The Art of Mirriam Neal

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on loving what you do, and being tired

“‘And when you love what you do you never work a day in your life.’ That’s bullshit. I love what I do and let me tell you…I’ve worked some days.”
— Brian David Gilbert

It’s hard being self-employed; especially as an artist. My work relies on creativity and inspiration. If I’m not inspired, I can’t create. I can try, of course, but the result is always something sub-par, something I know I could have accomplished far better if I’d felt the desire to do it. So far, I haven’t discovered a way around this, and it can be a vicious, tiring cycle. I get burned out finishing client piece after client piece, but I don’t have time for personal art on the weekend because I’m tired, which means my secondary income (personal pieces vs. commissions) suffers, which means my muse, genius, whatever you want to call the spark of creativity that floats around my head, shrinks and suffers. Tired.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But some days, some months, it also feels a little like a trap. I think all work feels like a trap. I love being able to sit down at my desk with some coffee and paint and make enough money to get by. Some months are lean, some months are bountiful. I never know from one month to another. I can’t afford to close commissions, and sometimes I wish I could just take a break, with no obligations to draw or paint anything—but I can’t. Compounding this conundrum is the fact I enjoy drawing and painting for fun; or I usually do. Right now, I’m tired. I am bone-deep exhausted, but there’s no stopping. I can’t stop, not when clients have paid for artwork they expect to see. And yet I want to give them the best artwork I can; how do I balance being burned out and exhausted, inspirationless, with providing the quality a person deserves? I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet.

When I tell people I’m an artist who works from home, the common response is, “Oh wow, that must be nice.” It is. It is nice. It has that dreamy, whimsical quality to it; like a character in a book or a Studio Ghibli movie. But sometimes it’s like an Impressionistic painting—from far away it looks beautiful, and the closer I get the more it looks like blobs of color without rhyme or reason; messy, ugly, chaotic.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But sometimes I wish, just for a few weeks, I could step away from it.

This isn’t necessarily an encouragement, unless you find encouragement in the fact even people with dreamy self-employed careers struggle, but there is encouragement in one aspect—exhaustion goes away, eventually. Inspiration always flies back to me, and I am doing what I was meant to do.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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