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I remember a time when I would spend endless hours drawing, crafting, my hands always busy. In middle school, my classmates and I each made a pie chart showing how we use our time. My desk partner was an athlete and a mild socialite. His time was divided with running, football, homework, socializing, and a few other activities. He slept for a healthy seven to eight hours per day. And then there was my pie chart. I was in bed for 10 hours, three hours of which were spent writing stories in my head, school was however many hours, travel was minimally an hour to two depending on summer or snow, and every other minute was given to drawing.
I'd draw while watching TV, while in the vehicle, and while I waited (which was often with how busy my family always was). My one teacher even gave me the unique privilege of drawing on my desk (in pencil). It seemed the only things taking me away from drawing were schoolwork, eating, and going to the bathroom. And, to be honest, my art wasn't anything amazing either. I could wow my classmates, but compared to people of the age I was then on social media now, it looks rather lacking.
Continuing through high school, I drew in every spare moment. I used it to cope with my social anxiety, my stress of my parents divorce at 16, and their apparent unhappiness the many years before. I would draw for friends, I had four art classes in my Grade 12 year, I managed to get commissioned by a teacher, I drew stickers I sold to students and teachers, I made custom characters for people, I found GaiaOnline to draw people's characters... I remember distinctly working on a piece for a friend until two in the morning, having to force myself to stop, as I was in a ravenous art high after I had been working on it for eight hours already. After school, I won a contest to illustrate a book. I worked eight hours straight, multiple days, followed by another four hours straight, not even remembering to go to the bathroom. Art was a drug to me. And after graduation, when I wasn't drawing I was writing my novel or music.
But something changed.
Since I had to enter the workforce fully, and not just for a summer, it took all I had. Even just having part-time work, it left me drained. I had worked summers before, and I was still able to draw, but this time was different. Then I went to school. Although I still drew, its purpose felt distinctly different. I stopped seeing it as a priority. It slowly became something that I would sneak in before bed, or would feel possessed to do after a drink or two. Even with reducing how much time I spent drawing, I would write, and I managed a daily creative writing blog for two and a half years. Then I went into a graphic design, front-end web developer, and data entry aficionado internship.
Then. It happened. I was hit by a car. I couldn't even look at a page for more than about 10 minutes without finding myself exhausted. Between work, school, and this fatigue in the next few years, my only time I got close to my previous art enthusiasm was after a few drinks. My max art time was 30 minutes. Drink and draws would allow me to draw until two in the morning, but it felt exhausting, sometimes leaving me to forget to draw for months.
I still haven't got back to that old fervor. That still makes me sad. At times, I find myself mourning the stamina, drive, passion, and self-confidence that I had. There was never a question if I could draw something, I would just try and keep at it until I could. As I flirt with the idea of trying to be an illustrator full-time, and find a way to make it happen, I've hit an all-time low for art confidence. Even my writing (aside from these blog posts) has almost fully dried up.
It fills me with shame.
Trying to even just make enough money, I feel exhausted—let alone pulling myself into that art zone. I have honestly spent the last five years forcing myself into yearly and monthly challenges, dragging myself kicking into new mediums... because I can never give up on that part of me. But, as I force myself, I feel sick with shame for having to force what was once natural. I feel shame when I bring out paper, and just stare, too drained to even start. I feel shame when I end in drawing that same face angle over and over again. I feel shame when I see older art better than my current art. I feel shame that posting my old sketches got me so many more followers than my current art. I feel shame I lost all those followers when I started posting new art again.
Only just in the last month or so have I had one of those moments again: When I have that full creative sparkle, where it makes my whole posture change, my eyes almost water, and my heart start pounding in an adrenaline-like intensity. A moment of zero self-judgement. A moment of just enjoying creating.
As we get closer to 2019, I feel like I should be readying challenges, making resolutions... but in the end, it just ends up being a list of expectations.
There is so much competition with art now. Social media floods us with successful artists. Shame is an easy place to go. For myself, I plan to try my best to separate myself from art expectation. This coming year will be working towards creating what I feel pulled towards creating, and reduce judgement on the end result, even just a little. Art was always about the process for me, and I've found myself forgetting that, feeling like I should be making a piece I can post on Instagram or finishing challenges.
Remember to be kind to yourself. Life changes, we change. Art changes. Let yourself be childish in your art. Follow random art fancies, draw those fart jokes, and make a mess.
I hope reading this helped you, even a little,