Dear students: Getting emotional vs getting things done

Alessandra Lemos

Alessandra LemosDear students,

Sometimes, I get emotional. I can get emotional about people that I care about or the situations that I’ve been in, but mostly, I’ve also learned how to remove myself emotionally from the things and people that I don’t care about.

You might wonder how I could separate it so easily. Or how I could anticipate what I can be emotional about. I’ll admit it’s a pretty cool trick to master because it’s my secret sauce to getting things done. How do I do this? I compartmentalize my thoughts – I separate myself emotionally from things that have no bearing on me, and things that I can’t do anything about (I’m not talking about big stuff like global warming, or famine – there are ways to help organizations that are involved). I hear that it’s mostly what men are good at (that may not be entirely true), but surprisingly, I’ve been doing this for years.

Learning this comes in handy when you need to get things done. For example, when I was working as an editor for a regional design magazine, I made sure I had a regular schedule – go to work on time and get out of the office on time too. Why? Because I had to make sure I get home and have dinner by 8pm so that I can work on my website until 3am. Now you might be asking, magazine work is tough and demanding (and you’re right) – while I might be able to pull off the schedule well, how did I manage my time and emotions juggling a demanding day job, while having the energy to continue with my personal work after my day job?

It’s easy – I have a game plan. I knew what I needed to do, and I was adamant about not sacrificing quality on either one. I made sure to do my best when I was at my day job so I wouldn’t feel guilty about not putting in effort when I was home. Conversely, I didn’t want to think about whether I was making progress on my website when I was working on my day job. So I managed both as separate entities and made sure the distinction was clear in my head. It saved me a lot of mental anguish – and I’d rather save that time for making things of value instead of re-creating damaging thoughts that wouldn’t have lead me anywhere.

Think about the times when you’re angry, or frustrated at something that has happened to you. You could chalk that up to being emotional. It’s not a bad thing at all, so don’t make people make you feel that it is. What you do with all that emotion that’s bubbling up, now that’s where it counts the most.

Because emotions can be so powerful. While it can motivate you and make you burn, it can also have the potential to go completely 180 degrees and make you feel dejected, hopeless and paralyze you with fear. How you respond to these emotional outbursts can vary from people to people, and it’s often time unpredictable at best.

Let me give you an example: how would you feel if you saw a colleague or a peer doing better than you? It can go either way, or perhaps even both ways: you feel a sense of pride, you’re happy for them, and you reassure yourself that you can do the same. Or instead, you might feel jealous, timid, and unworthy. Which way your emotions swing will determine how you’ll respond – it will determine whether you’ll try harder by pushing yourself out there, or whether you’ll be sitting on the couch, loading up on potato chips, watching daytime TV and not having the willpower to move for weeks on end while feeling sorry for yourself.

So I propose you try this simple experiment: whenever you feel angry/sad/frustrated/jealous with someone or you’re in a situation that makes you sweat, try to find the real reasons behind those emotions. Dig deep and acknowledge what you’re feeling. And what that means is to not allow external influences exert their power over your outcomes. By knowing and believing what you’ve set out to achieve – no matter if you stumble or fall along the way – you’ll be able to better control your emotions, and eventually, influence your future outcomes.

Having a game plan would allow you to say no to negative experiences, while allowing only positive thoughts to fuel your journey. The trick is to be emotional on things you care about and where you can make a difference or change, instead of being emotional about things you have no control over.

Just remember to choose wisely!

[Illustration by Alessandra Lemos]

[box icon=”heart”]Every week, I teach about the creative process of illustration at a local college. And when I come home, I realize that I’ve forgotten to point this out, or to remind them about something. Dear Students serves as my own personal compilation of thoughts, and is a series dedicated to students around the world who might find my musings useful. To read the entire series, click here.[/box]

Asking and getting

There’s so much things I’m taking away from Amanda Palmer’s TED talk about asking. About how artists should be able to give and receive fearlessly. While I’m not a fan of her music, I am a fan of what she represents. And this quote from her talk speaks to me on so many levels:

[quote] My music career has been spent encountering people on the internet, like I was on the box. Blogging and tweeting, not about my tour dates and videos, but about our work and our art, about our fears and our hangovers and mistakes. And we see each other. And when we see each other, we want to help each other. [/quote]

So I googled a bit more about that part where people were unhappy about the whole hoopla of her post-Kickstarter campaign, where she asked other musicians to play or open her gigs – where she will give you free beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily (instead of money). And boy, were there lots of opinions on that.

