Ah, Christmas. The time of year where families come together, baked goods are consumed guilt-free, and Bri looks back on what seems like her entire life with a sense of shame. Is it the seasonal depression, or is it optimism that next year has infinite potential to be better? Whatever it is, let's take a break from those feelings and have a quick objective look at five of the lessons 2017 brought me.
Takeaway 1: Burnout = Bad
Likely the biggest lesson I learned in 2017 was to avoid burnout at all costs. If you've been with me for a while, you probably know what a terrible time I've had finding myself and testing my own limits while scrambling to get everything I'd committed to finished while desperately trying to pay down credit and OH HEY here's a project I want to start and a convention I want to volunteer for! I thought I was SuperBird, but I had somehow forgotten that I too was a human with needs and limits. CAN I do four commissions in a day? Yes. Is it a good idea for me or my customers or the people who love me? No, because no one wins when all I do is eat, draw, and sleep. Caring for myself was a way better investment of my time: I could take 20 jobs a week and burn out for 2 months after the first 10, or I could take 20 jobs a month, manage myself and my jobs properly, and get them all done with energy to spare!
Takeaway 2: Know Thyself
The more I treated my anxiety and depression and found myself doing things that would normally scare me, the more the fog in my head lifted to reveal a clearer self image. A year ago I didn't know how much I really enjoyed traveling by myself, driving in the snow, volunteering, or meeting new people. I found out I had ADHD and couldn't use the same methods that worked for other people. I discovered that I had ACTUAL PREFERENCES. Putting myself out there was scary at first, but the more I escaped my comfort zone, the more the real me emerged, allowing me to make bolder decisions instead of just going with the flow.
Takeaway 3: Write Junk Down
2017 was the Year Bri Learned Spreadsheets. It's an essential life skill, guys. I can keep track of one or two projects or conventions in my head, but after Year 3 of convention-ing, these things began forming an amorphous mental blob and my hyperactive mind wanted none of that. My favorite tools for keeping track of jobs and events are Google Sheets and Trello, both of which I'll likely write guides for in the future. Whatever is floating around in your head, get it down in an easy-to-read, easily organizable format. It'll save you some brain space. I'm still getting the hang of using actual systems, but spreadsheets and lists are a good start!
Takeaway 4: I'm Not Fake
Are you a creative person? Do you compare yourself to other creators and wonder when you'll be outed as a fraud? ME TOO! Impostor syndrome is all too common among artists and creators, so the best way to overcome those feelings is to KEEP CREATING! I went for a long time without posting any of my work in 2017 because I figured no one was interested... until people began asking me why I'd stopped posting. It was then that I realized people LOVE what I do and that I have a special talent that inspires others. What helped me get out of this rut was I created a Trello board and wrote down everything I dreamed of creating in 2018, organized them into daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly columns, and specified whether they'd be a paid product, subscriber content, or free content. This method really deserves its own write-up because it forced me to get focused, get past my feelings of being a fake, and treat my art like what it truly is: my job and my passion.
Takeaway 5: Tiny Steps
One lesson that really stuck with me this year is that slow progress is good progress. I can't expect to fix all my mistakes in a single day. I can't expect to get my entire house clean in a single day. I can't get physically fit in a day. Getting my entire commission queue knocked out in a 12 hour work day? Forget it. Making GOOD and TINY choices was what made me start seeing real progress in every area of my life. It was when I decided to spend 30 seconds tidying my desk a few times a week that my studio began to gradually become cleaner. Spending 5 minutes doing exercises on my floor helped me feel healthier over time. Instead of looking at my entire to-do list, I looked at one section of one project and said "I can take 30 minutes to do this one sketch". Over a month or two, I watched that giant to-do list shrink down into something manageable.
2017 sucked and I'm still behind on a bunch of things (I'm working as hard as I can to catch up, I promise!), but it taught me how to be kind to myself and gave me the strength to encourage others and to move forward with my own goals. Wishing you a courageous New Year!