• Jen

COVID-19 and that Freelance Thing

Alrighty, so two weeks into my whole "journey" where I quit my stable professional career of 10 years to become a full-time artist with a part-time job, the weirdest thing happened... the whole world was overcome with an especially infectious strain of coronavirus and many of us were told to stay home and avoid interacting with others as much as possible, including some of our part-time jobs, including mine. But you knew this, of course!

And while I'm taking a somewhat glib tone here at the moment, I am very much taking this situation and my responsibility as a global citizen seriously. I've stayed home, avoided contact with people as much as possible, and tried to keep a chipper attitude and virtual contact with my friends, family and community. We'll get through this together by staying informed, staying healthy, and doing the hard work now.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Counting my blessings: I have a clean, safe home, access to the food and supplies I need, and all the universe of Netflix, Disney+ and the internet I can handle. It sucks that I can't see Rick or my friends in person, and the sluggish days can really drag. But I do have the unending affection and CONSTANT attention of my dear, screamy cat Dyna. So you know, there are pluses and minuses all around. Pretty much just like everyday normal life anyway.

But this is not just like normal life, is it? This life, even with so many advantages, feels upended and weirdo. Suddenly having my entire regular schedule flipped on its head has been disorienting, in a word. It's kinda screwed with how I saw this whole "be a professional artist" thing going, and I'm honestly not yet sure how I feel about it.

The sudden total unemployment I'm currently experiencing is an opportunity, in a way, to now have time to work on my portfolio. I would not have had that opportunity if I was still working 20 hours a week right now. However, the pressure is on with the aforementioned unemployment and lack of income that typically comes with. I wasn't planning on eating through my savings this much this quickly.

Also, I'm definitely a creature of habit (like most of the human creature-type); my weekly/daily schedule getting all wonked really throws me. It took me an entire week to begin to understand this change in reality. For that first week, I could often be found (by my cat, I guess, since social distancing is the whole point) sitting on my couch with my softest blanket wrapped around my shoulders, contemplating my future. But instead of my future, I was actually just contemplating how to get myself to move again, and instead of sitting, I was curled up in a ball, freaked out of my mind. Again, this is with all the advantages I enjoy, and I'm still super shaken.

So, after a bit of what my sister and I like to describe as crippling and paralyzing anxiety, I started to reorient and plan a way forward.

Part of the reason for the anxiety is because I keep thinking about all the things I could be... should be doing right now: I should be drawing all the time, launching my Patreon, writing that dice-rolling story game, writing a modern retelling of my favorite Jane Austen novel, organizing my home office, writing curriculum for my art classes... And also, with all this isolation going around, isn't this a great opportunity to start streaming? Aren't I missing out if I'm not right now doing something amazingly creative? Aren't I already behind if I haven't started and shared a mass community art project that will save the world from loneliness and fear in these uncertain times??!?!?!

These are definitely real thoughts I had and still am grappling with. Hopefully, you can understand (we all want to be understood) why this can feel paralyzing. There's so much I could be doing, so much I should have been doing, so much I'm already so very behind in, how can I even start?

During the 2nd week, I put on the ol' thinking cap and began to adjust how I see myself and how I understand time, productivity, and goals to better match this new universe we all suddenly live in. Aside: does anyone else want to get off the flippin slip n' slide between alternate bizzarro universes and just get back to when we all knew it was spelled Berenstein?!

I created a nifty productivity tool that helped me with the FONDE (that is, fear of not doing enough) that I'll share in another post here soon. I started working regular things back into my days, like running (we're still allowed to jog around here for now), working on illustrations, and basic hygiene (it was getting pretty rough there for a bit). Goal setting has taken on a new meaning, and for me, the key has been to simplify: rather than expecting myself to create the perfect art that's going to cure loneliness and make me rich and famous, I'm focusing instead on staying genuinely connected with my community.

And that brings us to today, the start of week 3 of isolation. Oh my, I wonder what the fates have in store for me and the rest of the world this week. At least at this point, I can already look way back to the beginning of this month and lovingly laugh at my youthful, bright-eyed enthusiasm for quitting my job to be an artist. That's is some rapid personal growth right there. Must be some kind of record.

Inklings Illustrated is owned and managed by Jen Hernandez Art LLC (2020)

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