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My New Career: One Year Later

One year ago yesterday was the night I mark as the start of my art career.

One year ago today might be the day that I first considered all the implications of what that might mean.

One year later, and now I’m contemplating all that has resulted since then.

I certainly have some good stories to show for it, from the gift I gave to Neil Gaiman to my first art show and my crazy time at the Doo-Nanny.  I sold a few pieces, which is more than I would have sold if I’d never done it at all.

But I also slammed into a brick wall of inaction as my efforts started to feel more and more futile.  I did art shows and sat at my table at watched people walk past and sometimes look more closely and gape in astonishment and say things like “Wow!  Honey, look at this!  This is amazing!  This is incredible!  I’ve never seen anything like it!  Good luck!  Bye!” and walk away.  My words started to seemingly repeat themselves, and I worried that my well of ideas had already run dry.  And, most damningly, I looked at my own work and the flaws seemed more numerous than ever and I felt appallingly arrogant for even expecting anybody to want to pay money for it.

I learned that a blog is not enough.  A Twitter account is not enough.  A Facebook page is not enough.  An Etsy shop is not enough.  Having something that nobody else seems to be doing is definitely not enough.  (I can’t even give the stuff away, it seems at times.)

I learned, most of all, that my self-sabotaging tendencies are not that easily defeated.  That the demon in my head that stands between me and doing my work is constantly finding new strategies to keep me stuck and that each time I strike it down, it rises again in a new form sooner or later.  The path of the year behind me is strewn with missed chances, things unsaid and undone and a thousand little rationalizations that let things slide for one more day.

The most insidious weapon in the head-demon’s arsenal is this–it takes the hopes I have of where I’d like to be and then, after throwing everything it can to stop me so that every stumbling step towards my goal seems some kind of victory, proceeds to mock me for being a failure because I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.

There are two paths I could take here.  One would be to conclude that I’m just not cut out for this art business and reduce it to a nice little hobby while I look for a proper job on the side.  A tempting prospect, but one I can’t accept.

The other is to recalculate my efforts, amplify my ambitions and give the demon a harder fight than it’s ever had from me.  And, more importantly, to recruit backup instead of trying to carry this all on my own shoulders.

We’ll see where I stand come next December 5th.  But wherever it will be, it can’t be any farther back than I’ve come so far.

6 comments to My New Career: One Year Later

  • Wai-Jing

    I was one of the Cabal finalists. I was wandering around the net, looking for news on whether the Cabal postcards are still happening (have you heard anything? A belated congrats – you pwned our asses!) Anyways, I stumbled on this blog entry by chance.

    I know I’m behind the times – you wrote this last year – but you summed up the vicious cycle very well. The self-deafeatism, the doubt that burrows into your head and inhabits it, remaining elusively hidden when you try to banish it completely, but creeping out to steadily gnawing away at your insides until you think it will eventually consume any talent or optimism or hope you might have had. It happens, doesn’t it? It doesn’t help to deny it.

    It may help, however little, to know that we all go through this, even the greats, in all sorts of fields (Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Fred Astaire, to name a few – I’m sure the list goes on, but those are some of my heroes). There is a quote by Mr Fry (in turn, quoting Oscar Wilde) which I pull out whenever I encounter artists facing similar crises: “if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know, you will never become anything, and that is your reward.”

    You’re not alone. Keep trying. If this was just the first year of your career, you’re doing well. You’ll learn from what you’ve done already, and you’ll learn more from what you will do in future. You’ll regret past disappointments, but you’ll also have new successes in which to bask. You’ll learn new lessons from old mistakes, find new inspiration to replace the old, find new triumphs when the old ones have turned cold. I think you’ll do all this. I honestly do. I love the way your work bridges the gap between art and literature. You’re on the right path. Just stick with it.

    Good luck, and please don’t mind my ramblings – lately I’ve been feeling like the cheerleader of the art community, whilst I grapple with my own demons. We all have them, but we can all become our own exorcists. So don’t give up.
    ~ W.J.

