Just read an article describing artists as sensitive people who contradictorily rely on both outward, boisterous expression and quiet, inward solitude to keep themselves in balance. I’ve never really thought about it, but I think there is an element of truth to this concept.
Recently I’ve been thinking about my work style and temperament. As a general rule I find myself really driven and productive for a period of time followed by a sudden crash and a complete and total desire to do fuck all, as the kids over in the land of Eng say. I’ve always accepted these two extremes in my life, but others haven’t been quite so understanding. At least one friend asked me if I was manic. And I’ve openly wondered with my wife if maybe I didn’t suffer from bouts of depression.
With the perspective of this article (linked above) added into the mix, I think the whole package makes a little more sense when plugged into the model of a sensitive creative type: I get overstimulated and need quiet alone time to recharge. Some of my most cherished moments are alone, removed from society and culture. It is in solitude that my mind works best to come up with new ideas. And I’ve described myself as a little shy and socially awkward, but I also feed off people’s energy; if they are happy I’m happy; if they are sad I am sad. Plus I have these extreme moments where my highs are really high and my lows are pretty crappy: one moment happy and boisterous; the next quiet, reserved, and I’m a crabby prick.
Thinking back to the short period of time that I worked as a true freelancer (not just moonlighting like I do now) I would work solid ten, twelve, fourteen hour days for about three months. Then, running full force into a wall I would wake up late one morning and decide that I’m eating cookies and playing video games and nothing else. I am aware that I turned into a bag of shit, but I always figured that I gave too hard and my body shut down in order to preserve my health. Looking back I think there was a psychological need to recharge as well.
The one sign that there was, is, mental exhaustion is that after about two weeks of going full retard I would start getting twitchy again. My hands would crave some kind of craft and my mind would start spitting out new ideas even if they weren’t illustration related. I would find myself back at the desk creating again without reason or rhyme.
Now that I work full time on top of a side hustle that rhythm has changed a bit, but remains essentially the same: a period of sprinting followed by a period of exhaustion. These days I have a busy season that follows the school’s semester schedule. Mostly hitting hard toward the middle-end of fall and spring which I find really draining and I get pretty whiney. Then it takes me a couple of weeks to recover. During the off months is when I get most of my work done since I can direct energy to more creative pursuits, but once we hit our busy season my work drops off.
The frustrating thing is that I feel like I should be able to push harder. As one friend recently posted on Facebook, in order to achieve you must be able to push past the pain. I agree with this for the most part, except that I’m lazy, but taking into consideration all the things we have to keep in balance the real struggle is what do you focus on and what do you sacrifice?
While having full time employment is – to borrow from religious folk – a blessing, I would rather be working on my illustrations and prints. However, I know that I am not going to make a living off of my art yet, because I’m taking the slow road, but this current side hustle will need some more investment to get off the ground in a sustainable way. Yet, I can’t help feeling that if I quit my job and focused on my side hustle, trying to make it a full time gig I would a) feel a fire under my ass since it would be my only source of income, and b) be able to dedicate the time needed to get out there and promote the business like it needs to be.
Also I’m curious to see whether or not I can wrangle in this up and down cycle I’m on and better manage the energy I put into life on the whole. With the theory that I will get more enjoyment out of life if I can spread the energy out more.
For now all I can do is keep plugging away with the goal of achieving self sufficiency. At least now I know that I’m not totally crazy and maybe I can figure out a strategy to work with my temperament. One thing that has become a really important aspect of life is to take vacation time that separates me from normal life. Solitude is what I cave to recharge and if I can tap into a little bit of beauty in the process then all the better the recovery will be with the added benefit of inspiration.