An artist wearings many hats

AKA how I started warming up to content creation as an artist

You may have heard of the starving artist but being an artist in 2023 means you’re one who also wears many hats.

Not like this though.

“Wearing many hats” is corporate lingo for: you do the work of 7 different roles and get ALL of the imposter syndrome that comes with it! Yay. (Sarcasm.) Let’s get into it.

One of my work friends, Jenna, wrote a brilliant blog post of her own about Social Media and Mental Health in honor of May being Mental health awareness month. Reading through it had me shaking my head and had war flashbacks to every moment when I hated being an artist in this modern age and social media. From barely managing my own self-doubts as an artist finding my voice and footing, I had to juggle being my own social media manager, marketer, copywriter, and video editor. As a Virgo sun, I love learning new skills but NOT LIKE THIS. Not when it felt like I have to fight against compromising my values as an artist.

Art made for consumption but we’re still starving

I avoided putting any effort into even entertaining the thoughts of making videos for a while. I said with my whole chest that I’m an illustrator, not an influencer or video editor. I didn’t want my art to hinge on the first catchy 3 seconds and the right SEO. There was a lot of pressure to “have to get right.”

Even when drawing, I tried to film myself doing certain strokes and such to mimic the style that every big art accounts do. I thought following The FormulaTM would almost guarantee my account to blow up. (Nothing is ever that easy on Instagram.) The pressure to turn aspects of my art into bite-sized experiences for social media consumption made the art creation process less enjoyable for me. At this point, I asked myself, “Well who the hell is this art for if I hate it and the same 2 people are liking it??”

Fighting for my damn life to stay authentic

Okay so… “Selling out” wasn’t exactly selling. Since that didn’t work, I had to return to square one. The kindergarten sandbox.

That’s not an asinine corporate phrase, but it is a metaphor that worked for me. See, I’m all about nostalgia and connecting to your inner child. So I did the equivalent of handing a younger version of me some crayons and told her to have at it. I started making art that was gut-wrenchingly self-indulgent material, toe-curling cringe aka some HOT off-the-press anime self-inserts.

That was one of the better “performing” reels that I created after the art was created. (More tips on how to fake an art process in the future.)

By letting my art feel like play and experimental again, I had to deal with the fear of being seen—Like really seen for the fandom geek that I am. Almost a year later, my community looks like a San Diego Comic Con and that’s what I aimed for in the first place!

Embracing the journey of sucking

No, you won’t find the magic secret that will allow you to create art without engaging in the social media space here. However, I will say that once I embraced the chaos and most importantly, allowed myself to be an amateur in the public space, I started finding ways to create the content that I enjoy creating. It does get easier.

I like to say burnout tends to occur when your work and your values are out of alignment. By giving yourself the grace and permission to pursue what you enjoy, and finding a consistent system to create around that, you’ll build the following you desire. Tiktok’s algorithm has done WONDERS and literal miracles for me in that realm.

Combat your content creation fears in a 1v1

I always tell the story of how I posted my first video that had a voice over and I wanted to violently puke after posting it. It’s meant to be a “hee hee so true, bestie” relatable moment. But everybody’s deeply concerned looks always remind me that I had a ways to go in dealing with my self-image, perfectionism, fear of rejection, etc... But hey! If I could get over that hurdle with nothing but some Power Rangers fanart and a dream, you can too!

The best way to combat the pressure of social media and content creation is to make this as much about you as it is about the people you want to join your community. When you make art that makes you happy that Usually acts like a bat signal for your people. (Ask me about that one time I thirsted after the cat in Hocus Pocus, and the voice actor’s girlfriend saw the Tiktok video.)

(That’s actually the full story, tbh.)