Should you be reading this?
For the past year I’ve been concentrating on doing what I should do to be a successful freelance illustrator. I followed all the people on twitter that I should. I read all the blogs that I should. I signed up to all the social networks that I should. I tried to make my work more like I thought I should, and I submitted that work to all the places that I should.
I’m sure a lot of other people are trying to “make it” following the “do what you should” model too.
Ok, so what next?
Well, all the people you follow on twitter are tweeting about things you should do. All the blogs you read are writing posts about things you should do and work you should make. All the places you submit work to are either, rejecting it in favour of work you should do or taking it on and making money from it, which you most definitely should do.
Ok, so what next?
Don’t drown. That is the sole aim of doing what you should as far as I can tell. Jump into the deepening sea of things you should do and tread water like crazy. Don’t even think about getting anywhere yet. Just don’t drown, keep doing what you should do. If you’re lucky the mythical boat called Success will come along eventually and pluck you from the murky waters.
The trouble is that if (not when) that happens you’ll be incredibly tired. What will you do then? Also, what should you do then?
I’ve noticed recently that doing the things I should do has been getting in the way of doing the things I want to. Which is what got me here in the first place. I also noticed that I don’t really like doing what I should. I have no enthusiasm for it and I don’t put my heart into it. I just try not to drown. Which of course is the point, but I don’t even like swimming all that much. I’d rather be sitting on the shore doing something that I wanted.
It was doing what I wanted that got people interested in my work, that got me my first freelance commissions, that got me a book deal, and that made me quit my job and start on this path. But I’ve been concentrating so hard recently on doing what I should do that I’ve almost forgot what I want to do.
Everything I do has suffered because of that little question, should I be doing this? My posts to Quoteskine have been minimal lately, and at first I thought I was uninspired. But I think rather than lack of inspiration, it’s that word “should” again. I started Quoteskine as a daily project because I wanted it to be, but now I feel like I should post every day so people don’t lose interest. I have built up this massive pressure on myself that I should be posting drawings every day. And something I do because I should do will never be as good as something I do because I want to.
Even this blog has suffered. I should be blogging more.
I’m also thinking I should make this post shorter.
That’s why I’ve posted what by now must seem like an unrelated video clip. This is the trailer for the documentary Beautiful Losers. The film is about a group of artists, and a lot of them are favourites of mine. The thing I love about this film is that it shows you the power of making art because you want to. All the artists were making things that they wanted to see and that interested them, and ultimately that’s why it worked.
The even better thing about this film is looking at where these guys are now. Most of them haven’t changed the way they work. They’ve become massively successful, produced work for some huge clients, built personal empires, or just done enough to get by. But they’re still producing work that they want to. I wonder if any of them has ever even asked themselves “should I be doing this?”
That is the point of this long rambling blog post. I’m going to start doing more that I want and less that I should. Obviously there will be some overlapping and some things that I want to do will also be things that I should do. But as Stephen Powers says in that trailer…
"I have the right to be exactly who I am, unadulterated, and bring it to you raw, uncut."
That’s how I want to be, and if people buy into that and give me work or buy my stuff that’s awesome. But if they don’t then it won’t change anything. I got into art because I wanted to, I quit my job to work for myself because I wanted to, and if I make it a success I’m sure it’ll be because I want to as well.
So if you’ve made it to the end of this post then thanks for reading it. I just hope you read it because you wanted to and not because you felt like you should.
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