Last Friday, 4th May, I was browsing Twitter kind of despondently, and came across an intriguing tweet by the wonderful Pikaland. The tweet read “Things I’m afraid to tell you”, and linked to this post.
In her original post, Jess talked about how fear of judgement and rejection sometimes held her back from revealing details about her life on her blog, and how she felt it was important to be real online to create greater connection. That word – connection – it’s all I’ve been thinking about lately, and seeing it up there on the screen, in a context that I wasn’t expecting to see it in, hit me like a punch to the stomach.
I expect to see words like ‘connection’ and ‘openness’ on self-development blogs, but I rarely see them on beautifully presented design and illustration blogs. I see many shots of incredibly neat and organised studios, or homes, or workspaces, where everything is tidy and clean and orderly (I myself am guilty of only showing shots of my home online when it is at it’s absolute best – you won’t have seen a photo of my kitchen strewn with cups and cereal bowls and dirty plates). Jess then courageously went on to list some details of her life that were so intimate and honest that my eyes filled reading them. I was totally disarmed and charmed by her sheer bravery. The same happened with Ez’s post; the same with Amy’s. And I know that now there is a whole list of bloggers out there writing posts with this title, opening themselves to the online community with courage and grace, admitting the things they’d been scared of saying.
I want to add my voice to this chorus for a number of reasons. Firstly, because I too am afraid of admitting to some of my fears and worries online, and the only way to overcome that fear is to face it. Secondly, I want to do it in support of those brave voices that are striving to make stronger connections online. As Jess said, there are people behind these computers. Real people who cry and get scared and are facing difficult situations in their lives and who are not getting everything they want and who have piles of laundry to do and debts to repay. And lastly, though I don’t think it’s exclusive to the design community, I know myself how very tempting it is to try and present a picture of success and perfection when you love to look at pretty, neat things yourself online and sometimes don’t think beyond what you’re being presented with. I’ll carry on looking at beautiful blogs, but instead of perhaps sometimes wishing I were in the position of the person writing that blog (based on a very superficial idea of who they are), I pledge right now to think beyond what I’m seeing and think about the person at the keyboard, with their own struggles and worries.
So here goes. Here’s my list.
I sometimes feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.
I came to illustration with no formal training (just a couple of adult art courses) but with a deep love and sense of joy at creating illustrations. On 30th May last year, I opened my online shop and told myself “I am an Illustrator” for the first time. That sentence had been stuck in my throat for 5 years previously. Since then, I’ve been feeling my way through it. Every week I learn something new, either because of a mistake I’ve made, or because someone wonderful has shared their experience in the hope others won’t fall in the same way. I’m proud to say I got my first official paid commission in February this year, nine months after setting up shop.
I worry that my age might work against me.
I’m 34 now; I started on this path when I was 29. I had always found comfort and deep satisfaction in making things: curtains, cushion covers, cards for friends and family (I sometimes made up occasions as an excuse to make them), decorations. It was only at 29, after months of migraines and unemployment, that I decided that I wanted to spend the precious time in my one-and-only life doing something that gave me pleasure and felt fulfilling. Since then, many things have changed in my life, and for some of it, I have crowbarred art into the time I had left around work, family stuff, general life. For the past two years, though, I’ve sat at my desk and worked almost every day (I balance this with working in an office for someone else for three days a week). I guess I see a lot of young illustrators doing really well and wonder if there’s room for me. But then I see people like the amazing Lisa Congdon who came to illustration in her thirties, and hear the inspiring Chuck Close talking about just getting on and doing the work, and my faith in myself is restored.
I only started letting my friends into my flat when it looked less than perfect about a year ago.
I would be terrified if anyone called round and the place wasn’t perfect. I let go of that fear when my best friend came round and saw it looking like moving-out day. I almost cried. Then we both laughed. And now I’m a lot more relaxed about pretty much all of that ‘perfectionist’ stuff I was holding on to. (And if you come round for tea, I promise not to scoop up the crumbs from your biscuit the second they fall.)
Embracing vulnerability is very new to me.
Vulnerability is something I’ve always struggled with. I always saw it as a weakness, something to be overcome and hidden away. It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve started to even be able to look at it, and its place in my life. It’s very difficult to look at something as blinding as vulnerability and square up to it. But I feel like I’m making headway.
Thanks for reading.
Now to hit ‘publish’…