#3 Orientation

In the past, especially when I was younger, but up to a couple hours ago, I thought that good things in life are an indicator of achievement. That as you excel at something, you get progressively more respect, love, friendships, invitations to join things.

It's been ages since I realised that it's not really true. However, that realisation didn't answer all my questions, in fact it incited more than it solved.

For example:
– I write a lot of texts, some of them good. But since I noticed that getting them seen mostly brings me confusion and not new friends, I haven't been sure why would I be putting them out.
– If achievement doesn't get me a better life, what does?
– Can I make art just for my own enjoyment, or should I be strategic with it?
– Is it bad to walk away from what I've been told are my talents?
– And would that mean that I'll never get any of that respect, love and friendships and invitations?
– What does excelling at art even mean?
– Is there any way I could have my creative practice and enjoy it and not be poor?

Not that I can answer all of these, but I can do an orientation exercise, checking with my mental capacity, interests, priorities and finances. That's what I'm gonna do and maybe I get somewhere and maybe it's useful for somebody.


Mental capacity

First of all, I'm a bit obsessive. When I tune into a project, it consumes me entirely. I learned to manage it at work, where I just know that at 5:30 I'm done no matter what. That works, but also, I'm creative, and I need an outlet. Recently I've been trying to apply for art opportunities. To do that, I set out to do a personal project, for which I had to give up a few weekends. At first, when I sat down on a Saturday, I struggled to focus, because Saturdays are meant for relaxing. Then I got into it – but couldn't stop at 5:30, because I've entered a state of compulsive flow. Then the weekend was over, and I had to carry myself through another work week, in hope to relax next weekend. But next weekend I felt bad about not returning to my project. The work felt unfinished and I felt bad about it. I also still don't really know where it fits in – everything I do nowadays is pretty much outsider art.
Conclusion is, my brain isn't wired for side hustles.


Drawing

I started drawing around the end of 2019. I had pencils and paper and no plan. I loved the process – never enjoyed art so much in my life, so I just kept doing it. My drawings don't get me professional points, I don't think. They don't have the depth for fine art, and are too weird to be someone's living room decoration. They're more aligned with DeviantArt creators, if anything – with a bit of pop art sensibility. I can comfortably make only one per month, and sometimes I decide to not put it out. I'd hate to be making more just to keep things moving through the social feed. So, that's not quite "being strategic", but it works for me 100%. I could use this skillset for commercial illustration, but, well, freelance isn't my passion. It's too quick for me. I'm a slow gal.


Writing

I always have a writing project on. I completed quite a few, but I rarely share them, because once I'm done, frankly, I don't know what to do with it. Submit it to a writers contest? Make a poetry book? A film script? Is it worth it? Do people even read anymore? However, I do like to write, and I have a feeling that if I could start taking it seriously, I might end up writing a film or a text-based game. Unmemory is a game I like – I would enjoy writing something like that. But I never socialised with writers, and I have no idea how they do it. So, yeah.


What pays

I'm a product designer at a publishing house 9 to 5, and it is very tolerable. Especially because since we've been sent home for the lockdown nobody insists that we show up in the office anymore. Works extremely well for me. Hours are flexible as long as work is done; the discomforts related to commuting and awkward banter are now gone. My job is not quite as well-paid as the fintech role I once had, but a lot more sustainable than that (i. e. I don't hate it). I've been able to save quite a bit of money, which has had a big impact on my mental health. Sometimes I get sick of pointless meetings, but I can always wiggle my way out of them if they're too much. Also, I occasionally get pretty good books for free, and I like books. So, in conclusion, I'm very comfortable in this job. I'm not looking to quit it and go soul searching.


Priorities

Does enjoyment equal success? I don't know, but I notice that enjoyment sticks. You can go back to what you enjoy. Recognition, meanwhile, is a short-term event. To me, it can feel quite isolating: you're on your own working on your thing, then suddenly it's out there and a few dozen people care about you for a minute – it's a thrill! But then, they go back to caring for their friends and families, and you're left alone to come up with something even more exciting to maybe get them to care about you once again. And that becomes your life. I wouldn't want that kind of recognition. So, it sounds like enjoyment does equal success for me. It also sounds like I need to join a dating app.

A flower child in me says that it's all about community and what I really need is to find my people, and we'd just get on and make art together on the same wavelength, forever happy. A project manager in me has no idea how to make this into an action item. I could try going back to uni for a masters degree. I could socialise my writing that way. There is a moderate chance of finding my people. There is a high chance of me spending all my savings and struggling to get into any profession that pays as well as my current one does.

In order to not be poor and do art in the future, I'll have to own something that pays. It could be: a business, a home, or connections to rich people. So far, it looks like I'd be better off buying a home than trying the other two. I don't have a great track record of either selling stuff or making friends. But buying a home would mean not going back to uni any time soon – which makes having a creative practice quite a bit harder. Well, I can still have it, but I'm not sure how to socialise it.

Conclusion
Finding a creative commune sounds nice, but ending up on my mum's sofa with no savings sounds very, very bad. It's flimsy, and let's be honest, if I hate the office, and can't deal with flatsharing, I'd probably loathe my creative commune.

If I saved a bit more money, turns out I could get a mortgage. But how do I solve my social life, I do not know. Sometimes I feel like I'm covered in teflon and that's why nothing sticks. Meanwhile, a dog is staring at me from across the room and I stare back. Eventually I win. I'm not not socialising.