting everything on the right track for the new year. I was completely spent after all the hustle of 2021 came to a close and I wanted to finally take a breath. And from talking to friends, it seems like I’m not the only one.
One of my biggest struggles as an artist and owner of a small business is feeling the constant tug-of-war between my art brain and my business brain. My art brain lives by no schedule, choosing to be inspired (or often uninspired) whenever it wants, regardless of what I have planned or need to get done. My business brain is always thinking of the next step to make and how to grow into a stable financial future. I find it hard to work with the two together. The pressure of needing to make something for business gain, such as to sell as a product or post on social media, seems to stop my creativity dead in its tracks.
For me, making art has almost always been geared toward purposeful gain. Aside from when I was very young and care-free, the act of making art has always needed to accomplish some goal. Whether that be to prove that an art career is worth pursuing, to make money off of, or to get attention on social media platforms, the goal of making art has never been 100% for the sake of making art. My artistic dreams were stomped on pretty early, so I never grew a habit of consistently and freely creating art. Thus, I find myself completely stuck when I don’t have inspiration to guide me and can go weeks without drawing anything. It goes on for even longer when my business brain takes the reins and runs off with all these so-called productive tasks, leaving my art brain sitting in the dust.
Feeling completely frustrated by the conflict between these two brains at the start of the year, I decided to give my business brain some time off, to allow my art brain room to run free and learn to create art regularly. For a while, it worked. In January and February, I was relatively relaxed, drawing almost every day, and producing a lot of illustrations. They weren’t all perfect, of course, but that’s what I wanted. I wanted to get into the habit of cranking out illustrations, not caring that half of them were bad, and getting through enough bad ones to come out with a few good gems. I still had thoughts often of “oh this should be a sticker” or “how can I get more retailers to buy wholesale,” but, with my shop closed, I was able to push those aside and focus on the art. That was until I agreed to do a market in March and everything went out the window. Suddenly I was back on the frenzy of contacting manufacturers, thinking of new product designs, and actively playing games with social media algorithms.
My feelings about this phenomenon can best be described by this comic I scribbled down last week:
It’s quite cynical and bleak, I know, but this is not the end! I have no wise insight to impart onto you about how to live a perfect creative life. Perfect isn’t even the goal (anymore). I aspire to a well-balanced life that meets my creative needs, supports me financially, and most importantly, keeps me happy and healthy. I often feel this urge to work tirelessly and 24/7 to get to this ideal life as quickly as possible, but I know this process can’t be rushed. The best I can do is keep working toward my ultimate goals and being flexible to the changes in direction and routine that are sure to come my way.
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