January 2021: Self-Reflection

As a follow-up to my October check-in, and in an ongoing effort to be more open with my creative development, I’m sharing my recent studio self-reflection.

Unlike the last check-in, which was constructed as a tweet storm, this one uses a more conventional paragraph-oriented format. And a note of clarification: I’ve been following a term structure, which is simply a semester-like schedule for planning, studio work, and reflection. The term in question ran September through December 2020.

So here I am, in 2021. Many things are still / yet again on fire, but I’m alive. The fall with its brimming energy ebbed quickly as winter emerged. Starting in November, side projects slowed, but scripting held strong – in fact, it got stronger. I close this term with a freshly completed first pass of a long graphic novel script. (And by “long” I mean over 500 pages, though this will most likely change once revisions begin.) It was my primary focus this term, and I’ve seen it through successfully.

This was possible thanks to the significant progress I made over the last few months toward defining my goals and focusing my practice – what they are, what they aren’t, and how my days and weeks should look in order to reflect that. My success was also aided by starting the strange, slow, soft process of “rewiring” my subconscious into better alignment with where I want my life to go.

In addition to the finished script, I’m on the verge of a final design for the story’s lead character – notable for both its importance to the project and how long it’s taken me to get to this point. I placed a lot of pressure on myself to get this central character “right,” and it kept me stuck for months. I tried one new design after another – “fixing” the previous one’s flaws while unknowingly making new ones for my future self to get stuck on. Eventually I’d find my way back to earlier designs, and the whole thing would start again.

What finally freed me from the perfectionism trap was at last owning it. Once I did, the solution became clear: invite others into the process. I compiled a lineup of the six top designs and shared it with a few people who were already familiar with the story. Their feedback has been profoundly helpful, in just the ways I needed.

The experience served as a reminder: just because much of my creative work happens to be solitary (which I mostly enjoy) doesn’t mean I should hold fast to doing it all by myself; both my creative and personal well-being can suffer for it.

It’s a reminder I’ve been especially in need of, as community was a friction point for most of the term. Naturally, 2020’s perpetual dumpster fire created social strain for just about everyone, but for me the new strums of loneliness reverberated with many similar notes from my past. For most of the term, that resonance held me fixed in place, when what I needed was to move flexibly toward old (or new!) friends.

I suspect what ultimately held me in solo mode were spotty self-confidence and the perfectionism at its root, both of which I actively worked (am still working) to shift. And that effort seems to have accomplished something, because I certainly feel more visible now than I did in August. Still, 2020 as a whole was a particularly tough year for online-wary folk to find their place in an increasingly internet-dependent world – at least, it was for me. 2021 holds much untapped potential for greater contact, community, and resiliency.

Given all this, I recommend several priorities for Future Tyson:

  • Forge ahead with your deepening commitment to writing and story work; it takes a lot of time and energy, and its progress often looks small moment to moment, but the rewards compound daily.
  • In a similar way, continue the honest reflection and planning that’s helped so much this term, with a particular focus on community and connection (perfectionism, too).
  • And, stay rooted in your mission and big goals; refer to them when you set your weekly priorities so you can trust with greater certainty that you’re getting the most from your time and energy.

Put another way: Continue working, in your curious, sensitive, meticulous way, toward the things that give you life, and continue fostering life where more of it is needed.

★★★

Published by Tyson

visual narrative artist + creative organizer | illustration, comics, design | he / him

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