The Fine Line

There is a dangerously fine line between confidence and cockiness, but what is the line, and how do we avoid crossing it?
The thing to know is that confidence vs. cockiness is all about  perspective. A lot of people who are currently successful at the top of their fields, have admitted that even before they were successful they had an idea that they could be successful and/or would be successful. Had they articulated these ideas at the time, it would be easy to view that sort of thing as cockiness. Without the goods to back it up, some might have looked at even people we see as talented without question now, as just full of themselves. We’d tell ourselves, they’ll learn, they’ll get a swift dose of reality.
There’s a certain desire that exists in some, particularly in the art world– to tear down the confidence of others. While there are plenty of inspirational quotes about not looking to others to quantify your self worth, there are a lot of contradicting realities that are taught to us from a very young age. To know your self worth and to know you are talented is to be cocky and therefore, is considered a negative thing you don’t want to be.
To be vocal about this knowledge, and to be willing to share it can get you vilified, and you begin to learn rather quickly that being confident is not actually what people want you to be. Secretly they want you to need them for validation. If you aren’t validated by others, how can you possibly know you are talented, or beautiful, or intelligent?
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad to want validation from others either. But there’s a very real cycle of shame when it comes to validation, where, you aren’t supposed to know you’re talented and admit it, but then if you ask for validation rather than waiting for it to simply come to you, then you look desperate and needy. Another negative that we’re made to feel is wrong, putting us in a lose/lose situation in which either way we’re wrong.

In my conversation with Adrianne, the thing I really took out of all of this was that frankly it shouldn’t matter, there is nothing inherently wrong with being ‘cocky’. You really should be able to know your self worth and admit it.

On Design

days3One of my earliest goals for this website was to challenge myself as both a writer and a graphic designer.  Because I don’t work in my field, my design has to be largely work that I do for myself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be somewhat limiting. It’s not for a lack of trying that I don’t work in my field either, immediately after graduation I applied to as many graphic design companies as I felt qualified for, and even some I felt entirely unqualified for, and most couldn’t even be bothered to send a form rejection letter. Randomly I had one actual interview with a graphic design firm that was local, four months after I got my current job, a few days before Christmas. I thought the interview went well enough, but being that it was a few days before Christmas they informed me they’d get back to me with a copywriting test for one of the two positions that was open. They never did, and wondering when they would actually be open again, I never ended up emailing them back either, and so nothing came of it. I later learned that a friend’s boyfriend had applied there with similar results (and he had actually called several times), so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

Graphic design can be a difficult field to break into, particularly if like me you tend to work more outside the mainstream bubble. The fact that I went against the grain and printed my portfolio with a matte-ish black background was a subject of excitement for many, and debate for others. It was as if no one in the world had ever considered the concept of a portfolio that rather than printed on crisp white pages, be printed on crisp black pages. I got loads of compliments from people, the most common of which being, I love that but I could never pull that off. There was nothing particularly special about using a black background versus a white background (though make no mistake, the background color absolutely changes the way you see the colors and you respond to the design), and yet perhaps this is part of the reason finding work in my field was particularly difficult. There were plenty of designers, less original than myself who managed to make it.

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I’m not bitter about not getting that job, or even not working in the field. In truth, though I enjoy graphic design, I view it as more of a hobby, a thing I do between writing projects to stay in the realm of the creative yet not quite writing. I prefer to continue to answer only to myself (I’m a harsh enough critic, thank you), than have to worry about getting approval for my designs from fifty thousand people, none of whom can agree on what direction they want to go in.

Seasonal Creation

1adfc2_be51051e2ec544f0b195953a6f9b39d5-mv2_d_1250_1250_s_2After my quarter-life crisis took off last Sunday, I decided to do a little retail therapy, in the form of shopping at Barnes and Noble, where I picked up the latest issue of Writer’s Digest among other things, and there was a particular article that struck me as an interesting concept.

The idea was simple enough, creating in seasons, rather than simply writing all the time, non-stop into eternity. What a novel thought, actually taking a break to give oneself the opportunity to read and replenish their creative juices? For as long as I have been writing, I have never been able to manage such a task for more than a few minutes.

Not writing is surprisingly difficult at times, but after the work I’ve put my current work-in-progress as of late, I think I would enjoy something akin to a mini-vacation from writing. I’m not entirely sure what that would look like for me exactly, probably reading a lot, still doing blog posts, and essays, and shorts, but not jumping straight into the next novel, though I can’t picture any of it lasting for particularly long. Still I’d like to see what that looks like.

