I NEED to CREATE, man
I was not at all productive over December 2017 and a bit of January 2018, and I loved every second of it. We had just moved into a new house and adopted our puppy (!) and I was spending all my time planting plants, arranging furniture and wrestling with a very little dog.
Every now and then, I would get a guilty impulse to create. Not a cool idea or any kind of excitement, just a nasty feeling that I was failing by spending my free time on something other than illustration. And I think that has a lot to do with the way you see working artists portrayed in media that is supposed to inspire us. I mean, look at this:
When I first watched that video, I found it extremely irritating, but had no idea why. Jim Carrey can be an artist if he wants to! By all accounts the dude has had some real struggles, and he should be able to turn to whatever outlet he wants.
But (as I figured out eventually) the thing that bothers me so much about this kind of content is how reverently it approaches the idea of obsession. The compulsive, driving need to create. The whole idea is so romanticized in the creative community - I HAD to make the thing. I NEEDED to make the thing. It was just inside me, DESPERATE to burst out. The kind of language we use to talk about inspiration feels so unhealthy to me, but the rhetoric is so easy to buy into that it's easy to feel inadequate if you don't feel like you NEED to create all the damn time.
The above comic by Kelly Bastow really resonated with me, especially as a professional illustrator working from home. It's so hard to relax into doing nothing because we're haunted by this image of the frantic creative, hunched over a desk and pouring her soul onto the page. When you draw for a living, mostly for other people, the exhaustion is real. And beneath it, a secret vision of yourself as that person: married to the work, a conduit through which **ART** appears. Any desire to just watch a bit of trash TV feels shameful.
I've been getting a ton of value lately out of following Catherine Holtzhausen on Instagram - she's an illustrator from Cape Town who I've admired for some time. Her papercut work is so beautiful and intricate, and she's prolific as hell. For a long time I wondered how she managed it, and as it turns out, she wasn't managing. In October last year, she ended up in hospital with physical and emotional burnout.
I was so shocked, which is ridiculous. I had never spoken to Catherine, she has no idea who I am. But the idea that someone could be creating volumes of such beautiful, and for the process of that work to be hurting them, was a real wake up for me.
Nowadays, Catherine's Instagram stories are all about healing, relapse and honesty; often a reminder to me on a bad day that taking care of me is more important than taking care of business.
There is plenty to be said about how we share our lives online - don't compare your outtakes to someone else's highlight reel, etc. But I think for working creatives, it's doubly important. Give yourself a little slack, a little room to breathe.