So this morning I woke up in an incredibly chirpy mood. I'm not a morning person in the slightest, and any time before 11am I can most certainly be classified as 'not of this world'. But this morning I am chipper. I am awake, I feel energised and most of all, I feel grateful.
Recently I have had a lot more people than usual reach out to me and tell me about their lives, and mostly about their struggles trying to break into the illustration industry. And the surreal thing is that I feel like I'm reading an email from myself. I relate to the struggle so completely and when I read about their confusion, their worries, and their determination to reach their goals I feel like I'm reading a page in my own diary.
Don't get me wrong, these are not pathetic, whiny emails I am receiving, and before you assume I pity their authors - I do not. I admire them, and I guess that means I have some admiration in myself too. Am I a narcissist then? Perhaps. But really this sense of pride comes from knowing how challenging this industry can be - and that we all have the guts to try and make it within it's highly competitive walls, regardless of this fact.
Having a passion that you want to base your life around is hard. On the one hand, it's a great gift, to have this focus that drives you forward and gives purpose to your days. But on the other hand it's a burden, something that will disappoint you greatly, and drag you down with the sense that you're "failing" if you've not been making your living from it. You will compare yourself to others constantly, you will have very low days where creative block, rejection or exhaustion will swamp you and you'll wonder if this passion is even worth acknowledging.
But here is where the pride comes in. Because did we give up then? In our lowest moment? Surrounded by paintings ripped in half in frustration and our portfolio (my portfolio) spread over the entire bedroom searching in desperation for a piece of work we (I) didn't hate with a passion? No. Something pushes us on. And if you have an ambition, if you have an ambition to be an illustrator, you will grow strong again and keep on fighting.
Aside from all this war talk, I do believe illustrators to be some of the most determined folk out there because it really does take a lot of work to make money from this career path, and you will have a long and gruelling task to make it into freelancing. Amid all the angst you've still got to perform, there's no hiding away. An illustrator's job description requires you to produce good work, of a high standard, that's interesting, eye-catching, current and new - and that necessitates a lot of bravery in the face of failure. You're putting a little bit of yourself out there for everyone to see and make a judgement on - it's got to be authentically yours, but it's got to be authentically the client's too. Everyone knows this fact by now, and yet their are so many people out there creating new work and hoping for the future because, like me, it is the only occupation they can imagine undertaking.
So, if you are questioning if you are working hard enough/are good enough/are relevant enough to be an illustrator, I say: YOU ARE! Be narcissist like me and feel proud that you're still trying and you haven't given up like thousands before you. Not everyone chooses to face so much turmoil in their field of work, and perhaps I am dramatising it slightly, but when you're in the midst of a creative block, or under pressure from a challenging commission - the struggle is REAL!
When I have bad days, where I wonder where my skill in watercolour has disappeared to and I find myself comparing my small successes to other peoples monumental ones, I tell myself to "keep on trucking". It's a ridiculous phrase and I'm not sure where I acquired it from but it reminds me that I've been "trucking" for about 6 years now and I don't intend to stop. Yes I will face more failures in the future and more low points spent ripping paintings in two, but I will always try again because it's the only thing I want to do.
It takes a whole lot of bravery to pursue what you love in life, and bravery trumps it all.