The Biggest ELEPHANT in the Room
I remember a few months right before my last exam, my mental fortitude was an almost unbreakable state which only occasionally succumbed to academic critiques. This mental fortitude however existed out of my constant knowledge of the step beyond the one I am making at the given moment. I always knew what I had to do next and when I should do it. This tactical knowledge brought my overwhelming confidence that helped navigate through my daily life. A week after graduation, I realised this mental fortitude, once it faced post-grad life, was an utter joke.
During university, the carefully placed steps that are the curriculum or even club activities give a constant feeling of safety. It’s a net against an unknown chaotic jumbled up world. A net you paid a hefty amount of money for. Even if you had problems with submitting your work or studying for a test, you knew that if you combine a few hours of your time with a bit of effort you’d end up with a submitable output. Once you’re out of the comforting bosom of the four to five (Potentially more if you’re lucky) years of academic education; full of enthusiasm and glee, expecting a line-up of jobs tailored to your creative existence, but eventually fall head first into episodes of near-depression. If you fit the bill, then this blog is for you my friend.
I think this isn’t something exclusive to where I live, I think the general rule here is that once you graduate, you slowly lose the sense of direction that you always had back at university. The illusion of control is gone and now you have to face to a world where you have to graft your way into the professional world. I had the horrid luck of having super high expectations of my post-grad life and ended up riding an emotional roller-coaster that fluctuates on daily basis. I think there really isn’t a secret formula to be able to bypass such a hurdle. In the past couple of months I ended up experimenting with a lot of things to be able to go through both starting out my own illustration studio, and just picking out the kind of lifestyle that would grant me the proper mental fortitude that I long thought I had. Here are the few pointers that I am currently trying to fulfil in my day to day life to. I haven’t fully experimented with all of them but I thought maybe you could try them out as well.
1- Inspiration: Don’t ever wait for inspiration as an illustrator, I always seek the industry’s great names for inspiration on how to work. Most people who I think of as masters in the industry don’t in anyway resolve to creative impulses and inspiration for their work. The creative industry is riddled with this notion that somehow you have to wait for inspiration and the creative impulse to kick in to be able to create great work. This of course is wrong, not just in our field but in the professional environment generally. Inspiration comes from long hours of horrible sketching, painful research and calculated processing. Of course taking a break every now and then between work always helps the creative process. 2- Develop Ritual: Your day should be a series of calculated steps. Ritual is probably one of the things that genuinely helped a lot in the phase I am in now. The force of habit can have a huge effect on your personal life. Ritual can help you develop healthy habits, finish up work quicker, learn a new skill. My ritual usually starts off with waking up at 7-7:30, tidy up my room, make tea, meditate for 10 minutes, read up for 20, then head to work for a few hours. I haven’t yet expanded my ritual to the rest of the day, only from 7 to 3 but it has greatly helped me make small goals that I live up to and finish up. You can do a lot of reading with only 20 minutes a day. While I was reading a book on Zen and Japanese culture by D. T. Suzuki, I learned about Zazen meditation and I started doing it every morning. These type of accomplishments, unrelated to my professional life have greatly helped in actively seeking purpose while gaining a lot at the same time. 3- Tiny Goals: one goal after another Make your bed, make tea, finish that article, send out a proposal, finish that illustration, finish writing that blog, go shopping for herbs, send out a postcard. All of these things are tiny goals that would greatly enhance your mental state. Each goal comes with a boost to go to the next. Maybe next time you’re seeking out a job or you want to start your own business, break it down to various goals. A goal could be as simple as getting the email of the recruitment supervisor of the company you want to work in. 4- Toughen up: I am very bad at this one
This is probably one of the hardest, because it is easier said than done. I for one am very bad at doing this. Every time I get no answer from an art director, or get rejected for a project I really wanted to do, I just sulk up. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid doing this by accomplishing the other three steps I just talked about, and I think it’s relatively going much better.
5- Surround Yourself With Positive People: I am very lucky to have this one
It won’t get easy from now on, but the good part is you’re never alone. We are all struggling in one way or another in our race to accomplishing our dreams (or anything that looks like them). Having a friend or colleague or family member who you can talk to can greatly improve your chances of making it to the other side in one piece. Lastly you are most definitely not in this on your own. I think knowing that other people are going through something similar could greatly improve your mental state and your ability to keep going. I’ve been experimenting with this formula for a few months now so not a very long time but I think it has been bearing a lot of fruit and I’m really starting out to figure out my post-grad lifestyle professionally and personally. Feel free to reach out to me with your story and for this week’s illustration, I decided that I’ll share something that wasn’t commissioned to me professionally but an assignment I took for one of the courses I’m taking right now. It’s a course on skillshare on editorial illustration by Ed J Brown, it was such a fascinating course and I really enjoyed a lot. I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s blog and I’m looking forward to next week’s one! I’ll see you then.
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