Welcome to the new year! 2011 went crazy fast, didn't it?
I had a great run this past year, I accomplished a lot of forward movement both personally and career-wise, and I have a lot of big things planned for this upcoming year. I am still on a mission to continue growing Shore Society as much as possible. There are some really exciting things coming up that I have to keep to myself for a bit longer (I am so not good at this!) and I'll be sure to share as soon as I can.
I never make solid resolutions, I find them impossible to follow up on and they only end up making me feel lazy/apathetic. I know what my goals are, so I don't feel the need to hold myself to a timeline or standard. My own standards are enough. Most designers and creatives are their own biggest critics, and I am no different. To this point, I've put together a little list of things that I've learned in the last year that will hopefully help you to have another creative and productive year, too.
Be kind to yourself.
It's easy to get caught up in comparing your work to the work of others. Hell, I'll spend hours online looking for inspiration for my job or for fun, and it's always an endless spiderweb of stumbling upon talented people and beautiful design. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you keep the comparison part of your brain in check. You have no idea who might be looking at your work and thinking "I wish I would have thought of that" just as you are to theirs, so it's best to accept someone else's ingenuity and move on. Allow it to inspire you and nothing more. Don't beat yourself up. You are the only you, and that in itself is valuable.
Work outside of your medium.
Sometimes I find myself working only digitally for months, and other times I am fully drawing by hand. Never feel like one way is "your" way and that you have to stick to it. That's an ongoing struggle for a lot of illustrators—the age old "do I have to have a 'style'?" question—but I think whatever your hand touches will likely bear enough similarity to hold together. Plus, it shows you are capable of working many ways, which can attract different types of clients or projects.
Have fun. Don't critique it, just do it. Don't feel like you have to publish everything you do. Keeping some of your work to yourself prevents you from thinking "what if it's not 'good enough'?" which we all know is the force that crushes our ability to create. Don't feel like designing/drawing/writing? Build a shelf. Bake a cake. Paint some shoes with glitter. Do anything that allows you to play and enjoy yourself. That attitude will carry over into the way you work, allowing you to loosen up and enjoy the process rather than focusing on the end result.
I have to say, Twitter is awesome. I cannot even express how many valuable connections I've made through something as seemingly stupid as Twitter. It's so easy to not only follow the designers and brands you love, but to give them a shout whenever you have something to say. I've found that people are highly responsive to praise and feedback, and it's probably because many of the designers you love and respect are just like you. They put their work out there for the world to see, and of course they're going to love hearing that you're a fan, who wouldn't? People are usually much nicer than you'd ever expect. So if you have a question, ask. If you like something, say so. Give someone props, share their link, post some of your own inspiration. This to me is the right way to use Twitter. Some people may care that you're tweeting about being tired or that you had a fabulous dinner, but you have to turn your focus outward in order for that energy to make its way back to you. Same goes for your favorite blogs—visit them when you can, comment often, feed their network and they will eventually start feeding yours.
I haven't written a long post like that in a while, so I hope I didn't lose you there ;) Everyone's path is different, but these are some of the things that have worked for me and hopefully they can help you in some way. What have you learned in the last year? Any tips to share with the peanut gallery?
My biggest wishes to all of you for an awesome 2012...after all, it's our last year to make something happen before the Mayan calendar runs out!*
*Actually, this means the world will enter a new era, and this is considered a lucky time to be alive. Don't believe me? There's an episode of the podcast "Stuff You Should Know" all about this, you can listen to it here.