Part of the job of a freelancer is to promote yourself like crazy. Websites, blogs, social media sites, forums, it’s practically a part-time job just getting all of your work out there so it can be seen. One of the other things you’re supposed to do is put on an optimistic, confident and successful face so that people will think you’ve got everything together. You have to be your own PR guy, trying to make sure people see all of your latest work, without coming across as a narcissist, something I have no idea if I’m doing well or not.
You’re not supposed to talk about the bad things because you don’t want a reputation as a complainer. Unfortunately, it can also make people think that nothing ever goes wrong. I may get to do what I love for a living, but it’s far from perfect. I’m an artist, so naturally that means I’m neurotic and more than a little obsessive-compulsive. Working alone at home all the time, you live inside your head a lot, and that’s not always a nice place to be when things aren’t going right.
Social media is a necessary evil, but there are days I’d rather not deal with it. I’ve come close to deleting my Facebook account more than once this year because being self-employed, you have to be on it a lot, even when you don’t want to be.
Being an editorial and political cartoonist, some days it feels like you wake up in the morning, have a shower, and then wade into mud and shit. There are many days I hate drawing cartoons about politics and politicians, because you see the same patterns of waste and corruption being repeated year after year, regardless of which party is in power. But it’s a job, like any other. You do it, because that’s what pays the mortgage.
Looking back on the blog entry earlier this year that talked about my big plans for 2011 made me laugh out loud. Apparently, I was determined to learn to sculpt, to get familiar with Adobe Illustrator (again) and to learn a lot more 3D in Photoshop. I have all of the materials, software, books and resources to work on all three of those, and yet, I never made them a priority. Put those in the FAIL column.
In that same entry, however, I vowed to paint every chance I got, to work less and play more, and to be less cynical, each of which is still a work in progress. My wife and I did manage to go on a small vacation to Vancouver Island in June and it was wonderful, one of our best to date, so I count that as a victory on the ‘play more’ side of things, but I didn’t camp at all this year, and that’s something I regret. Camping is something I love to do, and I didn’t make time for it even once, nobody’s fault but my own. I didn’t really work less, in fact, I worked very hard all year, but I did manage to say ‘No’ more often when it came to work I didn’t want to do.
As for being less cynical, let’s just say I’m making progress. I’ve seen some of the best sides of people this year, and I want to focus more on that, but I’m still too judgmental for my own good about people’s seemingly endless need to keep digging deeper holes for themselves while blaming it on somebody else, hence the reason I’m such a Scrooge this time of year. I’m not a violent person by any means, but I do have my angry and depressed periods on a regular basis, and I take many things way too personally. But I’m able to let it go a lot easier these days, and I’ll attribute that to getting older and not wanting to waste my time on things I can’t change. Nobody’s perfect, especially me, and life’s too short. So I’m still going to work on being less cynical, but I’m going to try to refrain from beating myself up about it.
One of the absolute worst days of my year was the deadline for finishing my first DVD from PhotoshopCAFE. I had been dealing with almost constant back pain in early Spring for about 2 months, despite regular yoga, stretching, exercise and massage. Sitting for longer than 20 minutes was excruciating. Recording the DVD was an incredibly stressful exercise, and it seemed that everything I did while editing it went wrong. Knowing I was about to turn 40 had sunk me into a deep depression, as my midlife crisis was peaking. Worst of all, our cat Maya was in failing health and nothing could be done to help her. So on the night of March 18th, I was up the entire night without any sleep at all in my office, editing the DVD for the next day’s deadline, watching our very sick and disoriented cat in the office with me, knowing we were putting her to sleep the next day, and my back in excruciating pain. I alternated between editing a section, getting up to stretch, trying to comfort Maya, and wiping away a lot of tears. This went on the entire night, and even though I finished the DVD very early the next morning, I really didn’t give a damn, because that afternoon, we had to go put our cat down. Needless to say, I didn’t celebrate my 40th birthday a week later.
And still, I consider 2011 a great year. Stuff happens in everybody’s life, and given what some friends have dealt with this year, mine was relatively easy. Incidentally, I’ve discovered that my recurring back pain was entirely stress related and I thankfully have had very few recurrences.
Freelancing is a tough gig, no doubt about it, and some people can’t handle it, because if you’re not always working, you’re thinking about work, even when you’re on vacation. Balance is an illusion, at least as far as I’m concerned. I know enough people in this ‘job’, that it’s a pretty universal trait. But everybody has it tough, no matter what they do for a living.
So if you follow artists like me, you’ll read a lot of inspiring messages that tell you that you can do whatever you want if you work hard enough, and I firmly believe that’s true, but never believe it’ll be easy. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. You rarely get time off, 12-14 hour days are the norm, you don’t get vacation pay, stat holidays or benefits, and your income is directly related to how hard you work and scramble. So as much as it’s mostly good, sometimes even great, there’s a lot of crap, too, and you just have to live and work through it, and keep moving forward. And still, I wouldn’t want to do anything else than what I’m doing now, even knowing I’ll probably have to live through bad and worse days ahead, too.
So there’s a little dose of reality. As much as I’ll post that everything is great, and often it is, there’s a lot I don’t talk about, because at the end of the day, this is a business, and that would just be bad PR.