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Do you experiment self-doubt about the purpose of your creative work?
Do you feel like something is missing in your creative work but you don’t really know what it is?
Having this lack of clarity about your work or creative business might make your mental voice says things like “Maybe I’m not good enough. Or maybe this path is not for me and I should do something else…”
The time goes by and it seems that you’ll never find the answers that you are waiting for. And it’s a funny situation because at the same time you don’t quit either your dream about building a creative career because you want it so hard…
Can you see the contradiction?
On the one hand, a lot of self-doubt.
And on the other hand, a strong certainty inside you that you REALLY want to keep working on your creative career even if you can’t barely make a living from that.
As you can already imagine, I was one of those confused creatives not long ago.
Finding the purpose of my creative career it’s been one of my main priorities during the last year.
I truly believe that we all have something unique, natural and meaningful to offer, to serve others, to make this world a better place.
But life happens, society, culture, history, family background, fears… We all, in different ways and levels, unconsciously built an image of ourselves that is usually very far from what we really are and we end up believing that we are that false image.
Other people would refer to that image as ego.
So today I’ll share a bit of my story about my own search of purpose in my creative career.
If you are struggling to find clarity about your own mission or purpose of your creative work or if you have lost the enthusiasm about your career, I invite you to listen to my story until the end.
It’s been at least 14 years already since I was clear about my intention to become a professional illustrator. I was still in high school and I already knew that I wanted to pursue a creative career so I decided to study Fine Arts in University.
I don’t want to get into details but the following years, and even after finishing university, I was super enthusiastic about the idea of becoming a professional illustrator.
During all those years I would work on personal projects and very occasionally some random small client works. In the meantime, I would improve my drawing and painting skills. I would explore and develop my own technique, the graphic style, the topics that I used to enjoy drawing the most, etc.
I also had my first experience as an entrepreneur by creating and selling handmade stationery products with my own illustrations on Etsy.
And only after one year of that first entrepreneur experience, I started to suffer from that lack of clarity that I described in the introduction but I still couldn’t put my frustration into words.
I was confused because I was starting to make a bit of money from my illustration work which it was supposed to be my goal or dream, but I wasn’t fully proud of those few sales that I made. And I wasn’t sure whether I was going in the right direction.
Also, the bit of money that I was making would take me A LOT of hard work that was leading me to my first big burnout.
So that was the first mini crisis of self-doubt about my creative career and I felt like I hit bottom during weeks or even months.
I was unhappy and insecure about my decision to become an illustrator because it would also affect my health with high levels of stress. And, in a few words, I just lost my enthusiasm about pursuing a creative career.
During that burnout something inside me would whisper me that maybe I should improve my English skills so I could access to a bigger market and other job opportunities because I was doing everything in Spanish and it wasn’t really working out.
So I closed that little business of stationery products because I was working so hard but not making enough money from that, neither enjoying the process. And I also kind of lost my hope to make this dream come true.
However, this dream of making a living from my illustration work would never go away and, at the same time, instead of getting a positive feeling about it, it was more like a guilty feeling because I still didn’t find my place in the illustration market.
Feeling quite hopeless and useless I decided to left my hometown in Spain to give myself some time to think about all of this and improve my English in the UK. So I moved out to London to work as an aupair girl for one year.
While living in London I lived with a British family and my job was about looking after their beautiful kids who I loved so so much. I definitely improved my English skills while I was living with them and doing that job, and I’m super grateful for the whole experience.
In my free time, apart from exploring the city, I used to research the illustration market to figure out what to do next with my life and my career.
One year after living in London, I came back to my sunny Spain with my love ones, and I still had this strong dream and determination to become a professional illustrator.
I came back with more ideas, a little bit more confident about my English skills and a much wider picture of the market.
Then I started my second attempt to create an online business around my illustration work, but this time it was in English and fully digital which worked much better for me.
And I would combine that with some sporadic client work. So I became an entrepreneur and freelance at the same time.
This time, this online business was about graphics sets. These products include a lot of illustrations and decorative elements so people can purchase the license and use those graphics to make their creative projects look beautiful and appealing.
Those graphics are great to create all sort of things: stationery products, home items, fabrics, greeting cards, etc.
I would have several failures, of course, and some little successes in the process, but you know what, after a couple of years of that, I hit the bottom again with a lot of stress, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
This second big burnout about my career happened when some other sad events took place in my personal life too.
If you listened to my last episode, I talked about my existential crisis. Let’s say that this second burnout was also the time when this crisis got started.
So yap. I realized that something was missing in my work and I was very confused, because again, I REALLY wanted to work as a professional illustrator but I wasn’t fully enjoying the process and I wasn’t feeling very proud of my own work or even my little achievements.
What I was offering at that time was more about beauty, aesthetic, make other people’s projects look beautiful and appealing with the help of my illustrations.
And that was fun for a while… But for me and my soul it was not enough.
In fact, I still haven’t updated my website, which is something that I will be doing very soon, once I’m ready.
I want to be totally honest and transparent with you so if you are curious you still can see that stage of my work on my website, in which is all about creating beautiful images with the only goal of making other’s people projects look beautiful.
If you take a look at my website these days, you can read that old mission that I’ve been delivering for the last few years.
The message was something like “lovely graphics sets to make your project look beautiful”.
This was fun for a while. I’ve learnt a lot so far from the whole experience and I’m still full of gratitude every time that one of my graphics set get sold.