Learning to Love the Process: Design Edition

mon_MonBack when I was still in design school I hated having to do sketches for my designs. It seemed pointless when it was far easier to simply mock something up in InDesign really fast. Even if I needed to create several versions, it’s often a lot easier to simply do them in InDesign/Illustrator (a program I’m learning to love more as time goes on) than having to actually sketch things out by hand. Perhaps this was due in large part to the teacher who seemed to be forcing sketching on me the most, who happened to be a teacher I actively loathed, and who I was fairly certain loathed me back. I had once gotten into a full blown argument with the man over another student’s artwork which he had derided as childish, when this person was already working in the industry with her designs. 

Fast-forward two years out of college and I’m finally starting to enjoy doing sketches, mostly because unlike when I was in college and had computers with the programs I needed and/or my laptop with me at all times, being an working adult (who isn’t working in the field she studied and graduated in), means that I don’t always have access to the programs I need to do design work nor do I have access to my laptop. So if I get an idea for something I want to work on design wise, or something I want to tweak, I pretty much have no choice but to sketch it out.

I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I’m doing the sketches for me now, because want to, and for design projects that I specifically wish to work on, not because they are a requirement to pass a course, but because I see some sort of value in their creation.

What I Know For Sure: Writing Edition

days3 copyYou can be whatever you want when you grow up, they used to say. What they didn’t say was, as long as it makes money.

I’ve been writing almost all of my life, since I was ten years old my greatest dream in life has been to be a published author. Creating stories out of nothing is thrilling, and there is no greater delight to me than a fresh, new story, with new characters to explore and new settings to traverse. The trouble is, artists aren’t known for being particularly wealthy, or at least, not many of them and usually not when their alive. Some of the greatest artists in fact, died penniless, giving art the reputation of being not a real job. Which is why for the better part of the last few years I’ve had to deal with certain members of my family getting down my throat for the fact that I had been a full time student/artist rather than getting a ‘real’ job.

What isn’t real about what I do?

The lack of money, currently, is the only answer.

I have a ‘real’ job now by the way. It’s good work, full time and I really enjoy doing it, it’s slowed my writing a bit but, it certainly hasn’t stopped me, that said, the idea that this job which is paying me is somehow more real and more worthwhile an endeavor than writing is still confusing to me. More to the point, why tell young people that they can be anything they want when we don’t mean it and don’t really believe it? What good is lying to them?

My mother has always been supportive of my art, it’s why she never asked me to get a job while I was in college, and I appreciate that, but for those who don’t support their child’s dreams to be an artist, any sort of artist, should you really say, you can be anything you want, if you don’t really mean it? Writing is my one great passion, and the one thing I have really loved to do for as long as I can remember. It’s the reason I wake up in the morning and it’s as much my dream to be published today as it ever was. Writing is one of the few things in my life that I still know for sure I want to do, even when I doubt anything else in my life or second guess anything else, I never second guess that.

The Art of Sabotage

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It was the middle of May, and I was deep in a round of edits of multiple projects at once. A manuscript that was long overdue in my mind, a portfolio, and a magazine that was needing to go to print sooner rather than later. Nerves were frayed, tensions were high, something had to give. The manuscript and the blog went first. I had classwork on top of my graduation materials, and I couldn’t keep up with everything. It felt at once as though the creativity had been sucked out of my soul and I could barely keep track of my thoughts unrelated to graphic design, as the portfolio show loomed near.

In the grand sense, I was thrilled that it was going to be over, ecstatic that I would no more have to see faces of teachers I loathed. I would no longer have to deal with asinine assignments that taught me nothing or struggle to perfect a magazine that had begun to fell less and less like my vision and more and more like an attempt to appease the powers that be. Less writing, more design, different design, change, change, less writing. More space.

In the aftermath of the portfolio show, I was fried for the better part of a week, but it would be months before my creativity returned to me. Or at least, that was how I felt. Eventually I got back to work on my writing, but the experience had taken a toll, and I was beginning to find myself second guessing everything I had worked hard on before portfolio show. Suddenly I was making seemingly small changes, that escalated into larger and larger changes until I was engulfed in a sea of self destruction of my own doing. I would spend months trying to sort out my changes, and in the end, I can’t help but wonder, was it really necessary?

It’s been roughly seven months since portfolio show, and I feel as though I’m only finally getting back on my feet. I’ve updated a good deal of my work, and even my brand, but until recently my mind’s been sort of circling the drain writing wise and I couldn’t figure out why. And then, I reached the 9th chapter of my current draft of my work-in-progress. I had liked, mostly the work I had done up till then, but as I found myself struggling to make sense of everything I’d done up till that moment I had to wonder, were all of the changes I had made really that necessary? Was I actually helping my story, or was I, in an effort to fix the small changes really damaging the story all along?

At what point does editing go from fleshing out the story to self destruction? At what point during the process do you wonder if you haven’t strayed so far from the pack that you can’t even see it anymore? And at what point do you decide to go back, and try to figure out where everything went wrong?