FINDING FULFILLMENT AS AN ARTIST
After going through a time of being frustrated with my art, these are the ten steps I took that helped me find joy in creating again. Though I’m not perfect at any of these, implementing them little by little has helped my focus, discipline, and productivity.
SET MEANINGFUL GOALS
Setting goals sounds simple enough, but for this to be truly beneficial I encourage you to do more than just jot down a few things you’d like to accomplish. Set aside time for one or several goal setting sessions. These ideas might help give your sessions some direction:
Consider every area of your life and gauge where you are
Create a vision board showcasing your dream life
Break long term goals down into more manageable, short term bites to avoid overwhelm
Be specific and intentional - imagine the company you’d love to work for, the city you want to live in, or the home you’d like to afford
Review your goals regularly and make changes as needed
A good way to know a session has been successful is paying attention to how you feel. This activity is meant to inspire you and should result in a sense of excitement and a more clear vision of your dream life and the steps you can take toward building it.
PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME
You will never find fulfillment as an artist if your priorities aren’t in order. You only have so much energy and attention to give during the day so how you spend your time is important. Prioritizing can be easier said than done because there are so many things clambering for your attention but taking a look back at your goals can help you know what’s most important. Take into consideration your family, friends, education, and career goals but don’t forget to also make time for your spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health and well being.
Now that you’ve listed off a mountain of things you want to accomplish you might feel discouraged thinking about how far you have to go. Choose one small facet of a goal and work on it until it becomes a habit, then add something else to work on. Learn to enjoy the process of progression!
LEARN TO SAY NO
When taking control of your time you will need to be just as mindful of the things you don’t let into your life as the things you do. Artists have a tendency to be people-pleasers and allow others a little too much control over their time. There will be many projects that pass your way, but saying no to things that aren’t a good fit for you will free up your attention for more ideal opportunities.
Decisions take up so much energy every day. One way to free up a bunch of that energy is by being proactive and setting up some routines. When I first started trying this out, I was amazed at how much better my day went. A routine can fit anywhere in your life, it’s just a list of related habits grouped together. A good place to start with is a morning routine then, once you’ve mastered that, you can start implementing routines into other areas of your life. A lot of artists have a go-to process for creating a finished illustration, or a workflow of getting a project from concept to client. These are just other examples of routines.
Once you’ve established some key routines, you can schedule them into your week. Remember in high school when you had different class periods? This works kind of the same way. Time blocking is about, well, blocking your time. It is not about micromanaging or setting unrealistic expectations. Give yourself about 2-3 hours per block. My schedule consists of 7 blocks: a morning block, errands block, work block, education block, family block, bedtime block, and sleep block. I then fit my various routines where they go in my schedule. The goal is to work on the tasks related to that block during the allotted time and once that time is up, move on and save what’s left undone for the next day.
KEEP A RUNNING TO-DO LIST
A good way to free up some real estate in your head is to just write things down. Keeping a running to-do list will help you be aware of commitments you make and when you have a spare 10 minutes, you can use that time effectively by calling that friend or paying that bill. I just have a small notebook that fits in my purse and anytime I remember something I want to look up later or someone asks me to do something, I write it down to look at later.
BE AWARE OF YOUR NEEDS
Artists are optimistic and ready to take on pretty much anything when it’s still in the theory phase. But once reality phase hits and deadlines are approaching things can get stressful. Sometimes there’s just so much going on that we forget to slow down for a second. In the past I’ve found myself drawing for hours and realized I’ve totally forgotten to eat meals (or shower, or sleep). Please remember to evaluate all your needs! Delegate tasks you don’t need to do on your own. Take breaks. Reach out to a parent, friend, or significant other for help with any problems you have (art related or otherwise). If there’s a deadline coming up that has you worried, communicate your concerns with your teacher or client, they’re usually understanding and willing to talk about it. You are more than just a fabulous art machine, you are a human being with basic needs and that’s okay!
I feel confident in saying things will almost never go as planned, for better or worse. I love feeling comfortable and “in control” but I’ve had to learn that things are going to change and that’s just life. If you’re nurturing a growth mindset you can better learn to confront new problems instead of allowing fear to take over. Just remember, it’s okay to do things differently than what you see on social media. It’s okay to take your time learning something if it means you’ll retain it better. As a new mother, I’ve had to change the way I work by drawing when my baby is sleeping, strapped to my chest, or crawling all over me. Everyone’s life is different so just remind yourself that solving life’s problems is an organic process.
WEAR “PROGRESSION” AS YOUR BADGE OF HONOR
Around my 5th semester, I started to get really stressed out and wasn’t enjoying art school or drawing much at all. I would hear all my classmates, teachers, and industry professionals listing all the skills I needed to master in order to get hired. The list kept getting longer and longer and soon it felt insurmountable. It wasn’t until I took a step back and started working on one little thing at a time that I started feeling fulfillment from my artwork again. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all you have left to learn, go ahead and mentally put a bunch of those things on a shelf and focus on one little thing you know you can do. Keep going and remember that progression is better than perfection.