This year on New Year’s Day, during a four-hour coach journey, I went time-traveling and met my past self from three years ago.
We had a long chat, she told me that she felt discouraged, that she was full of ideas but loathed everything she put onto paper, and that she couldn’t see what direction her work was going to take.
I listened to her quietly, then I wrote her a letter. When we said goodbye, I hugged her and thanked her for trusting her intuition, in spite of all the bad moments she was going through, and I gave her the letter. This is what I wrote to her:
Dear Past Self,
I know now that dealing with your insecurities is part of the game, and starting something new entails being unsure and vulnerable. I remember how it feels to be dominated by fear. When we are afraid to take a chance, we can tell ourselves an awful lot of excuses, and not realise that the fear of failing is actually the one thing that is holding us back. You will familiarise with your negative feelings too, and the dark moments will be as important as the positive ones, because you will learn about the power of resilience.
The three years ahead of you are going to be an adventure and a learning curve. You are setting the foundation for my dream to become true, and will overcome struggles and obstacles. You are in the trial-and-error phase, and you are disappointed and frustrated with your results, but through your mistakes you will find your path. It is the only way, trust me, and the work that you produce that you think is bad is important too, because it is going to lead you to what you really want.
Almost everything I have learned was by making mistakes and readjustments, and sometimes by falling flat on my face! I can’t make things easier for you, but I promise that you won’t regret the choices you have made. It will take some time for you to believe in yourself and you have to go through many trials and errors to understand what is right for you. I would like to give you three pieces of advice to support you during your journey. I hope these can help you through tough times.
- Focus on the process rather than on the results.
Things take time, and you need to allow yourself a few tries before reaching the result you have in mind. Artists usually never share their initial steps, and you don’t know how many attempts it took to get to that piece of art you love so much. Also, some projects require a lot of different skill-sets, and you may not possess or master all the skills you need for that particular project. Just relax and keep working, you will adjust your craft on the way, also ideas will come, valid ones, I promise.
- Find the discipline that works for you
Practice, practice and practice. Do not let long periods of time pass without drawing at all. Understand which moment of the day is the most productive for you, and try to plan your activities in order to keep that time available for your work. When it is not possible to use that time, try to spare a few minutes every day, but do not put too much pressure on yourself to complete the piece that you are working on. If you are too busy with your job or if you have more urgent things to take care of, don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t work long hours to make up for the time you couldn’t draw or paint. You will only feel frustrated if you do that. Do not wait until you have a whole day to spend on your illustration, do a little bit everyday because regular practice is the most important factor for your artistic and professional growth.
- Focus on your natural strengths and sensitivity
When you feel genuine pleasure in the work you are doing it means that that is the work you should be doing. Of course you need to challenge yourself and find ways to improve, but if you are not enjoying what you are doing it means that it is not your best work, that is not you. Think about the most enthusiastic feedback you’ve received, and when friends commented: “that is really you!”, what were the characteristics that defined your work? What is important to you? What are your values? Explore what gives joy and meaning to your life, and you will find your voice.
Thanks for your hard work. Don’t worry, it will pay off.
After meeting my past self, I still had two hours to spend on my coach. So I reached out to my future self and asked if she had any advice for me.
I will tell a little about the conversation we had in the next post.