4 years ago, my girlfriend (which is my wife now :) ) and I got into a mini argument late one night. It was nothing really, but when I was alone getting my mind off it, I started feeling weird.
First, my throat felt like it was swelling shut. Next, I had the overwhelming feeling of having a pallet of bricks on my chest.
My heart felt like it was about to explode and the room began to go black all around me.
Safe to say I was freaking out and Emily had to run me to the emergency room.
Turns out I was having a massive panic attack.
Looking back on it now it seems a bit silly but I thought I was dying. The stress and pressure I had put myself under for years finally caught up with me.
For months I kept this to myself as I thought I was going crazy. I felt I would be considered weak and any reputation I had built for myself would crumble.
Sadly, many of us bottle up these demons as we pursue a creative career.
At the end of the day, you’re a human being. It’s okay to feel not okay. It’s perfectly normal to feel inadequate at times as everyone deals with demons whether they are visible or not.
This episode is a friendly reminder that you’re not alone with your struggles and it’s important to not suppress them.
Recently I’ve been reading Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” Honestly, its really clarified this topic of vulnerability that I dealt with in the past and in the present.
The early years of life getting bullied led to me thinking I needed to be a badass in order to be cool.
When I started getting prescribed medication to treat my anxiety, I felt like I would get torn to pieces if this side of me was exposed.
The months I spent trying to hide it were the worst as it tore me down from the inside out. The more I held it in and felt I needed to struggle in silence, the more I was losing the game of controlling my mind.
How I felt at the time reminds of this quote from Mark in his book:
[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="1c1c1c" class="" size="32"]“The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a form of struggle.”[/perfectpullquote]
This is what I believe many of us creatives do, we bottle up our emotions and avoid the elephant in the room.
In my unhappiness, I realized I had to ditch the armor, swallow my pride and accept that I was not a badass.
I took action and responded by starting one of the hardest conversations of my life.
I’m paraphrasing a bit from the book but Mark states something along the lines of:
[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="1c1c1c" class="" size="32"]“When you feel shitty, it’s your brain telling you there is a problem that’s unresolved. Negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, you’re supposed to do something.”[/perfectpullquote]
The more I held in these emotions, the worse my issues got. However, I finally consulted a few close individuals around me who dealt with anxiety. What they had to say drastically changed my perspective on the matter.
Having the hard talk and getting if off my chest let me know I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t crazy.
The more I talked about it the better I began to feel.
About a month or so of talking it out to people I brought it publicly to Facebook and asked how other people, especially creatives, dealt with their anxiety.
The empathic and helpful responses I received blew my mind. I had around 100 comments of people stating how they fought it. This ended up becoming a community of encouragement on that little status.
This manifested into a blog post which I hope others find when they need a boost.
I feel by sparking that hard conversation, it let more people than just myself find a little more peace in battling their demons.
As a creative, I still deal with anxiety every day. My biggest fear isn’t to put a podcast into the world to be judged or to be on stage in front of hundreds of people. My biggest fear is getting caught up in my own head and losing control.
Keeping this to myself used to put me in some dark places. The new me is working on accepting these funks as part of being a human. This is my body signaling something needs to be attended to.
Maybe this approach will help you too?
You’re human and you’re not a badass and this is okay.
Give yourself permission to feel shitty for a bit but don’t avoid the situation—you just may be making things worse.
I encourage you to ditch the armor and get it off your chest with someone you feel comfortable with.
The low moments in our life make us appreciate when things are going right...and believe me, things will go wrong.
Use it all to your advantage and channel it into your work and your story. You never know who you’ll make an impact on when you embrace that you’re human.
It may feel impossible getting exposure when you’re just starting to pursue your creative path.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
I spent over 25 years of my life believing that having a successful art career was impossible. As I’ve become more intentional with my side projects and have seen the potential, my mindset has drastically shifted.
Think about it, technology is in your favor if you start today.
It’s so easy to connect with someone on the opposite side of the globe within seconds. Not to mention that more and more people in the world are getting access to the internet every day.
I really do believe that you are one scroll or swipe away from having your life changed.
Creating the right side project(s) and following these 3 ingredients will aid you in getting more exposure for your work.
These ingredients are:
Obviously, you could say there are more ingredients, but I believe these 3 are great to keep top of mind.
You might get lucky and stumble across an audience waiting to devour your style. However, I’d recommend doing a bit of research to have a plan.
