Self-Love, Love Yourself, Self-worth. It's a concept that gets thrown around so often nowadays, especially for those of us, who day-to-day depend on self-motivation to keep up with the tasks of life. Without getting into deeper areas of psychology (because I'm no therapist), I can tell you that I have put a lot of thought into what self-love means to me as an illustrator, so much so that I thought it would be helpful to write it as a list to share and keep handy for those days that we feel overwhelmed in our creative workflow.
1. Be analytical, not critical
Being mindful of the expression or communication of your artwork, its purpose and why you are creating it, but don't over criticize every aspect of it. Critiquing is useful, but it has its place and time to be more effective, especially AFTER the artwork is done or close to be. Try to have a constructive point of view to have a better workflow, and develop a more natural creative process.
2. Focus on what you need, not what you want.
Sure, if I had a $2500 Wacom tablet to start my illustrations in Photoshop, my work life would be a lot easier. But is that really what I need, in order to finish a client’s deadline for tomorrow?
I bet there are other things on a closer reach (and on the budget) that can help you more effectively finish that last minute sketch. Better reference pictures from your camera phone, opening a brand new set of pencils, sometimes even eating your favorite meal works wonders to get you in the mood and finish the work.
3. Practice good physical self-care.
Trying to create 15 new sketches in 24 hours, is not healthy at all. But it’s even more unhealthy to try to do it with no breaks in between. We need to eat, we need to sleep and we need to break away from the paper or computer, in order for our creative flow to continue. When planning out deadlines for projects, schedule some break hours or days in between in order to have a healthier consistency in our work. Hustling gets better when it’s consistent, but not destructive.
4. Set limits.
This goes hand in hand with self-care. Most of the frustration of our creative work comes from not setting the proper limits to make our abilities flourish. Not every job request we get is beneficial to us (even there’s plenty of $$$ in the line), not every client relationship we are offered is the best for our business, not every event we attend will magically launch our business to the next level. But hold on, setting up limits, it’s not the same as limiting ourselves. Knowing how to pick our challenges also helps to present ourselves at our best; when we are ready and prepared for it. Think of it like getting ready for a test: you will never think of showing up without studying, and in order to study you need to set certain limits to other activities to focus on learning the subject and passing the test.
5. You are not perfect, so forgive yourself.
As creatives, we are so used to not being taken seriously (as in not a real job) that we are even harder on ourselves when we make mistakes. If we miss an email or didn't update the calendar for the client’s deadline, and it’s due tomorrow, it can feel like the end of the world. And it probably is, JK. But there’s definitely no need to beat ourselves about it. Trying to work after beating yourself emotionally just makes you less productive. Plus, part of being a professional is knowing how to take care of our own mistakes, figuring out the steps to fix it and move on.
6. Protect your work, and yourself.
Being that creating something from nothing is our livelihood, is very easy for to others to take for granted the value that our work actually has. Another way of taking care of ourselves is by making sure that the fruit of our sweat is well paid, without being taken advantage of. Having a contract, getting paid in advance, hiring an agent, even getting health insurance are all different steps to keeping a healthy workflow while working freelance. Depending on what direction your growth is going, you might need one or all of them, but keep in mind that in every level of our career taking measures to protect our work legally and financially is very important.
7. Everything you work on, work on it intentionally.
Out of all the points I have brought up, I think this is the most important. Overall, in order to get love for the work we do, the best approach is to produce it intentionally. What does this mean? Well, to create intentionally is to make artwork that is true to ourselves and our values. It can happen that every now and then, a really good opportunity (6 figure like) can be so good, that is really tempting to put our principles aside. But if we do this very often, we’ll realize that our work lacks that spark that makes it ours, the one that delivers the message of our intention. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should only produce work that is personal to us, but instead that when we create a piece of artwork, we know, that is fulfilling the intention of its purpose, the client’s or the company’s intent. Aligning our values with the objectives of our work makes the final result 300% better.
Keeping these 7 points in mind has been helpful for me, to find the focus that we artists need to keep loving the artwork that we create, loving to do what we do every day. Hope it works for you too.