Now that February is basically here, I think it’s safe to say that 2022 is well and thoroughly up and running. It’s been an interesting start to the year, and although I don’t really choose to make new year resolutions, I find these kinds of new beginnings to be opportunities for thoughtful markers in time. It's a chance to notice where I’ve been and where I think I’m headed. This year has already been pushing me to grow in ways that I’ve been talking about and thinking about for a while. It seems I’m finally starting to dig into those particular projects again in a more focused way, and I can attest to the fact that this growth is definitely uncomfortable.
Working as a creative person requires you to put so much of yourself “out there” in the world, both digitally and physically. You’re constantly creating, then sharing, then receiving feedback from friends, family & complete strangers (or even worse, the sound of crickets because no one could even care enough to tell you how little they care about whatever the thing was you made). The feedback process, although uncomfortable, is important. After all, no one is going to see your work quite like a totally uninvested stranger. (As an aside, that kind of reaction is just one of several touchstones to keep in your pocket. Others might include how much you liked making the work, how much you like the finished product, if it’s in alignment with what you want to be working on or working towards, if it performs well in your sales etc).
This kind of constant exposure can be difficult. I know I definitely fall prey to the little serotonin bombs that go off every time an illustration post on instagram gets good engagement, or is shared by a larger account. Little lights flash in my face, announcing, “They like me! They like me! I’m validated! My work isn’t worthless!” In the fickle and complicated world of social media, this is not a good metric to focus on. I know this. But my synapses do not appear to know this.
The trickier part for me at the moment, is that while I am working on being less reactive to my social media engagement, I am simultaneously working on putting myself and my work “out there” even more. As I explained in my last studio blog, I am working on creating more video content, including reels and youtube vlogs. I would be lying if I didn’t at least acknowledge that part of my brain is going, “Great, one new way for people to reject me.” Yikes, that’s so negative. But honest. And I said I would be more honest and less filtered in these blog posts so here we go.
I am anxious AF putting my face on camera. I think this is partly because as artists we are trained to put our work through rigorous critiques rather than ourselves, and also because I am still a fat queer woman in a heterosexist patriarchal world and I can feel the mean, judgemental eyes of strangers on me every time I start to edit footage of myself. I try to counteract this feeling. Deep down, I have a suspicion that if people find their way onto my seedling of a youtube channel and bother to watch one of my vlogs, it’s because they actually like me / my work, and are probably a little less prone to be assholes than your average jerk on the internet. So, I’m trying to work through the extreme discomfort I feel every time my face is in the frame. Look at me, getting all uncomfortable so I can grow and stuff.
Something I haven’t talked about much as video content creation, however, is the fact that I have been working on building out a new branch of my business. I mentioned in my review of 2021 that I chose to walk away for a licensing agreement, which represented a significant chunk of income for me. I need to make up the difference for that loss, ideally in ways that don’t compromise my ethics or self worth. I’ve been noodling around with several different ways I could go about that, and in early January I put together a plan, starting with wholesale.
Now, I have always offered wholesale to qualified buyers with retail locations, but it’s been very informal and only on request. That feels a lot more comfortable and safe for me, of course. See, if retailers are coming to me & requesting wholesale information, then they clearly already like my work (no fear of rejection on that front!) and if I just have a barebones linesheet, then I won’t have to worry if they don’t make a purchase because I didn’t put all that much effort in, and maybe they just didn’t like the linesheet. Well, that’s pretty ridiculous to keep sticking to at this stage of the game. If I believe in my work, and I do, and I believe it will do well in retail locations, and I do, then my work deserves (and I deserve) the best chance of being seen in a good light and offered for sale via actual brick and mortar retail locations.
The thing is, much like putting my face in youtube videos, while I actually talk and like, do stuff, putting together a polished and serious wholesale catalog and reaching out to retailers feels extremely vulnerable. What if they don’t like how I’ve done things? What if they think my big old ego head charges too much? What if I do all this really hard work for nothing?
I guess that’s the thing with being an anxious person and being an artist who runs their own business. Anxiety leeches its way into everything.
I’ve been reflecting on past iterations of my work and my business lately. The other day I even skimmed through my business notes from when I was first starting this whole thing. The quality, design and overall aesthetic was not particularly polished or nuanced, and the sales numbers were not overwhelming to say the least. But I did it. I continued every day to work at it and to evolve, and eventually things got to a point where I was a bit more stable. I knew (more) what I was doing. Once I reach a sort of plateau, the growth still continues but it feels so much less precarious and risky. After all, there’s solid ground under my feet. So, even if this iteration of these uncomfortable projects (looking at my face saying words & trying to sell to retailers) is not the most gold-star-worthy stuff at the moment, it eventually has the potential to be. That’s okay. It’s a starting point. It will grow. I will grow, and it will become less uncomfortable.
It’s all rather simple and obvious of course, especially when you write it all out, but the reality is that our brains don’t often align with rationality. Instead, there are so many other emotional driving forces, shifting the lens. I hope this little blog post has inspired you to take a look at whatever is making you uncomfortable right now, and recall that it will not always feel this way. That you will also learn and that things will get better. And, you can know that’s true because you have already done this throughout your life. I find that pretty damn comforting.