So I dug some more. I found this blog post where she talks about her rationale behind her call, and this quote struck me the most:

[quote] You have to let artists make their own decisions about how they share their talent and time. Especially in this day and age, it’s becoming more and more essential that artists allow each other space to figure out their own systems. The minute YOU make black and white rules about how other artists should value their own art and time, you disempower them. [/quote]

And it’s so true.

There’s a lot of talk about how you should be paid every time you produce work for others. Sure, to a certain extent that is true – we all need to eat and all those Facebook “likes” and tweets don’t exactly fill our stomach. But as artists, there’s always a grey area that you need to decide for yourself whether doing something is worth it in the long run, even if the currency you’re paid in may not be the currency you need right now. I’ve gone against what others think of me – I’ve done work for free because I chose to, and I’m still reaping the rewards from that in so many ways that made me ask “where the heck did that come from?” a few times. I helped out because I genuinely wanted to, and I could spare the time, so I thought why not? And if blogging over the past 5 years have taught me anything, it’s that when you make connections and are generous with your time, ideas and spirit – trust that you’ll be rewarded in return.

But only if you ask.

Let me lay it out for you: if I’m not getting enough money from what I do, it’s my fault because I’m not putting myself out there enough. because I’m not asking or giving enough where it counts. Just because I’m not getting enough moolah from doing what I love, doesn’t mean that I will stop. I’m putting food on the table for myself through other avenues while I figure that out. I don’t – and never will – blame you, dear readers. It’s all on me.

More artists should realize that asking for money isn’t begging (it’s something I need to remind myself sometimes too)  – it’s about making it easy for others to pay you. Amanda got more than what she asked for because she asked for it.

And here’s what I think is missing from a lot of the comments flying out there: that Amanda put herself out there and did what was difficult for many people to do. She held out her hand when many others feel embarrassed about doing it. I believe she wants other people to stand up and do the same. To earn what’s theirs, and to not shy away from putting it out in the world.

Don’t care about what others think – ask for what you need. Hold out your hand.

Now, to demonstrate me walking the talk – and yes, it’s super scary because I’ve never done it before: here’s me holding out my virtual hand: if you like what I do, and if you feel that I’ve helped you in some way, perhaps you’d like to click that little button below and leave me a tip? Or alternatively, head over to the shop and pick something out for you or a friend if you haven’t already?

[UPDATE: Thanks so much to those who generously tipped my jar!]

(don’t worry, I’ll still love you even if you don’t push that button!)

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN:

Share with me in the comments section: Have you ever asked for what you need? I’d love to hear if you did and how it went.

Read also: Why I’m not afraid to take your money by Amanda Palmer; and Why I’m Fine With Playing For Amanda Palmer For Free, By S.F. Cellist Unwoman.

Good to Know #11: Holding down multiple jobs

Good to Know #11: Holding down multiple jobs

Good to Know #11: Holding down multiple jobs

Remember a topic that I covered sometime in 2011 – about how I think that artists and illustrators would do themselves a world of good by holding down another job to tide them over if they ever needed money? Well that post garnered lots of opinions, and I loved the sentiments shared by our audience so much that I felt that it belonged in a compendium of its own, and hence it became the title of the 11th issue of the Good to Know zine: Holding down multiple jobs. It’s easily one of my favorites from the series, because it tackles with questions that I’ve struggled with when I first started.

For those who are new to Pikaland, the Good to Know project is a series of zines and PDFs that compile advice + inspiration from artists/illustrators/designers on creativity, business and life. What started as a fun experiment turned into something so much bigger and personal than I’ve ever imagined, all thanks to our very vibrant community!

Do check out issue #11, and here’s the link for the entire Good to Know series!

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