Sunday, 21 April 2013

After Graduation

After having written this for myself and a reminder for my university friends, I feel that it is appropriate and useful for more people than I had originally envisioned. 
So, I'm posting it here too, so that others may benefit. At all times I have been striving to make this blog a non-glossy view of what life is like as a creative in university, and now, after university. I believe that this can all be done with a positive spin so as not to send anyone further into doom and despair. But also to create some sense of solidarity and knowing that others are going through tough times too.

Here goes!

 It has been brought to my attention by a very dear friend, that a lot of us graduates are in the same boat, we're confused and we're suffering for it. Yet no one is talking about it.

 For some of us we may be burying our heads- in a day job (great you're earning some money!) or in searching for a job or in despair of never finding a job. In the past few weeks I've been through all 3 of those stages. Each one with their own distinctive bad taste.

 There is another stage, and that is successfully making a break of it with your creative work. I think that what we are seeing through social media is that everyone is only posting about the positive stuff- the opportunities they're getting, the good things they've done, etc etc. AND OF COURSE! Its hard enough to be positive in these confusing times... and we want to keep our own morale high in order to have a chain effect and keep ourselves being positive in order to encourage more of the same.

 Creativity and positivity feeds off itself, and if you've let yourself drop to low levels of either of these, it can feel like getting a rusty old car to start. Or one of those lawnmowers where you have to pull the cord. Be kind to yourself. Do something that you KNOW you can accomplish- if its getting back into drawing, and you know you find it easier if you have some reference to draw from... just copy a photograph or whatever... build up your confidence this way. Small, easy steps. It can be tempting to have the mindset that creativity and creative learning is linear. I can assure you it isn't. It comes in waves, and you have to ride both the highs and the lows. Just because a few months ago you were able to come up with amazingly creative things and not rely on reference photos, doesn't mean that you will be able to do that now. It is a possibility, yes, but you have to work back up to it! Otherwise you end up taxing yourself too much and then telling yourself that you're no good, because you haven't been able to accomplish this thing that you may or may not have been able to achieve even at your peak of creative momentum.

Breathe. Copy (its ok to do so! Just don't palm it off as your own further down the line!) and don't put too much pressure on yourself to create something that is going to make you get noticed and become a famous successful illustrator (or insert profession) Focus on having fun, and building up that creative muscle again, that has wasted away due to the stress of finding a job or moving back home, or just adjusting to life in general. Yes life does get in the way of creativity sometimes. But having an attitude where everything has to be serious if you're going to get anywhere in the business is not good either. Have fun, try to rediscover why you chose this profession in the first place. Make a list of what you enjoy drawing, and all of your interests. Draw something for yourself to put up on your wall. You deserve it, and although it may seem like a self indulgent act, it can remind you of what you love and why you do it.

I've found that yes, I post some pretty positive things on social media, and I also post a LOT of positive or spiritual quotes... that probably gets quite annoying for some of you. But my wall is for me, and its my way of sharing some positivity. Ok, once you've seen the millionth quote of the day, then you may find that you're not even reading any of it, its not sinking into your psyche and you're thinking... STEPH! for goodness sake stop spamming my wall!

However, for the most part, my time after graduation has been anything BUT rosy. I've had periods where I've had no motivation. I've had times where I've felt like I don't love illustration anymore, and why am I doing it? I've had times where I've thought my work was rubbish. Deep down I still know that my love for illustration is there, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten as far as I have done. I would have quit ages ago. I know that my work isn't rubbish, because I know that a lot of my work comes from the heart. And when you are honest with yourself and your work, then it is impossible for it to be rubbish. It is a true expression of yourself. ('But what if I myself am rubbish?' says a little voice in our heads... ) tell it to shut up, because everyone I know is far from rubbish and everyone I know brings their own unique quality to everything they do, and that is amazing.

Anyway, back to everything relating to post graduation... I like to put out my achievements into the online world... so that it marks in MY mind that I have taken a step forward, stepped towards my goal or just kept things ticking over. I hope that seeing people carry on doing work is also motivating for others. However, I have found myself sometimes thinking negatively about others achievements... instead of thinking - 'oh how wonderful! this person got one of their books published!'... I'm sat there thinking 'Uff, someone has ALREADY gotten their book published? Why am I not a published illustrator yet?'
But what we have to realise is that everyone is different. Many people are struggling with what to do after graduation, and it can be really hard sometimes to make ourselves feel like we are doing enough of what we love... or whether we even love it anymore!

I feel like it is good to be honest and not create a skewed view of how we are doing... sometimes. Voice these feelings to other people in the same boat. See how they feel. Talk to your friends who are graduates too. Most likely they're going through some tough times in one way or another, and if they aren't right now, then I'm sure they were not too long ago. Ask them how they keep themselves afloat, and ask for their support, whilst offering your support to them. We all got through a degree together, so lets all stick together in the aftermath and out into the big wide world!

Creative work is hard, but we do it because deep down we love it. Be kind and understanding of yourself, after graduation, a lot changes. It can seem like you've missed the boat. But remember... there are people in this world... who even at the age of 70, take up something new. There is a  70year old woman who took up tango at the age of 70, and now competes in competition. At 80, she took up trapeze. At 90 she is still doing all of these things and yoga too. And if that isn't inspiration to carry on learning, and a lesson that it is never too late to do the things you love or learn something new, then I don't know what is.

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