Find Your Community
And Avoid "Fitting in" Potholes
Each month members of the IlloGuild answer a question together and our 10th question is:
Is it lonely being an illustrator?
I was a lone creative traveler for a long time. I was fine with that because I didn’t know any better. My parents are not artists. My siblings do not claim to be either even thought they are always cheering me on. I know creativity is in my bloodline. Among my family tree is a comedian, actors, radio hosts, and a fine artist. However, I’ve never got the chance to discuss this creative thread with them. I love them dearly, but due to distance I was never able to shadow them in any way. I was grateful to somehow inherit this super power and yet it was a mystery to me. An unknown path. Creativity seemed to fuel me and yet I did not know what this meant for my life specifically. Could I be an artist for my whole life? What did it look like for me? This was before you could search anything on the internet and find a video, blog, article, detailed tutorial, or a niche group you can join to ask a question. Growing up, I had so many unanswered questions and no where to find them.
I hit many potholes on my earlier travels… I am an ambivert. Which means I am both introvert AND extrovert. I can relate to both sides of the coin. I like being alone AND I don’t like being alone. I’m friendly, chatty, and outgoing, but I have inconsistent limits to my outgoing-ness. I’m a bit of a contradiction. Being both sides of the coin means I’m flexible and complicated. This seesaw back and forth, made growing up a bit of a circus in my opinion. I’m a chameleon and I wanted so badly to “get along with everyone! I learned that “fitting in” is a road hazard…huge gaps to avoid!
How do you know you’ve hit a “fitting in” pothole?
You constantly compare yourself to others.
You feel misunderstood.
You take on characteristics that are not natural for you.
You’re tired of trying so hard.
You make decisions through a fuzzy filter like wearing thick fear goggles!
Along the way, I developed misconceptions and contradicting about what being an artist meant. It looked exciting AND lonely. Out of reach AND almost in reach. Easy BUT exclusive. Most of all it was uncharted territory. It was complicated, like me. I was caught between following my own desires and doing what everyone else was doing. It was normal teenage drama coupled with the tremendous FEAR goggles of being too weird to belong. It was uncomfortable.
Turns out, your life is a constant seesaw of emotion and this desire to belong is a natural instinct. Relationship circles constantly rotate around you. Your family, your work group, your friends from childhood, your friends from class…etc. Different circles overlapping and playing a different part in your story. We are all swinging by each other as we experience a variety of emotions. Every path different from the other. Trying to fit in or comparing yourself is like dipping into someone elses’ gravitational pull. It’s disastrous and confusing! If you somehow avoid the “pothole of fitting in”, you begin to naturally find your true kindred spirits. The road is not always smooth and inevitably there will be roadblocks, obstacles or detours. Your kindred spirits are a necessary navigation tool.
How do you know you’ve found kindred spirits?
They make you feel seen and understood.
You can relate and embrace your differences at the same time.
They are there for advice, for commiserating, and to keep you accountable with YOUR goals.
They will keep you moving on the right path.
And you gladly do the same in return.
When did I finally avoid the potholes and find community?
I kept creating and following a bumpy path because quite frankly it WAS the ONLY path for me. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was being commissioned for paintings by my teachers. I designed the cover of our yearbook. I had many friends from different circles and they ALL knew I was the artist in their group. I drew whenever I possibly could. I still had no idea where I really fit in. My art teacher informed me I could turn these skills into a well paying job. I could be a graphic designer, an art teacher, art director, or a variety of other jobs! Woah! This little push lead me to Colorado State University. Art school was the golden ticket for me and yet led to the biggest pothole yet!!! The nastiest comparison trap you can fall into… Suddenly, I was an imposter! I was a small fish in a very big pond! I admired the artists that proudly displayed their art in the galleries. It seemed to me they deserved it. Well on their way to being the next big thing. Who did I think I was to call myself an “artist”? This nobody from nowhere. This massive imposter syndrome led me to graphic design. I obediently shuffled into the path of least resistance. A spot where I could hide before someone kicked me out. Fear goggles firmly on my face. Potholes in clear view. I have been a designer for almost 20 years now.
However…I missed the invisible creative “being” in me. It had been tamed. I had mastered the art of “fitting in” and doing what I thought others needed me to do. I had missed my mark. My old art supplies were rotting away in the closet. My own voice silenced. The stories I wanted to tell…denied. In that time, I got married to my incredible husband, lived in several places, and had two beautiful children. Yet, I was all but parked halfway through my creative journey. It was this restless moment, this feeling of being a disconnected from what I really wanted to do, that ultimately led me to a breakthrough. Like a river wildly building behind a damn and then suddenly being let loose!
I innocently took a MAKE ART THAT SELLS CLASS and then I knew what I had never known… I wasn’t alone. There were others on a similar creative journey as me. Perhaps farther along on the road or just beginning, but similar. And many of them were hitting potholes too. They shared things I had thought and expressed feeling I felt. I don’t know why it took until that moment to feel understood, but it did. I had finally found my people and it has changed everything.
How do you find your creative community? I feel that I kinda stumbled upon my creative community. Or did I? There are many ways to put yourself in a place to find kindred spirits.
Take a class in a subject matter you’re interested in.
Join an online group with similar interests.
Join and participate in a creative prompt on social media.
Share and comment on other artists posts.
Reach out to creatives you admire.
Most of all, don’t silence your voice! Follow your joy!
Who’s in your community? Who can you turn to when you need to feel connected and understood? What are you seeing through your fear googles? When did you start your creative journey or do you still feel like you are at the start line?
NEXT Time ON The Creative Road: Fulfilling the Creative Bucket List
Each month members of the IlloGuild, an international group of illustrators, answer a question together. Head over to IlloGuild page to read ALL the other responses.
Here are a few awesome responses from my friends: