I’ve been thinking a lot about my teenager sister lately. Sometimes I worry she’s trying so hard to fit in, that she’ll end up feeling stressed and anxious for no good reason.
I asked her to stop worrying about what other people think. To grow comfortable with being herself. That standing out wasn’t a bad thing. To allow herself to like what she liked, and be proud of it. To be kind, both to herself and to others.
Fitting in isn’t comfortable, isn’t easy and doesn’t pay off.
That’s when I realized… doesn’t the same thing apply to your art?
We trick ourselves into believing that if we don’t do it like “them”, then we’re not doing it right. So we twist our own arms into fitting into an uncomfortable box only to end up looking like everyone else.
…but looking like everyone else doesn’t make us stand out. We only become invisible in the crowd.
It’s Scary To Be You
I get it.
While working on my children’s book, I surround myself with all my favorite books to keep inspiration up and let myself be influenced by what I love the most about each of them.
…and somewhere along that process I started doubting every choice I made. My art didn’t look at all like any of the books I look up to so much. I was afraid I was doing it wrong. I was afraid to create something so different no one would like it.
But isn’t that good? By feeling free to experiment, we’re creating something new, something ours. And the world needs that.
Thankfully I caught myself, put the books away and chugged along with my drawings. Right after that realization, my characters slowly started to gain a life of their own. They were no longer a poor imitation of someone else’s vision.
I felt like I was finally making progress.
Don’t worry about anyone’s ‘style’. Be yourself, hone your craft and tell your stories. Be comfortable with experimenting, failing, and doing it again.
Only you can do it. ‘Someone else’ is already taken, but there’s only one of you.
PS: In this Podcast episode that the Oatley Academy Team and I recorded together, my friend Sarah Mills made a wonderful comment on this topic. Worth a listen.