We all get stuck sometimes. We feel like we're spinning our wheels and behind an immovable force. I have often felt this way. Even more so recently.
I've been in business (design & animation) since 2011. I started my company while I was still in college and slowly grinded away one client project after another. I remember one of my first clients was for a catering company that needed a logo. I was referred the gig by my school's career services department so I naively assume it was a trustworthy client. I designed the logo and sent it to the client for final approval and never heard from them again. I had forgotten to protect my art and they ripped me off. They took my design and never paid me. It wasn't the end of the world but it gave me a education nonetheless. A year later I looked up the same company and they had gone out of business. I know it's the suffering of others yet there was a bit of cosmic justice about a crooked company going under.
However, businesses go under all the time and it's hardly a universal merit system that's handing out just desserts. There's just lots of ups and downs. Feasts and famines so to speak. Heck to be completely candid looks like I'm in a bit of a dry spell right now. Lots of projects wrapped up and there's this calm that is both a calm but also a bit unsettling - every freelancer or subcontractor knows this feeling. These things happen. The creative world (not unlike many industries) is filled with all sorts of risks: from flakey colleagues to floundering startups to unhealthy partnerships to just plain lack of work. There's a lot of fish in the sea and sometimes the biggest fish are best at gobbling up the bait. Other times you're just not in the right place at the right time.
You've gotta have faith sometimes more that anything. More than looking at an ever evaporating budget and continually seeing doors 🚪 shut in your face. Faith is key 🔑 to survival in my opinion.
This is a difficult thing to confess as if being in need is some sort of disease. As humans were are born in need - we come out eyes shut and expecting to be fed. But sometimes people and I include myself in this, at times think there's some sorta supernatural force that favors winners all the time.
Basically it's a bunch of garbage to pretend like you're always on top. It just is. If you're honest with yourself you're going to need help and a lot of it to survive. It's not begging because hopefully you're on the opposite side more often offering help to others along the way. And by help I mean typically help in the form of work. It's easy to think people who are struggling are lazy or stupid but that's just wrong! No crystal ball 🔮 is gonna tell you what really lies ahead.
Why am I going off on this slow train of hard knocks rants? Well like the title of this post says I've hit a brick 🧱 wall and I don't for a minute think I'm alone. And one of my best cures is to recap where I came from to both sober me up and remind me of some basic truths.
When I started my company I was in college but I was also working at my schools library waiving people's fines like some sorta unofficial library pope haha. I had purposed in my heart that I wanted to have full time work before I graduated. I worked at every studio that would hire me, mostly working evenings or graveyard shifts and I took on two internships - one paid and one with a promised of experience. I also went back to school much later in life. Which had its advantages and disadvantages for sure. I graduated from college after thirty to give you an idea how much later in life. I knew what it was like to work for "the man" so to speak. I especially disliked my experiences in large corporations where you felt like an anonymous number on a spreadsheet. Corporations are often the opposite of how I think. I never want to be the "boss" that exploits their work force to the extreme poverty level like you see at some of the largest animation studios. I honestly think your boss should never be making more than one zero more than you.
Being the "boss" means you're risking more, sacrificing more and overall more invested. When you fail you feel it more and when you win it feels sweeter. But that's also the joy of it too! I never felt entitled to success I just knew that I truly needed to create the things I wanted to be apart of. Having my own animation studio is close to the earliest dream I've had unless you count wanting to be Batman when I was 5yrs old. I knew art helped me and I knew going back to school at twenty five that I wanted a career I could pour my heart and soul into.
Now I'm not really one to keep track of how I've helped someone. Sometimes this is a good thing sometimes this is a bad thing. Good because I try to believe and invest in any people I see the good Lord bringing my way. Bad because it often makes me a huge sucker. There I've said it. I fall for pleas for help, listened to a pitch far longer than I should have, taken one to many extra surveys and allowed myself to be taken advantage. It happens. I've discovered for me a large reason why has to do with my disposition and upbringing. I vote with my heart and let's face it the heart is stupid haha.
I'm no psychologist nor do I aspire to be one. However the older I get the more practical mental health advice has become. You can't always pop a pill, meditate, or pray these anxieties, frustrations and troubles away. So I started a search again for a new therapist. Last year I really dug into some good therapy which helped me get through a lot of internal turmoil. We all have dragons 🐉 we need to slay - and my wife has excellent insurance so a $35 co-pay is well spent. Rabbit trail if you're considering therapy understand it is both a powerful and important decision. Do your homework and don't feel like you have to settle on the first person you consult.
So I reached out to a new therapist talked about "The Brick Wall 🧱 " and whatnot over the phone and for the most part had good vibes - until I met up with him. When I arrived his office was completely disheveled, magazines stacked all over the place, no one to greet me as I walked in and you could of sworn a hoarder lived there with a four-five foot high wall of VHS 📼 tapes of kids movies in the hallway. My red flags 🚩 we're starting to pop up! Homeboy has got some housekeeping for himself to deal with both literal and figurative. A few minutes after our scheduled time for our session and he rolls out of his office hands me some paperwork and takes a phone call. He races by again grabs my paperwork then takes another phone call. Finally I get to the point where I'm ready to leave he pops out of his office says I just need to take this one more phone call and I'm sitting there thinking "Jesse wake up this is a nightmare". As I'm talking sense to myself he pops out again and says come on in.
True to form I put on a smile, make some small conversation and completely ignore my entire bad experience which took place not thirty seconds ago. We chat for the remaining time and I'm reminded of some emotional maintenance I've been ignoring. Yet I still feel this colossal brick 🧱 wall.
I haven't given up my search for a new therapist, far from it. But what I did learn is it's silly to put to much stock in "experts". Degree or no degree or a mile long list of experience the human race is a hot mess everywhere. While I'll never go back to that sloppy therapist again I'd be lying to myself if I'd official out grown that whole being the polite sucker I am. My wife jokes that I must secretly be Canadian because I always feel like I need to be super polite in public. What is the take away from all of this? Well I'm a dreamer, a sap, sometimes a floundering business owner, sometimes a frustrated creative or stuck in a rut artist and designer that feels like I'm hitting "the brick 🧱 wall" all the time. You're not alone and heck I'd say you're in good company. We all have desires we want to see come to life and we all wish we could grind away in the right direction until there's a clear path but there just isn't a clear path. Life is not like school where they have a list of courses you need to take to get a degree. Or better life isn't like a video game where you can unlock achievements from completing quest - oh wouldn't that be so cool if it was!!! Unfortunately life isn't that way.
So while I'm up against this wall I am also so very thankful that for all the other walls I was able to break through to this one. From homelessness as a child and as an adult. To massive financial hardships, trauma, illness, hard work, to the gift of faithful and loving people that have encouraged me in all emotional, spiritual and practical ways. This brick wall 🧱 won't end me! And nor will it end you! And you know what if it does end you then be there to write your name on this wall to show people you took a chip out of it with all you had! And let those behind you know this wall is all that's keeping them from breaking through to greater things than yourself. But more than that let's pull out our hammers and be the wrecking crew for these stupid brick 🧱walls!
thank for listening and get to work on some creative demolition!