Sometimes in life you encounter an obstacle that really bugs you, but put off doing anything about it in a significant way. And then finally, you get tired enough, and real change happens. Maybe you realize you can't ignore it any longer, and that unless you change it, you won't get to where you want to be.
Of course there are many escape hatches in life to almost endlessly delay this process- surfing the internet, shopping, entertainment, sports, reading- whatever your vice (or combination of them) may be. I did this for years, refusing to take an honest look at where I was at, and where I wanted to go. and when you do that, you are basically standing still. And guess what? The world keeps moving, and passing you by.
I recently had a conversation with my wife about how I was tired of struggling in life - just squeaking by, to support her and our 9 month old son, Mo. I want her and my son to be proud of me, and I want a good life for all of us. I want a life not just with a good job, but one of purpose. And I want to empower myself to do what I love. I don't want to be 80 years old and look back and think "life just kind of happened."
I've been pondering this subject for months. Taking small steps to identify and solve the problem. The truth is, I am not sure I have ever taken my art making that seriously. It's always come easy for me, and I lacked the commitment maybe because of that. But suffering through some really awful jobs has renewed my focus and sharpened my desire. I do not want to return to THAT kind of life. Coming home too dirty and tired to even think about making art, much less do it. I'm not against working hard, but all the time I was out there working in the elements, a thought kept gnawing at me - "this is not who you are, nor your purpose, and you'll never have the impact you could have had, nor be happy, as long as your denying what you were created for." I rationalized it, because, after all, I was making a living for my family. But the unease grew.
Well, I've now been doing graphic design for about a year, (at an actual job and not just freelancing here and there) and it's good creative work that pushes me. But I still have to re-think a lot of things, because what I have been doing isn't getting me to where I want to go. I want to have grace for myself though, and not get down because I'm impatient.
But I want to make a plan that gets me more freedom occupationally and creatively. And I've picked up a lot of useful tools along the way: books, blogs, mentors, etc. on making these kinds of changes. "Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters" by John Acuff and "The one thing" by by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan have both been a great resource, for example. (I highly recommend them.) We all need outside influence to see where we are, and to help get us to new places.
Most of all, we need courage. I think I have lacked that. And I haven't believed in myself like I should. Like many artist, I struggle with this. In my case, I often vacillate between overconfidence and dismal self doubt. But it's a journey and I think I am really growing in that. I try to focus on the work itself, and leave the judgment of myself and others where it belongs - if it isn't constructive in some way, it's not worth worrying about, and should be thrown in the trash. But we all need encouragement. Seek it out, and be sure to give it.
Speaking of this, community is another thing that has helped immensely. I help lead a group of artists locally who meet to encourage and give one another advice and resources. Creating can get lonely, and your own thoughts can become suffocating. We need others. It doesn't detract from "our vision", it adds to it, often making it more human and beautiful.
You have to sew now to reap later. Nothing happens overnight. But START! Yes, Love where you're at, love the journey, but commit to taking concrete steps toward what you want, which begins with taking honest stock of where you are. Enlist the help of others who have been where you want to go. More on the process of these things in a later post...but for now, a question: what kind of seeds are you sewing? Ask yourself that. Regularly.