Have you ever thought of giving up?
Let me rephrase that. I don’t mean giving up ENTIRELY (please don’t do that!). No, I’m talking about that come-to-Jesus meeting, that intervention we all face at strategic points in our lives. Who am I? What is my purpose? Apparently, I did that this week – to a lesser extent. Not so much, “What is my purpose?” as, “Why don’t people like meeeee?!” (Or, maybe I just had a mental breakdown and started talking back to the voices in my head. But hey, I’m an artist. We’re allowed a little bit of insanity.)
So how does giving up work, exactly?
1. Learn from your past, but don’t live there.
This is me – my story of how I got to where I am, and my story of self-realization. I began the journey a long time ago. Lots of starts and stops along the way, from the kid who doodled all over her books in elementary school, to the artsy girl in high school drawing anime characters, to the budding art professional with a Bachelor in Studio Art. I have worked in graphic design, as a preschool art teacher, and all kinds of non-creative jobs scattered in between.
During some of that time, my muse stayed close. We were best friends. I had so many ideas, I thought I may burst if I didn’t get them down on paper. Long dry spells inevitably followed. Days were spent plagued with depression and anxiety and a constant struggle to find some sort of self-worth. Nothing I did was good enough. I felt inferior and longed for days past when things weren’t so complicated and hard.
Both sides of that coin shaped who I am today, so I cannot regret any of it. But I can learn from those times. And, when those dry spells inevitably come around again, I can be ready for them.
2. Let go of unrealistic expectations.
I found my footing again last fall. Since then, I have spent every-possible-moment-since taking advantage of the inspiration, painstakingly trying to create quality content — and trying to grow my fan-base, extend my empire. Except, my empire is very, very small (really more of a village). For a while that bothered me and, if I’m honest with myself, it still bothers me a bit.
But, do you know what? I am learning that when I raise the bar too high, too fast, that’s when I crash and fail. So what if I have few followers? Those that do follow me, my people, my kindred spirits — they are gold. YOU, my friends, are precious gold. Because you are real people who take an interest in what I do. You find value in the work I create (if not, you wouldn’t bother hanging around). That means so much more than thousands of followers.
At the end of the day, I need to feel that my art means something. I need to believe that my words have power. We all do. But if I touch only one soul, make only one person smile, that still means something.
3. Give up on what you can’t control.
I have spent years fighting for control. Control over my circumstances. Control over how others perceive me. Things that I can never hope to attain but that I continue to beat myself up over. I cannot force others to like what I do. I cannot force others to invest in my work. But I CAN foster relationships and build trust with those who do. And that’s my focus, from here on out. Creating quality art for quality people, numbers be damned.
I may not have 2000 followers. I may not be earning much at all from my Patreon campaign. But if I focus on the small things, I realize that I’m pretty lucky in the long run. 🙂