I feel the best, yet the most saturated market out there is Instagram for getting your work noticed. It’s the top platform for engagement right now and I’ve seen many friends blow up and create a thriving creative career from it.
No matter the social platform you choose, research the best ways to utilize the strengths of the platform as you share your work.
I started using Instagram seriously close to 3 years ago when I first became addicted to hand lettering. It started off with me throwing work out randomly until I noticed there were specific accounts and hashtags that surrounded this type of style of work I was producing.
For example, there is the monstrous account of Goodtype that has well over 725K followers curated by my friend Brooke Bucherie. I remember when she had under 10K!
Just to note, Goodtype started off as a side project and has evolved dramatically to become more than just an Instagram account.
I noticed that she featured people’s lettering work who used the profile hashtags of #Goodtype and #strengthinletters on their lettering posts. I began using those hashtags and pushing my skills every day and ended up catching my first feature.
Safe to say I was hooked.
Another way I approach my research is with analytic tools such as Business Page Insights through Instagram and Iconosquare. These tools show you metrics such as your:
Understanding these metrics lets you know what type of work people are engaging with and when you should be posting.
With some research and experimentation, you can begin formulating a strategy while creating your own style that speaks to you and your future audience.
We live in a microwave era where people expect instant gratification and get discouraged when they don’t see immediate results.
The reason many creatives get exposure is because they are consistent and people know what to expect.
I follow people or accounts on social media strictly because they post work I’m inspired by and are posting daily or at a consistent time weekly.
Starting with Bob, he began hand lettering around the same time that I did as he took on the 365 daily challenge. Meaning he hand lettered a word for every day of the year.
Not only did he reach his goal but he ended up extending it to a whopping 534 consecutive days!
Not only did he improve his lettering skills, but he is now considered one of the revered names in a thriving lettering community. This has led to him getting great lettering projects, public speaking and workshop opportunities while building amazing relationships within the creative community.
The other great example of consistency is Charli. She built her career on Youtube by pumping out insightful content targeted to designers on her Youtube Channel: CharliMarieTV. Over this period of time, she’s amassed a following of over 40K subscribers.
On top of her drive, she is just a genuine and funny human being. Her hard work has landed her major opportunities such as her recent job of joining Nathan Barry’s ConvertKit staff.
As you can see, being consistent over time can make some pretty incredible things happen.
First off, I’m not talking about focusing on creating trendy work to go viral.
What I’m referring to is creating genuine work that is:
Instead of worrying about expensive targeted ads to force feed people your work, product or services; focus on creating something that can spark an emotion.
If you can immediately make someone stop and:
You know you’re doing something right.
Awhile back I posted a video called Ketchup Calligraphy. I made a quote saying “You’re the Ketchup to my Fries” while spelling ketchup with a ketchup bottle and fries with actual fries.
I use a lot of ketchup and this was just a funny concept to express my love for it.
This ended up getting featured by million follower accounts like Art Worldly and by the entrepreneur influencer Tai Lopez. What made it even better is that they prompted people in the description to “tag” someone who is the ketchup to their fries.
Next thing you know you have hundreds of people getting tagged to see this post and then all the traffic directs back to my account.
Here’s a quick tip, when you catch on to your work that is getting shared the most on Instagram, you can start giving prompts for people to tag someone who can relate below in the comments.
I think you’ll be surprised with the results if you experiment.
By focusing on work that is shareable, it may very well go viral across social. However, don’t create solely to go viral as you’re setting yourself up for defeat. Don’t force it—create work that resonates with you that can leave an emotional impression on an audience.
I’ve seen people blow up over a year and then there is people like me who have been chipping away over the course of years.
These things take time but I’ve noticed that the ones who blew up more quickly than I knew their research and audience and they posted more shareable work more often than I did.
More power to them, but I’m learning more and more as I go and sharing with you what I learn along the way. I wish I would’ve had these 3 ingredients top of mind when I started sharing art under my side project of Perspective-Collective and that’s why I share it with you now.
It’s rare to watch a side project blow up over night. That’s why I stress the long game as I’ve found the most fulfillment within the creative process and I enjoy the daily challenge of building this into something greater than myself.
So what’s that project you’ve been wanting to pursue?
What’s holding you back?
There’s never been a better time than now to start and technology is playing in your favor down the road.
Scratch that creative itch and start your side project today.