Have you ever felt so pumped up that all you want to do is go to your work station and create something? Not just work for anybody, but for yourself?
Here’s a confession: it’s been a while since I felt like that and only recently have I been feeling upbeat about my work again. Tonight, I’ll be sharing a personal story that I’ve been mulling over these past few days:
If you’ve been following me and my creative journey from the beginning, you would probably know that in my early days (before I started freelancing) I’ve been actively exploring different techniques and types of media and producing work for myself. Every. Single. Day. I would wake up in the morning feeling great because I know that I would be experimenting and producing work for my sake. I have nothing else to think about except me and my art. During those days, it felt like I was on cloud nine. But lately, amidst all the work I’ve been receiving and the clients I’ve been collaborating with, I seem to have lost that touch and feeling. Ever since I immersed myself in the creative industry and started doing freelance, the only chance I can ever get to paint and illustrate is when I have a client. I never had the time to flourish my own ideas and do something solely for myself.
Don’t get me wrong, working creatively is one of the most incredible decisions I’ve ever made. Taking that leap a year ago had been an immense growth for me, both as an individual and as an artist, in ways that I could ever imagine. Meeting and working with like-minded people and being in a diverse community helped me a lot. However, it was relatively easy for me to be overwhelmed, and in the process, lose myself to all of it. I was getting carried away with work without stopping to think about myself too. At one point, I felt burnt out and I wasn’t satisfied with anything that I was producing. It was hellishly frustrating. I’ll be transparent in saying that when working with other people, there’s this need to please the other party and likewise, there’s a level of work expected from you as well. In my experience, a lot of focus and energy will be expended to meeting those needs and expectations that you’ll start to neglect your own. It’s something that happens to the rest of us, and certainly one that I went through.
Here’s the ice breaker, and one I have slowly come to realize: Creating work for other people – even if it’s in line with what you do and with what your passionate about – is never the same as creating work for yourself.
Even though I’m still relatively new to all of this, I have learned a lot from experience. One thing I currently got into practice is balancing my time both for work and personal matters. Being a creative, it’s easier said than done. When you tend to bring work to home (or in my case, work at home), the two become seamless to a point that I couldn’t even distinguish one from the other. My work hours were confusing and I had a difficult time distinguishing when I was on or off the clock, especially when I was juggling multiple commissions and projects.
It’s my impression that work doesn’t feel like work at all because I’m doing what I love and undoubtedly, I enjoy it. While it’s a remarkable notion, in truth, there’s still a fine line between working for others and creating work for yourself. Defining that line in order to maintain a healthy balance is key. Because let’s face it, we can’t drown ourselves in work 24/7. That can be extremely taxing, even if you do love what you’re doing.
With that being said, let me share a thing or two of what I have been doing in order to tether myself amidst the chaos that is life and work:
Creating work for other people
is never the same as creating work for yourself.
TAKE A BREATHER
Every now and then, find time to break free from everything — whether it’s from work, school or life in general. Breathe in, breathe out. Clear your mind and focus on what you want to do for a change, not what’s expected from you or what others are telling you.
EXPLORE AND EXPERIMENT
Here’s a challenge: whenever an idea hits you, write it down or doodle it on a piece of paper. Later on, act upon those ideas. Take time to flourish it, experiment with it and explore possibilities for it to grow. Make it tangible. This keeps your creative flare alive and even if it doesn’t seem like it, it also helps you develop the skill of listening and following your gut/intuition (which is extremely important).
GET INTO THE HABIT OF THINGS
Every morning, no excuses, be determined to create or practice something. Anything that makes you feel connected to yourself and to what you’re most passionate about. It may be composing a short poem, making small-scale paintings or sketching down rough ideas. Something that engages you and your creativity. Something that doesn’t exude any level of expectations or perfection from you or others. Let your creativity flow and maybe take that time to act on those ideas you’ve jotted down. Make it a habit to dedicate a chunk of time to create something for yourself – work can come later.
Why in the morning, you may ask? That’s because it’s the time of day when our minds are fresh and we’re not weighed down by anything else, at least not yet. If you do it later in the day, chances are you’re already beaten down or you’ve already exhausted yourself from other priorities. (Been there, done that.) So I truly believe is the perfect time to hone personal skills and do things that you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t taken the time due to other tasks expected from you.
I find these pointers grounding in a way that it helped me become in tune with myself and my work again. Like I previously mentioned, it’s been a long time since I last felt an exciting flutter when it comes to creating work. In spite of being in the middle of a collaboration, on a huge (dream) project with two of my creative friends, I’m glad that I willed myself to find and set aside some extra time to further explore and experiment with a few personal projects that I’ve been keen to work on.
On a last note, let me close with this statement:
Never lose that sense of creating work
for you, and you alone.