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I spent my creativity on others and lost myself
Burned out by selling my creativity to others, I'm set on finding myself again.
At home, we were taught that if you wanted to buy something, you should find a way to earn the money.
When I was 11 years old I had my first paper round which I set up with my neighbour, who was a few years older. I was too young to legally have one, so setting it up under her name was the way to go. I’d do the paper rounds and she’d pay me the money she received from the paper company. I was barely a teenager and already money laundering, although I didn’t know of course.
I was 13 or 14 years old when I started using my creativity for others. I had always been drawing so when I got asked to draw family portraits, I jumped at it. Not long after I started making websites for local businesses.
Business coaches would approve of teenage me, monetizing my skills and all.
For nearly 25 years I’ve been using my creativity to translate ideas of others to visuals, and I’ve been doing that full-time for 15 years.
After graduating art school, I started as a graphic designer, then became an art director in advertising and marketing, switched to photography, to eventually land as an illustrator in 2010. Over the years I’ve become very good at understanding what people want and mean to say, and come up with fitting pictures.
To be honest, I can hardly remember a time when I was creating something solely for me. It was always for a client, or social media. You might think that the latter fits ‘personal work’ but when you’re always occupied with how someone else will read or perceive your work, it doesn’t feel really autonomous or free.
In 2020 I started painting again, after a break of 13 years.
Freelance work was slow due to the pandemic and I thought: “f*ck it, I’ve always wanted to do this!”. I enjoyed it very much and felt like I was re-connecting with myself again, but there were always these lingering thoughts underneath… ‘how can I use this to secure an income?’, ‘will people like this enough?’.
If people like what I make, they might be willing to pay for it, and money will secure a roof over my head. That bit is so big in my head, that I do things out of fear of losing that.
There are several reasons why I burned out, but feeling I have to always make work to please others is definitely one of them.
Now that I’m slowly coming out of my burn-out, I feel very strongly that it’s time to dedicate time to my own ideas, without the underlying thought of making it sellable to secure my basic needs. And that’s scary.
This Substack-page has been like an empty house for over two years. I didn’t know what its purpose should be.
But I know now.
Through writing I want to find my way back to myself and to what I want to create. A diary of my process, thoughts and anything else that comes up along the way.