002: Who You Know
And who you shouldn't...
A quick word of gratitude for all of the signups. I was not expecting that. My goal for the last week was only written down as “maybe 25???” The list grew over 200 signups within the first 48 hours. It’s now over 400 as of this email. Beyond that, I’ve had some really deep conversations this week in DMs or emails from some of you, new friends and old. It’s humbling to know that even that little bit helped so many in a big way.
I’ll do my best not to let you down. 🤘🏻 Bear with me if I take a minute to get back to replies. I’m trying to limit social media usage as much as I can (so I have time to make more things!)
This really leads into this week’s topic quite well.
“It’s all who you know…”
You’ve heard those words of wisdom before, and in a lot of ways it’s the truth. We tend to think about these words as ordering us to go network with the right people. But that’s not the first step.
Step 1 is: Remove those you shouldn’t know first.
My story? I worked 13 years full-time making comics and as an illustrator, all while raising a young family. It was a lot of hard work and determination, but I felt like I “made it”, against all odds that had been stacked up against me.
Looking back, all along that way, it’s hard to admit, but I had very little support or respect for what I was doing. Even my “best friend” was a constant source of negativity and bad energy.
Drawing wasn’t seen as a “real job” from my in-laws or close friends. When I finally started getting paid regularly, it was because I must be “lucky”. And when I had some bad days, or jobs fell through, it was “we told you so!”
One time I made the national news for the first time ever, and suddenly those same people who were down on me wanted to be my best friend. What’s worse, they would ask me for money, even though I was busy raising a family and paying bills of my own.
Now, even when I “made it”, these folks would say I was acting “too good” to associate with them, because I wouldn’t loan them money I didn’t have, and I wouldn’t draw them something for free. And I was too busy to “hang out” with them. Sadly, even my own family.
At some point, during my highest paid year as a cartoonist, my wife at the time told me “you constantly have your back to the family” and “even when you’re here, you’re not here.” She was very unhappy. It was technically true, as a full-time working artist, long hours are spent at the board, alone.
It’s hard for me to share these memories. It’s still painful to think about. But I know when I talk to other creators many are dealing with the same troubles. And it can be soul-crushing, dream-crushing and career-crushing. When I share my own struggles, I hope other artists know they are not alone.
My problem was, I fell into the same old trap that maybe many of you are in too.
I cared too much what everyone else thought, and I wanted to get some sort of validation from family or the outside world that I wasn’t a failure. Yet no level of success I ever achieved was good enough for “them”.
You can’t take “them” with you.
Around the same time I was dealing with these feelings of success vs feeling like an absolute failure, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
In the book the author nailed the feeling I was having.
I’m going to paraphrase here, but Pressfield describes your journey when you choose to be a creator like being in a small town on an island with the people you always knew surrounding you. They are safe there. They like things to stay the same. In the guise of caring about you, they want you to stay the same too.
It must remain as it’s always been.
Stay the same.
For them. Not you.
Picture your creativity as a small boat. Your escape vessel. You’re able to escape this island in your boat from time to time, and you found a map to treasure island. And the more success you seem to have, the more people will want to come along with you. Show them the way!
But, your boat can only hold so many, you cannot take them all with you. Worse, there will be some who will simply drill holes in your boat for the reasons listed above.
As I read that book, I realized I was making that same mistake at that very moment. I was helping several of my “friends” get jobs. Distant family were coming out of the woodwork asking me for money or support. It felt nice in a strange way, like I finally was feeling respected…
Then it all dried up.
Suddenly, all of those people were long gone. When I needed them the most.
The odds of an artist surviving when that boat sinks are not good.
Who do you let in your boat?
This is one of the hardest things in life to do. You have to be really honest with yourself. I had to go deep into my own feelings and circle of friends, and cut out the bad ones like cancer.
Deep down you know who I’m talking about.
When they are around you feel grumpy, or when they leave you’re being negative. Their bad energy wears off on you.
I had a best friend for 17 years, who I always tried to help and bring along with me, but it always ended with me feeling negative or full of bad energy. In that case, metaphorically, I’d always let him in the boat, and behind my back he’d be punching holes in it. Why?
I was changing and evolving, and he didn’t want that version of me.
He wanted to stay the same.
In order to grow, you can’t stay the same.
Every week I’m giving a drawing prompt to help you stay sharp. I’ll do it too. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
This week’s prompt is a lucky horseshoe. Make sure it’s upright or all the luck will fall out! Bonus points if you post your drawing to instagram, tiktok or twitter and hashtag #drawordiechallenge. You can also DM me on any of those channels, I’m @djcoffman on all of them. Visit my insta to see what I came up with.
Last week’s challenge highlight is from Christopher Beck. Check out his instgram and give him a follow.
“Being an artist can feel like this sometimes; adrift at sea being chased by monsters, narrowly avoiding the shoals and sharp rocks, hoping I can weather the next storm…” - Christopher Beck
This week I’m encouraging everyone to read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It’s a short read that “will effectively show you how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.” - Or, optionally listen to the author discuss the book and the topics in great detail in Rich Roll Podcast (Youtube Link)
This week’s big takeaway
Take stock of your circle of family and friends. Note the ones that leave you feeling good, and the ones that leave you feeling bad.
Work to remove the toxic people from your life.
Surround yourself with people who leave you feeling energized, either in real life or who you follow online.
Feeling stuck? 👊🏻Defeat the Funk!
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