One of the things I think everyone who works for themselves in the arts can agree on, is the struggle to validate or justify our job. Even I catch myself trying slot myself into a box to justify that what I do is a career to someone who has no idea who I am or what I do. Then there is that point when you are in your studio and you are the one questioning your work. 'Why do I keep doing this?, 'why does anyone care?', 'why have I still not brushed my hair?' And all the other not so fun thoughts you have when you haven't seen another human in a while. We don't have a boss to tell us we are doing a good job, we don't get employee of the month or have closing hours that tell us our job is done for the day. So we try justify or validate our work to ourselves. Normally this takes place in three forms and I wanted to discuss why each of these forms are problematic and how I deal with them.
THE ADMIRATION BEAST
Do not get me wrong, I love sharing my work on social media. Sharing has become second nature in my process and there are so many good things that come from that but there are some negatives if you don't keep yourself in check. Nearly every creative I have spoken to has admitted that the work that they are most proud of, isn't the work being most 'admired' through their social media. It isn't the pink peonies. It is probably something people aren't used to seeing in their feeds, therefore doesn't get a double tap out of habit (come on, I can't be the only one who catches myself doing this). It is probably darker, or in colours that aren't on trend. But the trick is to remember that admiration for your work doesn't make it good so the lack their of doesn't make it bad. The more you depend on the admiration of others to validate your creative work, the more you open your creativity/work up to becoming diluted to suit the masses and that might not be where your best work lies. This doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to what the people want, but just question whether doing that will hinder your creativity and happiness. Remember you didn't quit your day job to do another job everyday you don't enjoy.
The second way we validate our creative careers is through money. How many jobs we have on, how busy we are, how many unread emails you can show in your Instagram Stories, How much money you made this month. I hate to admit it so publicly but one thing that I think about before I sleep is money. I worry that I haven't had enough invoices paid this month, why have I not made as much as last month, have I not been working hard enough? Which I know logically is ridiculous as I work my butt off everyday and I know that I am fine financially. I think it is because sometimes I fall into the trap of validating what I do for work by being paid for it. This isn't something that I think of everyday but when it is late, a couple of times a month those thoughts will creep in. As with admiration, it is problematic. A lot of the time you can not control when that job will finish or when your invoices get paid. Sometimes jobs you are really passionate about will hardly pay you anything, and sometimes jobs that take you less than a week will pay for the month. What has helped is figuring out how much money you realistically need to make. I found the bench mark I was holding myself to was way above what I needed. Once I realised this I only was concerned with making the amount I needed, then anything over that I wasn't allowed to waste time thinking about.
I AM SO BUSY
I 100% convince myself that if I am not busy something is wrong. I think wanting to be busy is the combination of both of the above. In your mind, being busy means you are getting paid, it means people want to pay you (admiration) and you are doing a job. Not being busy with work honestly sends me into a state of anxiety but I have been trying to resolve this over the last 6 months. I first sat down and thought of the other jobs I have worked. There were lots of times where I wouldn't be technically doing any physical work while I was there but when I went home those days I didn't mentally punish myself for not making a huge impact at work that day. I didn't think 'Oh jasmine you sat googling random shit for an hour today, you are useless and shouldn't be in this career' I just went to bed and got up the next day and went back. So why punish myself if I spend an afternoon clearing out my drawers, or taking pictures of flowers that I may never use just because it isn't what others would consider 'work'. It's hard to change a 'busy is better' mindset. Instead I really value the particular projects that I am working on or have coming up rather than valuing how many projects I have coming up. I think about how I would like to spend my time. If spending an hour at a flower market mid-week makes my week better, I am not going to feel bad about that. I don't attend a lot of events just to get my face out there and talk about what I am working on because I know as an introvert I will be exhausted for the next 24 hours because of it. You have to look at how you want to spend your time, choose wisely and focus on that. You can't cannot compare your work day to someone who is in a typical office.
SO WHAT NOW?
We aren't all screwed, we don't have to fall into validating our work by these three factors above. I think it is good as creatives to keep ourselves in check but admiration, money and how busy we are aren't always the healthiest ways to go about it. Instead I keep myself in check by asking myself the following;
Overall, am I happy with what I am creating?
There are always going to be jobs that don't go as planned or projects you take on that you aren't thrilled about but overall are you able to do what you made you quit your day job in the first place.
Am I making enough money to live off?
This cuts out any unrealistic expectation on what you think you should be making.
Is what I am showing on social media authentic to me?
If you don't truly like what you are posting than you are probably chasing admiration from others rather than staying true to what you like.
Am I busy enough that if I have an idea I can fit in time to pursue it?
Being busy is great, but if you don't have time to pursue your personal creative projects then you are probably too busy.
Hope I am not alone with the above ramblings and it helps some of you who may have felt the same at some point.