    (p.s. I very much enjoyed reading your Paul McCartney blog, too. That’s a good mindspace to be in. I’ll try to take it away with me as well, when I’m feeling down and need those reminders of the magnificent in the mundane. Self-medication of the artist, isn’t it?)

  • Sheila the Wonderbink

    I don’t know if I pwned anybody, really–I feel more like I lucked out in a popular vote of a rather small sample. I thought your work pwned mine any day of the week. I’ve heard nothing about the postcards, either, and after considerable brooding about it I decided to shrug and let it go. What I’d gotten was more than I ever expected when I entered in the first place, and I’m grateful for it. I assumed the other REAL artists had gone on to fry other fish and weren’t worried about it.

    Thank you very much for your kind words of encouragement. It’s good to be reminded that doubt is part of the process and that it never really goes away, so I won’t be held waiting until it does before I can resume my work. Lately, I’ve taken a different view on my demons, which is to remember that in their clumsy and brutal way, they are trying to protect me from hurt and disappointment by sparing me the risks of putting myself out there. But I have the rest of me to remember that ‘safe’ is no way to live as a creator.

    Thanks again for dropping by and don’t apologize for rambling. It’s so nice to read an eloquent ramble when my moderation queue is normally filled with vague compliments that link to suspicious-looking websites.

  • Wai-Jing

    That’s quite alright. I suppose if this art caper were easy, none of us would bother doing it, would we? In some respects, I don’t think it’s a matter of choice at all – those of us who are serious about this really make art because they have no other choice. If I didn’t do this, though I may amount to nothing, I can’t think of a single other thing I could possibly be doing with my life. I’m a seasoned rambler – it’s practically my writing style, even when I’m just answering emails. I’m faintly relieved that I came off as somewhat eloquent.

    It’s very unusual – I know the nature of the Cabal project changed quite a bit, it went from t-shirts to postcards, and Kitty was distracted by weddings (her own and Neil’s) in the middle of it. I did the same thing as you, I gave Neil a drawing (an original of both Cabal and Lola) back in August, and that’s the last I heard of it. I’ve been talking to another finalist, J. M. Lee, on Deviantart, and he’s as much in the dark as we are. The really unusual thing is all the endorsement Jouni Koponen has been getting on Neverwear. I don’t mind that they’re using his artwork, but as the overall winner, your work should’ve been published first, and if there was a change in the competition result, we should’ve all been notified.

    I was thinking of writing a polite email to Kitty, and with your permission, I’ll mention that the three of us were wondering what was happening. It could all be a misunderstanding, so I thought it would be worthwhile to check up on it. Of course, if you don’t want to be mentioned, I totally understand; I’ll just ask for myself. I really enjoyed the project – I thought all the finalists were great, and I was looking forward to seeing it printed up.

  • Sheila the Wonderbink

    You are free to mention me as long as you’re clear that I’m personally not upset that my design didn’t get the T-shirt treatment, since it’s not nearly as suited for it as the design they did use, but that I am concerned about the other six artists who have been sitting in limbo. I at least have a nifty signed print to show for my efforts, which is again more than I ever really expected, but it does seem a little unfair to leave you and the others hanging like this.

  • Wai-Jing

    It looks like J.M. beat me to it; he spoke to Cat on Twitter, and she said (& I quote):

    “easy, tiger! good things take time…. it’s nice to be home, let’s say, more things get done!”

    Which makes it sound like there’s something in the works. So I think it’s best if I don’t email her just yet. Don’t want to look pushy. If things don’t progress in a month or so, though, I might drop her a note. I’ll let you know if I hear anything more about it.

    Thanks for the chat – glad to have made your acquaintance :)

  • Sheila the Wonderbink

    Full disclosure–I did end up poking her with a brief email to ask what was up. She hasn’t responded, but I’ll take that Twitter response as a sign that it’s best to be patient.

    It’s likewise a pleasure to make your acquaintance and do feel free to drop by this little corner of the Internet any time. I hope to have some fresh abstracts up soon and I should at least talk about my adventures at this year’s Doo-Nanny.

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