So. 2016 was terrible. On a worldwide scale and a little personal scale.
I had so much I wanted to do, so many plans and hopes, and I managed to fulfil quite a few of them! But for a whole bunch (like, a big bunch...) of reasons, it was a naff year. A bit of a 'two steps forward, 40382 steps back' situation.
BUT, it's gone, so it's time to look forward to the potential and the glorious feeling of 'fresh start' that 2017 has in store. To help myself, and maybe some others, I like to write down my plans and hopes for the year in detail.
I'd like to list a whole bunch of things which sound really good and would be amazing if I could achieve them. I could say how I'm going to draw everyday without fail, how I'm going to study things I'm struggling with like backgrounds and atmospheric lighting, how I'll read 4720128 books every week and do yoga for 12 hours a day, but these will probably not happen. The whole point about setting goals isn't so you can look at your list and think 'Yeah it would be so good to achieve those'. It's about looking at your list and knowing how you're going to achieve them all. Even things like drawing everyday. Sure, it would be amazing if I did that for every day of the year, but the reality is that there will be some days where I go to bed at 7 and don't get round to it, or I forget, or I'm just not in the right mindset. This isn't an excuse for failure, but setting goals like that do set you up for it, then you feel guilty for failing in your task.
So, as a good start, here's the main things I'm going to aim for during this coming year...
Try not to be so self-critical.
I can be a bit of a dick to myself a lot of the time.
Woke up 15 minutes later than I hoped? Bad person. Haven't replied to an email within an hour? Bad person. Went and did something relaxing instead of working? Bad person. And this leads to me wasting my day on distracting myself from my guilt, and the distractions aren't work, so it gets worse! It's a self destructive problem to have and I'm planning on working especially hard this year to try to reduce how often I do this. One of those ways I mentioned above; giving yourself ambitious but achievable goals. No false productivity in the form of glowing, Instagram-worthy lists in a nice swirly typeface full of unrealistic nonsense, no. It'll be realistic, possible, relevant goals. Those big swirly nonsense ones get overwhelming, you see how much you have to achieve and you shut down and end up achieving nothing. I'd rather take a few small steps than try to do one big leap and fall on my face in a puddle of 'what the hell was I thinking'. Of course I'm not saying don't take risks, but I am saying be kind to yourself and become friends with your limits.
Another way to aid this is something I talked about in my previous blog post about comparing yourself to others. As I said in the post, there's two ways to compare; to give yourself motivation, or to convince yourself that you're lesser. I want to avoid the last one like the plague this year. I'm going to reduce my social media browsing, unfollow unhelpful accounts, and generally try to focus on what I have accomplished rather than what I haven't. I won't be blindsiding myself, or living in a blissful bubble of 'everything is fine and I'm amazing', but I also won't be living in the bubble of 'I'm a bit shit' either.
This is a tricky bit, but I'm also going to strive to forgive myself when I haven't been productive. This is something I've had a problem with for a while and I'm planning on doing an in-detail blog post about it so I won't go into it too much now. Essentially I want to be able to get to the end of the day, realise I took a break-day, and not spend the night lying awake thinking about how much I failed to do. I think it's something really important to be able to do and this year will be centred around it.
This is a relatively common one for 'new year's resolutions', I know. But it's still on my list.
I've got two bookshelves full to the brim with books I've bought over the years. Picture books, fiction, non-fiction, photography, journals, historical, weird ones I've found in charity shops, they're all there and about 5% of them have been read.
This lack of reading doesn't necessarily spawn from not having enough time; despite the fact that this is what I convinced myself was the reason for quite some time. It instead links closely with my first goal, to be easier on myself; I feel like reading is a waste of my time, despite knowing categorically that that's not true. I sit down to read and my brain goes 'oh so you have time to relax, do you? Shouldn't you be doing emails or client work or something?'. So I stop reading. And I only realised how little I've actually read in the last year or two.
So prepare yourself, dusty bookshelves. You're gettin' raided.
Finish Sasha & Tok.
A personal project that came about through a random idea then evolved because of life events. I've been thinking about the storyline constantly, updating my notes, adding to the manuscript, doodling doodles, but it's been slow. I surprised myself when I realised it's been over a year since I first thought of the idea and I have a few dozen drawings and a few chapters to show for it.
Granted, it's been a busy year and there's not been much room for personal work, but 2017 is different for a number of reasons. My weeks are easier to plan thanks to regular and predictable days, my workload is a few bigger projects rather than loads of little ones, and my mindset is geared up better (it was pretty bad at the beginning of last year). So I'm really hoping to make some mega progress on this project during 2017, and maybe even finish it. It probably won't be a polished finish, and I definitely doubt it'll be a printed finish, but it'll be significantly finished.
Be more honest.
A vague one, I know, but something I've been thinking a lot about lately.
Social media is amazing. It's a huge, interwoven, awesome platform for sharing, communicating, and reaching things you couldn't before. But it has a big fat flaw that bothers a lot of people, whether they know consciously or not; It's censored.
Not by The Man, not by beeps over swear words, not by black bars across naked people, that's not the censoring I mean. I mean the censoring we do. You see endless floods of perfect pictures, perfect lives, but the 200 photos they took before that won't be posted.
You wouldn't post your dirty dishes that have piled up so high there's a layer of ozone at the top, you wouldn't post a picture of the spot on your face that's been bothering you all day. I'm by no means saying that you should post these things but I am saying that these things are reality and many people, very much including myself, find themselves feeling bad when less than perfect things happen to us. Why can't my life be as perfect as all these other people? Because not even their's is perfect. It reminds of this quote from an unknown source (comment if you know who to credit for it):
“You will never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine.”
I know I'm not talking about the fashion world, but this is very relevant to the creative industries as a whole too. And I know the quote focuses on photoshopping, but the censoring we do on social media is like social photoshopping. No artist floats through life with clients everywhere and work going wonderfully, as their Instagram feed may suggest.
I get so excited when I see artists posting honest pictures of how messy they're studios are. And not artfully messy. I mean dishes and opened envelopes and bits of stuff all over the floor messy. This realisation that 'oh ok, maybe I don't need to be totally perfect' is really nice.
I'm going to try to be more honest with my successes and struggles. I feel it's important to my mental wellbeing as well as the people who view my posts. This blog has been a good start for me, and I strongly encourage any other artists, illustrators, and humans to give it a try!
These are the top of my list things to be striving for. I'm going to keep these at the forefront of my mind whilst I go about my days, whether they're bad days or good days, hopefully these 'resolutions' will help me enjoy the good ones and fix the bad ones a little bit more.
Happy 2017 everybody :)