Finding my motivation again

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been making all that much art lately.

In January I made an unspoken (even to myself) resolution that I would draw every day. I’ve always, ALWAYS wanted to be an artist, but from a very young age never thought it was possible. And I mean young. While other eight year olds still held onto their dreams of being astronauts or fire chiefs or artists, I quickly discarded my dream of being an artist and moved on to my much more realistic, more practical dream of being… an engineer. And like many of us, I started making websites when I was 12, and loved the act of creating and making pixel art and beautiful graphics so much that I went to college and majored in… computer science!

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Cute animal break! Here’s my adorable albino hedgehog, Mabel!

So yeah, not very good at actually embracing that artistic side. I think many of us wash out because of society’s expectations of us, and as women it’s hard to push past the idea that you’re supposed to be creative but only in “crafts”, never in the arts or corporate world (trust me, the art and design worlds are just as sexist as everywhere else), and also battling with impostor syndrome, and also I’ve just come to the realization that artists and designers are all just VERY good at pretending like they are perfectly creative and fine and nothing is wrong.

And I re-started this blog so I could provide a new and different perspective for people who are struggling with their creativity and how to make it work. So I’m going to tell you what’s going on with me even if it’s not the happiest (not sad, either! it just is).

So yeah, I haven’t been making all that much art. I’ve done a few big paintings and work for a gallery show that’s going on right now, that I want to share very soon. And I’ve been freelance designing. But I haven’t been drawing every day. And my new job isn’t a design job, it’s a day job to enable my art and design.

And I think it’s so important to talk about that, because I’m struggling with it too. I think there are problems with the tech industry that nobody’s talking about in terms of generalizing and specializing and switching careers and all sorts of junk, but I won’t talk about that right now. What I want to talk about is that I’ve been beating myself up for a long time for having a day job instead of quitting my job and devoting my life to my art.

See, everyone I know who is An Artist with a capital A or A Designer does it for a living. And everyone I read about does it for a living too. There’s an unspoken implication that if you don’t do it for a living, you’re not a Real Artist or Real Designer or Real Writer or Real Web Developer or whatever else. The implication is that if you’re not doing it for a living, you’re clearly not good enough. I thought I was past that mentality and yet I’m realizing I’m just not. I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking that I’m almost 30 and still not a designer or artist, and time is running out for me.

In between all these pep talks and “you can be anything if you just dream it!” and “everyone is creative!”, nobody’s talking about the fact that there ARE creative gatekeepers and there ARE people who shut you down and it DOES affect you, no matter how much you wish it wouldn’t. And I’m going to tell you, through my own insecurities and doubts, that you’re not crazy, it does happen, it makes you feel like crap and want to give up, but the world still needs what you have anyway. I’ve seen how incredibly talented and amazing everyone is who has commented on this blog – every single one of you. And maybe you’re more confident than me and don’t need a pep talk! But here’s one anyway.

So yeah, I’m re-finding my motivation, and putting energy into blogging and doing stuff on the side and my art and making this all work, while having a day job, instead of spending all my time and energy beating myself up over the fact that I don’t have “design” or “art” or “creative” in my job title.

I want to hear from you guys – do you ever have these kinds of doubts about your creativity? Have you pushed through it? Let’s have a conversation!

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6 Comments

  1. I think one of the great things about today’s younger generation (younger then me I mean lol) is that there are a lot of programs to get young kids more interested in coding. That was never a thing for when I was a little growing up, so it would have been nice to have.

    But I agree that there is never a “too late” to start doing what you love. There is that great post that was being shared out Tumblr at one point that I can never re-find about what famous people were doing at the age of 25-30 and they were basically just starting their careers or doing nothing, really, until much later.

    I also had a friend who believed that if you weren’t naturally talented in the arts then you would never be good at it. That comment really struck me because I had a completely different view then her and it sort of made me doubt myself. Like, if I try hard enough, will I really get results? So I think it’s very normal to have doubts about your creativity!

    And personally, I think you’re doing a great job! I love hearing about your art <3

    1. Oh I know the post you’re talking about! It’s a good reminder. The good thing about the Internet is you get to see all kinds of people who start things later in life – the bad thing about the internet is seeing 16 year olds who are better artists and have way larger audiences.

      Knowing it’s normal to have doubts about creativity is very reassuring! I’ve been also reading a lot about artists who have day jobs and it turns out MOST of them do. It’s actually quite rare to be an artist and not have one. It’s so weird that we as a culture tie so much of our identity to our day job, and not the things we do on the side.

      Thank you for your encouragement!!!

  2. I actually went to a conference last week where one of the speakers, Alice Lee, illustrator for Dropbox and other companies, spoke about her experience being an illustrator. She was not always an illustrator and actually went to business school. She had never considered herself a creative. But she gave a really encouraging talk about ‘that thing you want to do but keep talking yourself out of’. After reading your post, I felt like there were some connections I could make. Alice spoke about the importance of doing something small every day, to make progress but avoid burnout – and I think it is a good start that you have been trying to draw every day 🙂

    If you look back on some of your earliest drawings I am sure you will notice some progress. And so long as you keep going, you’ll only keep getting better.

    I have often felt like an impostor for calling myself a designer when I design my blog layout, but my day job does not make me a ‘designer’. But design is what I really enjoyed and that is how I got into building websites. Not just being a developer and doing engineering.

    I previously had doubts about my creative writing, when I tried to write novels and just completely failed. But then I realised creative writing was not just about writing novels, so I continued to write poetry. I remember writing poetry every day, and I’ve stopped now, but that’s something I should definitely get back into. 🙂

    Sometimes we just need to walk outside and get inspired, I think. Sometimes we need to take a break and just appreciate life again, and that can sometimes get us back into the swing of things. At least, that is how I feel 🙂

    1. OH that’s such good insight. I feel completely the same way as you about calling myself a designer – despite making websites forever, and doing real freelance work, and having a real portfolio. Because my day job is “web developer,” I just feel like a huge impostor. And then not being in a creative field makes my art feel more like a joke, too. It’s really hard to separate out of that.

      Going for a walk and just getting out of our own heads is huge. It’s actually really reassuring to hear that the illustrator at Dropbox got a business degree – at least I’m not the only one trying to do this later in life instead of going to art school!

      And yes, you should get back into poetry!

  3. It’s definitely hard to get the motivation to keep on going with a project, whether it be with art or any other media. Honestly, I don’t know how I would get back into the groove of things. Sometimes ideas come and go with me, and I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal problems and that killed my creativity. I’ve never seen an albino hedgehog. Cute!

  4. It is hard to get into something and being creative. I feel the same way with my writing. I read what other people write, and I feel they’re way better than what I could ever do myself. I know it’s not good to compare ourselves to other people, but it seems to be a common occurrence. It’s also hard — like you’ve mentioned — to be motivated when there are people telling you what you can and cannot do.

    I think we creators are hard on ourselves. We can definitely be our worst critics, and we just need to step back and see what we’ve accomplished. It’s easier said than done, though, but we just have to try and see things more optimistically. I try and tell myself, “Instead of saying ‘Oh, that drawing sucks,’ say something like, ‘I could use a bit more work on the shading, but the colours look great’!”

    You’re definitely not alone in this, Becky. We all have our doubts, but we should really focus on our moments of success, no matter how small it might be 🙂 I think it’s also natural to be focused and motivated, but to also shift interests to something else. Taking breaks from projects and such are a must. I think our creative thinking become limited when we’re stuck on the same thing all the time, so it’s a good idea try new things!

    Hope you’ll feel more motivated! You can do it! Take small steps, large steps — vary them up so you’re not stuck in a rut ^^