Well, after thinking it was going to be a very busy summer, I’m now in freefall. Kind of like driving along thinking there’s going to be a bridge over the thousand-foot-deep gorge and realizing halfway across that there isn’t one.
All right, the Really Big Job I was working on got cancelled abruptly and the smaller jobs that were making me frantic to keep up are all done. So, now, nothing. Which puts me back to the question of “What do I do with my downtime?”
There are a number of things I could do. Like clean up my studio.
Or maybe finally finish that drawing on the desk. Now there’s a concept.
The point being, I need to work at not working—all those things I could have been doing except that I was too busy to do them are still there waiting. Time to make a list and get started.
Just to prove I haven’t been a total slacker, here’s a spread from my Sketchbook Project:
Yeah, that leaves 30 more pages by April. But I’m working on it!
Of course, as soon as I get a personal project with a deadline, I get hit with freelance jobs. Which is good. Even though it cuts into personal project time. But it brings up the question I’ve been avoiding for a while now—am I a freelancer?
When the company I worked for closed down in 2010, I started freelancing to pay the bills and go back to school so that I could find a “real” job. It was just a temporary thing. It’s been a temporary thing for over a year now. And how often have I gone around looking for something permanent? Not often at all. The thing is, when I take on a freelance job I commit to it, just like a “real” job. Because it is a real job—and one that I’m totally responsible for. I don’t have the safety net of co-workers making up for me if I can’t meet a deadline or just can’t do the work up to the client’s standards. So I don’t know how well it would go over if I called up a client to tell them I have a “real” job now, and I won’t be able to finish their project.
It’s hard to commit to being a freelancer. I never know if the job I’m working on will be the last one. I have to live on a tight budget because I don’t get paid regularly. When I’m busy, there aren’t any weekends or holidays or vacations—or sick time, for that matter. When I’m not busy, I’m stressing that this is it, I’ll never get work again. Yeah, it’s a drag to get up and commute to the cubicle job every day, but the pay is regular, you’re surrounded by supporting co-workers, and you generally get to go home at some point.
So why am I still here at the kitchen table, working? I don’t know, really. I guess it’s the challenge. It’s getting the job done early and being called a lifesaver by someone at a company 1500 miles away. It’s the siren call of that next job—what if it’s something amazing? It’s that I’ve never done this before and…well…maybe I can.
I said challenge, didn’t I?
After yesterday’s post, I started wondering why doing client work makes me think I’m “settling.” Granted, I can’t always draw my favorite subject matter or use my favorite medium when I’m working for someone else, but that doesn’t mean that I need to sell myself short. Those assignments that are outside my comfort zone are a challenge and any result that passes muster should be viewed as a success. I guess I could argue that I might not think it was up to my standards, but how do I set standards on something I’ve never done before? And even if I have done it before, maybe I’m doing it better, or more efficiently, or more accurately. There’s a never-ending learning curve in art. If you find you’re doing things the same way all the time, there’s probably something wrong. So, from now on, I’m going to focus on how I’m doing my work, not just on the result. I’m thinking I’ll find things to be proud of.
And if not, I’ll just tear it up.
I was out all day. It’s no big deal, even though it’s a Wednesday and I should have been working. I don’t have a lot to work on at the moment, so I thought, Why not? and off I went to run errands. But all day there was this idea in the back of my mind that I might be missing something important—somebody might be desperate for a piece of art that has to get done today, or a call about a job might come in. The front of my mind was certain that nothing like this was going to happen, but the back of my mind was really worrying about it. So by the time I got home, the front of my mind was starting to get concerned. What if I just lost a job? What if a client was angry?
But, of course, there was nothing. No messages, no emails, no one knew I hadn’t been sitting in front of the computer all day. So, good, right? Not really. I’m finding that this freelance gig has turned me invisible. If someone needs me to do something, suddenly I’m a person, answering the phone or returning an email. Otherwise, I’m not really here. Kind of like a light bulb. Is it really there if it isn’t on?
So why is it that I have to be working before I feel real? Is reality all about work? Does my existence depend on me doing things for other people? Can’t I just be a real person who isn’t working?
Am I the only one who thinks about this stuff?
It seems my “vacation” has come to an end. Back to real life–meaning this:
And possibly some of these:
Time to get started!
Ever feel like you were in a rut? Ever feel like your whole life was running along the bottom of a well-established tread mark? I’ve been trying to give myself a kick in the butt and do something different, but everything I do seems like something I’ve done before. I remember a long, long time ago, when the fifth-grade teacher was hanging up the class art projects, one of my classmates said to me, “I can always tell which one is yours.” Sometimes it seems like a curse that all along, regardless of the subject or media, I have always done things the same way.
On the other hand, plenty of illustrators and artists have a recognizable style. Style is a way to success. If art directors and gallery owners like your style, you get plenty of business. But what if you get bored with it? Success can become a prison if it depends on you doing the same thing over and over. What if you want to shake things up and change things around, and people aren’t so happy with your art anymore?
I guess it comes down to the danger of trying to make money doing something you love—at some point you have to make a choice between the money and the love. Keep following the rut so you can get paid or live your life of meaning and purpose…and starve.