Well, I did it! I shed what had been holding me back for so long, quit my day job and began pursuing my dream of becoming an illustrator. Whoop whoop! Nothing can hold me back now! Smooth sailing from here on out… Just kidding! Self-doubt and negative thoughts haunt me every single day. Let’s just say illustration is not exactly the most stable career path (especially as a freelancer) and this causes me excess anxiety more days than not. There are some days where I feel like giving up all together because the negative thoughts seem insurmountable. But I haven’t given up yet, and here’s how:
As a freelance illustrator, I can’t help but feel that single second is precious. If I had it my way, everyday would be spent advancing my practice in some way or another. Whenever I’m trying to relax, I can’t help but think of how I could be doing something more productive. These thoughts make me anxious, then when I return to work I’m all wound up and unable to produce good work.
Not only is working 24/7 exhausting, so is feeling guilty about taking breaks. Lisa Congdon (an illustrator I admire greatly) says that it’s important to take days, even weeks (if you can afford it) off from working. If you are constantly working (or feeling guilty about not working), you’ll get burnt out, and burn out kills creativity. Going forward I’m going to try to take more days off, knowing that it’ll increase my creativity for the days to come.
“You’re Falling Behind”
In the “age of social media” (barf, I hate that term), I find it impossible to avoid life updates from friends and acquaintances. “So-and-so” got engaged or “Jane Doe” bought her second house. It’s challenging not to compare myself to others. At times, choosing to follow my dreams makes me feel like I’ve “fallen behind”.
But what exactly am I falling behind on? Is this whole “life” thing a race? No, of course it isn’t. Everyone is on a separate path. Everyone has made different choices which have landed them where they are today. It was the fear of falling behind is what sent me down the wrong path in the first place. Instead of feeling like I’m falling behind, I remind myself that I am investing my time now to better enjoy my future.
“You’ll Never Be As Good As Them”
A good chunk of my time is spent on social media admiring other artists and illustrators. This helps me get inspired, teaches me new ways of working, and affirms that there is a market for illustration. The illustration community is vast and greatly supportive. Many illustrators give advice, teach classes and offer valuable resources for young illustrators such as myself. However there are some days that looking at work of other illustrators becomes discouraging, and frankly overwhelming. Self-doubting questions pop into my brain, like “There are so many talented illustrators out there, does the world really need one more?” or “What can I offer that others haven’t already?”.
When those questions begin to swirl around in my brain I remind myself that we are all unique, and as a unique people we all have something unique to offer (what mine is exactly, I’m not sure yet). I find this premise calming, it allows me to focus on what I have to offer to the world rather than envying others for what they’re offering.
“Just Keep Going”
Self-doubt and negative thoughts are inevitable, especially if you’re a highly anxious person myself. All of these negative thoughts stem from the fear of failing. The funny thing is if you allow these thoughts to stop you from pursuing your dreams, that in itself is a failure. In the end the best thing to do is acknowledge these feelings, but not let them prevent you from moving forward. Remember: taking days off to refresh is not being lazy; creating your own path doesn’t mean you’re falling behind; and just because your work is different than others doesn’t make it bad. You’re doing your best, just keep going.