A writer and artist in recovery…?

In my blog manifesto, I mentioned being a writer and artist in ‘recovery’, ostensibly from my time spent as craft entrepreneur.  It was one of the most painful episodes in my life, culminating in depression and crippling anxiety. Like Matt Haig said in his essay on depression and Christmas– “Depression often occurs when it looks like we have reasons to be happy”. It appeared I was doing ‘well’ at something I’d always wanted to do. Except as it turns out, it wasn’t what I wanted. And I was dying inside.

Love-Art-Depression

So much about being an artist is painful. You have to be competitive, and have thick skin, you need to know what you’re all about, and have good boundaries. Like the books say you gotta be brave, you gotta be enterprising and perhaps most of all, you’ve got to have confidence. I always knew Art was a con, and they don’t get called con-artists for nothing. ‘Con’ stands for confidence after all.

But what I felt was vulnerable, and exposed. I lacked the courage and conviction that comes with a true sense of purpose. So why freelance designer/maker?
I had reasons:

– a redundancy and few job opportunities made self-employment seem plausible,
– the sense that I’d never know if I never tried,
– an ‘opportunity’ with the rise of the craft trend,
– having something to prove by ‘representing’ my family art heritage.
I felt an enormous pressure to make it work, despite constantly winging it. I have an arts education, but I never trained in design or textile art.

Even in the face of success; arts council funding awards, participating in exhibitions, making art for famous folk, having projects in national magazines, being a professional artist confirmed all of my worst fears about art. That it wasn’t valued. It was exceptionally hard to get paid. Paid in a real way that covers your time and your skills and allows you to eat and pay rent. I felt taken advantage of every time I took on a poorly paid job opportunity for ‘exposure’ or future goodwill down the line. There weren’t enough hours in the day to make the work. I was on less than minimum wage and I was selling myself short.

The more I began to question my unhappiness, the more I began to realise this wasn’t what I actually wanted. The work I attracted was taking me in a direction I didn’t want to go. I was hesitant. I didn’t love what I was doing, and it didn’t love me back. In the end the realisation was liberating. We are ALL allowed to change our minds. Remember just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There was relief in admitting this gig wasn’t for me.

The Fool follows his heart over a cliff…

Despite the agonising self-doubt, frustration, resentment, and angst, I am grateful for the experience being a freelance artist gave me. I wish I’d done it when I was younger, braver, less afraid to fail. It’s true, you don’t know if you don’t try, and that was perhaps my best reason to do it after all. To my surprise, I haven’t given up on ‘being an artist’ – I just need to rethink what my version of Art really is.

This stuff is difficult to talk about but I want to share my experiences as a ‘failed artist’. And what I am continuing to learn from the experience. Stuff about depression, identity, re-framing failure, and evaluating my arts education. And perhaps through sharing, gain some insights on myself and what I want to achieve. I hope you’ll come along for the ride, and as ever I look forwards to hearing from you in the comments….

 

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8 comments

  1. First of all, you are so brave. It’s one of your traits that I admire the most. And in no way are you ‘failed’. Like you say, we’re all allowed to change our minds. You and me both, have probably done it too often in life. 😉 You can be whatever you want and I know that you will find your own version of being an Artist. Things are very rarely what we think they are, but coming to the conclusion that you don’t want to do something is just as valuable as realising what you want to do.
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I know it how hard it was! Xx

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    1. Thanks Chiaki, if only finding what you DO want to do was as easy as discovering what you DON’T 😉 As ever thanks for all your encouragement, and for thinking I’m brave. Perhaps being brave is just feeling afraid and doing it (whatever it is) anyway. xX

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  2. An absolutely fantastic post, Bridgeen. I’ve gone through similar experiences a few times in my life. I especially love (and agree with) “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Everything you wrote could be helpful to people in all walks of life. I hope it finds the audience it deserves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rich, that’s much appreciated. If you’ve gone through this process a few times,I’m sure this won’t be my last. I just wish there was a quicker way to learn than trial and error! I’m glad this post found you as an audience anyway 🙂

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  3. I agree with Chiaki – you didn’t fail. It just wasn’t the right thing for you. And, I’m sure that a lot of people who got swept up in the trend probably found the same thing (some of them dealt with it with far less grace than you have/are – I remember one person having a melt down on Twitter). The important thing is that you had the courage to try and you had the courage to quite when you realized it was very wrong for you and your mental health.

    Art is so under valued, especially art that’s deemed to be “crafts” or “easy” to replicate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Anne, I think all art is under appreciated really. For some reason it’s one of those things that captialism has told us is not worth anything because hand-made is priceless, ergo not worth anything to start with!!? It’s very f**ked up because if artists stopped creating there would be no TV/MOVIES/MUSIC/TOYS /ADVERTISING – all the visual things that are multi -million dollar businesses- would have nothing to sell. It’s turn it’s all a con, confidence, selfworth and market worth. It’s all relative, or subjective. However you want to put it.x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] mentioned before my desire to re-frame past ‘failures’ as lessons learned. I’m discovering most ‘failures’ […]

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  5. […] the idea of ‘re-framing failure‘ I must also examine the flip-side, and consider ‘redefining success’. […]

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