A few months ago, in the midst of feeling shitty about my status as an artist, I reached out to a UK-based lifestyle clothing store that is pretty well-known. They had previously posted an open call for commissions from illustrators through Instagram. Not knowing whether or not the commission was still open and if my portfolio was complete enough to sell me to such a legit company I took a risk and sent them an e-mail. Within minutes I got a response saying that they loved my work and, though the commission I was referring to was closed, they were excited to work with me on a new brand idea. So I sent them some draft designs and there was some nervous back and forth about pay but we finally came to an agreement. It all seemed really exciting and validating- until they decided at the last minute to pass on my work because "other designers had pieces that were more refined". In my head from the beginning this whole exchange was proof that I was a good artist and that I finally had a jumping off point to pursue professional freelance work. Then they rejected me and I felt extremely disappointed.
I tend to get in these creative cycles where I pursue many avenues of getting my work done and seen. And then I'll go months without creating anything. I go from doing too much to not enough. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance out the business and creative side of being a freelancer. It's tough.
A few months back when I told one of my housemates about this potential business venture he encouraged me to keep at the hustle. And I believe him. He's living proof of just how far hustle can take you- being followed by thousands on Instagram, getting paid to travel, and making rent just off of selling Adobe Lightroom presets it took an hour or two to create. One of my favorite inspirations, Austin Kleon, is all about the hustle. This September he reminded us of the original four h's in the 4-H organization's pledge: "Head, Heart, Hands, and Hustle".
I think I tend to separate those into Head and Heart VS. Hands and Hustle. As if these two modes of being are diametrically opposed to each other. My hustle gets so big and overwhelming that I freeze. I become paralyzed by what I think I can't do or by the impatience of having to wait for everything I want. It's emotional paralysis at it's best. But lately, as I've been serving myself with the knowledge and empowerment of being graceful to mental health, I've translated that into serving my artistry with grace.
I refuse to believe that all my work is for nothing.
I refuse to believe that I am not a good enough artist.
I refuse to believe that I'm making no progress.
I refuse to believe that I will have to settle for a job I hate.
I want to work hard everyday and build bridges one plank at a time, one cement layer at a time, and see all those little nothings turn into something big and beautiful.
I want to have GRACE & HUSTLE. Not one or the other. But both.
And I hope you find both in your creative pursuits too.