Being an illustrator is not like being an accountant or a lawyer. It’s not what you might call a secure career path. In fact, it’s not a straightforward career path. You’re not necessarily guaranteed a career in illustration just by doing a degree in that subject (mind you, you’re not guaranteed a career as a lawyer just by doing a law degree, but you catch my drift). You have to work HARD, be professional, grow a thick skin and learn to bounce back, move forward, be self motivated, keep going even when you’re at a real low point – because that’s usually when something really good happens.
But the hardest thing of all, I have found, is learning to shut out all the negative voices. It has taken me a while. Perhaps this is a British thing? Some of my lovely American friends, use words like “wonderful” when discussing my career path and say things like “you have a real gift. I’m so thrilled you’re capitalising on it”. A gift? …… Me? ……..Really?! Even the ones that don’t gush quite so much give off an air of support and understanding when we talk about my chosen career. Perhaps it’s just more a part of the American psyche to go after your dreams?!
Anyway, of course I have very supportive British friends, not to mention an incredibly supportive family and husband, but over the years I have heard a variety of comments from people who perhaps don’t know me so well. “When are you going to get a proper job?” Seems to be a bit of a classic and it usually comes from somebody who doesn’t love their own job. Another recent one stemmed from somebody who knows my husband (and also hates her well paying job) “but Helen just draws all day, that’s easy”. Hmmmm.
Then of course there are the negative voices you project onto others when they innocently ask “how are things going?”, “Are you busy?”, “sold any paintings recently?” Of course, these could just come from a well meaning friend or acquaintance trying to make conversation, but because you have heard the classic “when are you going to get a real job” a few too many times, you start to project this as sub text.
So the trick I have found is to learn to shut out all of the negative voices (whenever possible) and only focus on the good.
Another trick I have learned is to ask myself – “what would Adele do?” Sounds ridiculous I know but I just LOVE her. Her music kicks a$$. She is extremely talented and works very hard but more to the point you get the feeling that she wouldn’t take any nonsense. Cut her off mid acceptance speech and what does she do? Gives the middle finger to the fat cats while being shown live to the nation!
Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start being abrasive. Not even close. But with Adele, you get the sense that it’s all about the music. She doesn’t seem to give a stuff what anyone else thinks and if she does, she does a good job of hiding it. She knew what she wanted from a young age and she has gone out and gotten it. Perhaps us polite girls could all stand to be a little more like Adele.
What do you think? Anyone else encountered a similar scenario?
*Seriously, if you ever need your ego boosted, just hang out with an American (a nice one that is) – it works wonders.