Mind-tummy connection, freelancing and art making

Color pencils + digital by Luisa

On a bit of a tangent.

Recently I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It has been a hellish two weeks. The worst of it is not the pain and discomfort but the fatigue that my body is going through as I cut out foods that usually give me energy: carbs, coffee, sugary stuff.

The worst is not being able to draw. I spent last afternoon in a dark room with a roaring headache because I quit coffee. I’ve been extremely sleepy and without an ounce of energy. Focus has gone out the window too.

In February when I opened my etsy shop, I set out a goal for producing clip art sets and suddenly it detoured. I did start drawing other things and working at somewhat defining my personal style. But I don’t want to stop making clip art and trying to make my store pick up.

IBS has a strong anxiety component. We have neurons in our gut and they communicate with our brain so if I’m stressed and anxiousmy tummy will act up. I’ve known this for years but I never really paid attention to it. It is now that my body is doing weird things and it coincides with finding my creative outlet that has really come to the foreground.

What makes me anxious about drawing?

Maybe other creators can identify:

  • Am I original?
  • Am I talented?
  • Is my work good or just average?
  • Does it have potential?
  • I should be doing something more productive, making more money, worrying about my financial future
  • Why doesn’t my clip art sell? What is missing?
  • Have I wasted all this money in art classes?
  • How much money have I already spent in brushes, paint and stuff?
  • I am so privileged
  • I should work hard(er).
  • I will never get to the right level
  • There so much I still don’t know, how many years will it take?

Surely, these thoughts pop into my head often and I counter-attack with not-such-positive thoughts because that’s not my style, but I try to remember where I was a year ago when I thought I couldn’t draw a straight line, that watercolors were sent to this world to torture me and that Illustrator was a monster software I would never have the patience to learn.

So yes, there are antidotes to my anxiety, plus a few pills but the damage to my tummy is ever present and has started to occupy more than a fair share of my thoughts. The solution, very obvious, get on the low FODMAP diet as soon as possible and stop lamenting the morning coffee.

Secondly, make it about art.

As I venture into the world of independent creators and makers, I started discovering this other aspect of the web: the down-to-earth entrepreneurs as opposed to the “make $80,000 dollars a year blogging” wave of self proclaimed “CEO’s and Founders”.

One blog that has been super useful is Tara Swiger’s blog and podcast, where I found the advice that made sense and that made me put things into perspective again:  Ask yourself what kind of business you want first BEFORE drowning in marketing, entrepreneurship and promotion advice. 

This tiny piece of advice would have made a huge difference two months ago when I was grinding myself about branding and all those things, that while important, mean little when you have such a small number of products.

It is counter-productive if one is just starting out, to follow a business that seems well established because you’ll start trying to do what they are doing and most likely you’ll see no direct results.

So all this to say, if you have dreams of entrepreneurship and art, pay attention to your body, it might be super enjoyable to be “in the flow” but it’s easy to strip it away by worrying about the “I should be doing” wether with art itself or with life.

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Letters from the path to art.