However, I’ve changed, I have research a lot about my inner-self, I know myself much better and I realized that I wasn’t fully happy with my work and it has nothing to do with the quality, but with the purpose and the impact of my work in this world.
If you are an artist and your work is mainly about creating beauty and you are 100% happy and satisfied with that, that’s perfect. I mean it. Don’t get wrong. Creating beauty is a fantastic mission. I truly believe that creating beauty is necessary in this world.
But in my particular case, I chased that path and after a while I felt that something was missing. It was something to do with my feelings, my intuition, my soul… I don’t know. A feeling that was coming from my chest or my guts.
I would also attended several courses for entrepreneurs and most of them are usually the same. They all start by defining the unique value of the products or services that you are offering, your business’s mission, etc. And this part was so painful for me because I felt that my current mission or the value that I was offering was so poor for this world and couldn’t think of a better one.
This would lead to think that maybe I couldn’t offer something better than that. Because I spent literally months trying to figure out what was the unique value of my business or my illustrations and I couldn’t come up with something truly meaningful.
Ok. So reaching this point of the story, here’s my diagnosis.
The problem was that:
- There were many aspects of myself as a human being that were very unique, natural and with a lot of value but I hadn’t identified them yet, so I couldn’t consciously use them or offer them through my business or my illustration work. And…
- I still didn’t know the message that I wanted to express and share through my illustrations.
Those two things were what I was missing the whole time.
I wasn’t offering my best qualities, traits or natural talents because I didn’t know about them.
And the fact of not having clarity about my strengths, natural talents, etc. would make me think that maybe I didn’t have nothing good to offer.
Of course, that negative thought came from my scared mental voice and I’ve learnt already that the negative thoughts about oneself are usually very wrong.
So I allowed myself to doubt about that possibility and I chose to get to know myself better in order to identified those positive aspects about myself that were missing in my career. Because I knew that I wasn’t using my fullest potential.
I also had to think differently and just observe myself as a human being, forgetting about the idea that I had about illustrators in general. This way, I wouldn’t base my observation on comparing myself with others.
Then I started to research and trying to understand my personality, my past decisions, rescuing memories from my childhood and little by little I was identifying some of my natural traits that I wasn’t using in my work.
I must say that at the beginning it was a confusing process because I didn’t know how to connect those aspects about myself with my creative career.
For example, one of the natural talents that I discovered was my huge empathy. Since I can remember, since I was a child, I’ve always been very empathetic with my close friends.
I’ve always tried to encourage friends who are struggling with something, to try to motivate them, to inspire them, to help them to find a solution, to listen to their emotions to understand how they are feeling and why…
And it was something that I’ve always done with joy, and it feels natural and kind of easy for me to do it. But I never used that natural trait in my career or even with myself.
This is a little example, but once I identified empathy as one of my strengths, the idea of using my empathy as part of the purpose of my career made a lot of sense to me.
By the way, that’s one of the reasons why I have created this podcast.
I’ve talked a lot about my own story and my own particular case so far in this episode. Sorry if you were expecting something different or a magic formula to find out the purpose of your own creative work.
But this is what I have, my own journey and it’s the best way that I’ve found so far to try to inspire you to work on your own inner-self in order to get aligned with what you really are, and use your creative work to serve others in a way that you feel complete, proud and satisfied.
That’s the main message that I want to share with you today.
Be brave and research what are your best qualities, strengths, gifts, etc. It’s not always about the graphic style, your technique, how beautiful your artwork is…
Keep your mind open in the process because it may seem that those positive aspects about yourself and your creative work don’t make sense together.
But you will eventually find sense on all of this.
This is like a big and beautiful puzzle and you have to go deep on yourself and find those unique pieces that you already are.
And then, when you have a few of them, you can start trying to solve the puzzle and brainstorming new directions of your creative career.
I don’t want to end this episode without giving you an extra help so I want to share one of the very first books that I desperately read when I was trying to identify my own strengths.
That book is called “Now, Discover your Strenghts” by Marcus Buckingham.
This book there’s a pretty nice list of natural strengths. I didn’t feel like this book was a piece of art in terms of literature, but it really helped me to get started.
The author explains each strength by giving examples of people who behave in a certain way and the kind of job that they do, so you can resonate with them in different levels and see which strengths you feel more identified.
I think that this book also includes a code that you can register online and get access to do a test that is supposed to help you to identify your own strengths more easily.
I purchased a second-hand book, so the code was already taken. But when I read the book, I took some notes and made different marks depending on how strongly I resonated with each strength described.
And honestly, I trust more my intuition rather than the results of an online test.
By the way, one of the strengths that I identified was empathy, and since that day, I observed myself more closely in that aspect and I confirmed that, yes, that was definitely one of my natural strengths.
So we can say that thanks to that book, apart from other inner work that I’ve done, I ended up creating this podcast which I would have never believed if you would have asked me one year ago.
This is all that I wanted to share with you today.
I really hope that you found it interesting. If that’s the case it would help so much if you let me know by sharing your thoughts with me in the comments.
That’s basically my current fuel to keep creating this kind of content which I’m enjoying so much but it still feels super challenging.
And also, one my goals is connecting with real people that are willing to make this kind of journey along with me.
That’s it for today.
Thank you so much for your time, your attention and staying with me until the end. I’m super grateful for that because I know very well that your time is gold.
I hope to talk to you very soon.