Category: Professional Development

Why I Stopped Creating Art for a Living

Why I Stopped Creating Art for a Living

From a young age I heard from nearly everyone in my life, “You should be creating art for a living.”, and for a long time, I did. I drew portraits. I created knitting patterns. I made soap. I wrote. I utilized my creative skills in a way that paid the bills. I was unhappy.

People are multifaceted, and if you start doing what you love for a living, it can quickly become all you do. Truth is, I have more interests than I have time to explore them and I’m never bored because I’m always doing something.

When I started creating art for a living. I went through a phase where I felt like I’d finally made it. This was it. This was my time. This was what I was meant for. Every time someone placed an order for a portrait I got a rush. Once the novelty wore off, I felt unfulfilled and as I churned out portrait after portrait, my passion for the pencil started to slip. It wasn’t long before what I used to love doing started to feel like a chore, so I changed gears.

“Sisters”; charcoal on paper.

I started doing a few other things to make money from home but I got burnt out doing them as well. At one point I’d turned each of my hobbies into a source of income but I still wasn’t happy.

I started ghost writing articles. I freelanced, and I got a ton of work because I was so fast. I made a lot of money. I made more than I ever had in my life. Over time, I started to hate the work because I was being told what to write and it felt disingenuous.  The work started to feel cheap and I felt like I was lying to people. My creativity seemed to be wasted and I knew that if I was going to write, this was not the kind of writing I wanted to be doing. I wanted to write for me again.

A few years ago I stared at my computer screen and wondered what was wrong with me. I’m creating art for a living and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I should be happy. I thought for a long time that maybe I’d never be happy career-wise. Had I ever been happy? Yes! I recalled my first years after high school when I worked in a call center. That sense of purpose and being an adult I had. That feeling of being a part of something. Having a schedule, a set of directions, being forced to practice my social skills, having coworkers and making some of the best friends I ever had, drawing or writing for the sake of it and loving my output, being challenged. Challenge. That was it! I wasn’t being challenged when I was doing these little commission jobs where I was basically just filling in the blanks. I was doing work that I wasn’t passionate about, because my goal was ultimately to please someone else rather than myself.

Violent Devotion
“Violent Devotion” watercolour on paper.

As soon as I let go of the idea that I had to be a paid artist to be happy, a world opened before me like a blossoming flower. It took a long time for me to get used to the idea of a life doing something other than art for a living, because for so long, I’d felt like that was what I should be doing.

I still create, but I’m not pressuring myself to turn it into a career. It’s the best thing I could have done for my creativity, because now when I finish something I can actually be proud of it because it is 100% me right there on the page. I don’t even post advertisements on my website because I never again want to get the feeling that I’m being sold and that my work is suffering because of it. If someone wants to consume my work, I want it to be on its own merit and not some glazed over superhighway lined in billboards that will only distract you from my core message – which, basically, is love.

When I look back now to the years I spent creating art for a living, I realized that what was missing was that I was still working for someone else. It cheapened the experience for me and I was finding it harder and harder to find myself in what I was producing. In the grand scheme of things, I was still doing work that was dictated, which took a lot of the wind out of my sails.

Now I work in a Mental Health Clinic, where I still do something that I love, and on the side I still create. I create because I have to. I create for myself before anything else, and that has made all the difference.

To New Beginnings in 2017

To New Beginnings in 2017

What better time to set some new goals than at the beginning of the year? Sure, it’s corny and most New Year’s Resolutions fall by the wayside 15 seconds into the year, but I have a lot in the works and I think laying out a plan for them is helpful.

Editing My NovelRavenscrag is the name of the novel I completed for NaNoWriMo 2016. It’s a really cool story (at least I think so) but it needs a lot of work before it’s ready to be read. Writing quickly with your inner editor turned off is great for getting the words out, but they are far from perfect. Beginning in January, I’m giving myself 3 months to edit into a second draft. I don’t think I’ll need the full 3 months, but who knows? After that, I’ll be looking for beta readers to read it and give me some helpful feedback.

Another Novel? – I want to start another novel in 2017. I have no idea what it will be about yet, but I have a whole notebook filled with inspired little scribbles that I’ve been marking down this past year and some of them are just begging to be fleshed out.

Eating Healthier – The most cliché resolution of all, but I really want to stick with it this year for a healthier body and mind.

Consistent Meditation – I want to bring consistency to my meditation practice this year, meaning daily practice. I’m really wanting to make some progress in this area as things have been relatively stalled out for quite some time.

Spend Less Time on Social Media – This is one of the biggest time sucks for me. I spend too much time on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. I find myself wound up in petty arguments or wasting hours just consuming meaningless drivel. In 2016 I started to spend more time reading and less time online, and this year I would like to continue that trend.

Regular Blogging – I missed writing regularly. A lot. My lack of regularly emptying my thoughts onto page contributed to the relapse in my mental illness last year. This year I’m bringing back regular content and making it a priority to post… dare I say daily? If not, then pretty close to it I think.

Finding My Place – On Fear and Overcoming it

Finding My Place – On Fear and Overcoming it

I recently finished an Arts Entrepreneurship course that was offered through the local art community. It was a life changing experience and one that has helped me find my place in a community that I feared for so long.

I came to a lot of realizations about myself over the 6 weeks or so that I was involved in the course. Epiphanic thoughts became a normal occurrence, and I learned more than I could have hoped about myself, my art, and the community that I kept myself sheltered from for so long.

I got to wondering why I had so removed myself from the local art community. I never took any formal training in the arts; I never had any close friendships with other artists, and so there I was floating around and creating my work in a vacuum, without any of the available supports or a sense of belonging to anything outside the edges of my paper or tip of my paint brush. Anything outside of that was scary for me.

No matter how far back in my memory I go, I have always been Wendy the Artist. It’s how I’ve defined myself and been defined by others. It’s what makes me happy and content. I think I shied away from the art community because I was afraid it would reject me. I was afraid I just wouldn’t stack up against other artists. I was afraid I was a fraud. No matter what my loved ones told me about my work, that insecurity was always there, so I kept myself separate from the Art World. If the art community rejected my work, it would be rejecting me, and if I failed at This, I didn’t have any other way of defining myself. Lost in oblivion.

There comes a time when fears must be tested. This course immediately framed itself in my mind as a risk when I realized I would be exposed to the world I shied away from, and so it became a test for me. It scared the life out of me, and when I showed up on that first day I felt as vulnerable as a newborn; but as I looked around the table on Day 1 and realized that everybody else was feeling the same things, a lot of that wall I’d put up melted away. I felt safe around these strangers, and they quickly became friends.

As for my work? They liked it. I was asked questions about my work; I was challenged; I learned the value of having a community of like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off of. I learned more about my work in a few weeks than I did in several years secluding myself from others. Perhaps most valuable of all, I began to see where I fit into this community and where I can carve out a path for myself as Wendy the Artist. I realize I do belong here and I do have what it takes to succeed in this business. This isn’t just the art community; this is my community.