I am hopelessly behind on my freelance work, and only one of 3 things I’m supposed to be doing is stalled because of someone else. The other two? One is for an old client from my old job. He gives me Vietnam flashbacks, and it’s not even his fault. We met back in November, and he was like “I want you to do something amazing for this homepage.” No pressure. The other thing is print work. I know I need more print work in my portfolio, so I said I’d give it a shot, but I sat down yesterday to get going and my whole brain just locked up. Like “print? layout? DESIGN? wtf are you doing to me?”
It occurred to me that I haven’t designed much of anything in months. My day job is illustration, and I’ve gotten better at that, but design? Not so much. Frankly, I’ve never felt good at it. I’ve had a brilliant moment or two, but I’ve never been like my friends. They kick ass consistently. I’m just good at business. I survive as a designer because I know how to show up on time and meet a deadline.
It’s one of those days.
To survive in a creative industry, you have to have a little bit of cock and swagger. You have to be able to walk into an interview like you believe in you, or nobody will want to hire you. You have to be able to look a client in the eye and say “I can totally do this.” Sometimes, it’s true and you just know that what you’re doing is going to work out. Sometimes, you look at your monitor and think, “God….I suck.” Add to that the seemingly endless ticktockticktockticktock of being a web designer, knowing that one day the internet will outrun you. One day, actionScript 7 is gonna come out and that shit will be so much like Calculus that you’ll be screwed. Ticktockticktock. Chinese water torture.
“How do you show up and design when you’re having an off day?” Katy once asked.
“If you figure that out, let me know.”
I still feel like I’m just running around being allowed to call myself a designer just cause nobody’s found me out yet. Like, one day, the design industry is going to point at me like pod people and croak “not one of ussssss.” It would be so nice to be one of those people who knows that what they do for a living is what they’re meant to be doing. Thing is, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing; the universe didn’t hand me any grand talent on a platter. No matter what you do, there’s always going to be somebody somewhere who’s better at it. The trick is to be zen enough to accept that fact and keep going anyway. Zen is not my strong suit. You have to learn to tell the voice of doubt to shut the fuck up. That voice that says “what if this is actually lame and I don’t know it?” “People are going to see this and be like ‘wtf’….” “This is a seriously questionable use of type…” “Does this look like ass? Do I even know the difference?” You have to learn to say “you know, I’m going to do this thing the way I am going to do this. I can only do what I know how to do.”
“But there’s always room for improvement….”
Shut up, voice.
Some days, you can look at yourself and say “I still have a lot to do, but I’m getting somewhere.” Other days, you just think “oh my God, I have to learn actionScript3, Podcasting, practice the piano (because maybe THAT’S what I was really supposed to do), work out, pay bills, clean out the litter box, remember that Pearl’s birthday is tomorrow, and…..” It’s exhausting. All you can do is metaphorically sit yourself down and say “I need you HERE…we have to do this…please, get it together.”
It’s just a bad day.
I’ll have a banana and everything will be fine.
I will get through this because there is no other choice.
Now, stop whining and get back to work.