Joana and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week


Have you ever had one of those weeks when everything you make is just, well, shit?

This has been one of those weeks for me. Dear Joana: happy new year, now all your work is a big fat turd.

As a result, my wastepaper bin is literally overflowing with the torn-up pages of my shitty attempts at drawings and paintings. The 100-sheet sketchbook I bought a month or so ago is down to its last few pages; the sad void between its covers emblematic of my complete and utter inadequacy.

To be fair, I've never completed a piece and thought, 'This is so great, I rule!'. But there is usually at least a small sense of accomplishment, or somewhat not hating the result, or feeling like I'm on the right track.

Not this week. It doesn't matter if I'm sketching for fun, working on a commission or illustrating for a personal project, every piece I've produced this week has left me with an overwhelming sense of doubt and defeat.

I've tried taking breaks. I've tried pushing through. I've distracted myself with snacks (#nevernotsnacking). I've gone to the gym, watered the plants, scrolled through my phone ad infinitum. I've looked through old work I like. I've tried taking the pressure off by drawing something super simple and low-risk and for my eyes only. Nothing has worked.

Instead, I've been walking around this week with a pit in my stomach; this nauseous, anxious feeling that stems directly from my failed attempts and the subsequent belief that I absolutely suck and why the hell am I even doing this. It's a horrible feeling that has filtered into everything else in my life. I've spent this week in an angry haze. And I know how completely ridiculous and frivolous and stupid that sounds. There are real problems in this world and I'm wringing my hands over some not-quite-perfect scribbles of my travels or meals I've eaten or whatever the hell else I usually draw. And that compounds the feeling that I am a shit person who should just fucking give up.

I've always been a person who creates things, even when I didn't really create that many things. But I didn't know that choosing to really throw myself into creating consistently and for a li'l bit o' money would be so. damn. painful. I know it's because I'm super green and that once I establish a foothold of some sort I might feel a bit more self-assured, but then again, is it? Does that pain ever really go away? That pain of knowing that in this exact moment, you are worse at your craft than you will ever be in the future? That in order to get to the less-shit work, you have to keep pushing through and producing the shit work?

Even if no one sees my shit work (and god knows the shit in my wastepaper bin will never see the light of day), I know it's there. I know I made it, that I'm capable of producing it. And that's ... gahhhhhhhh. That's hard.

And yet. I received an email the other day from someone who literally just felt compelled to tell me that they recently found my work, they loved it, and they hope I continue with it and find success. They thanked me for my work. I'm struggling to even find the words right now to express how that makes me feel. Like, wow. It's amazing how you can feel like a fraudulent piece of shit and then someone else can be so moved by your work that they email you about it—which, I don't know about you, but I think is a pretty huge deal because I can't tell you how few times (zero) I've emailed someone just to tell them I love their work. Also, note to self: start telling people I love their work just because.

I don't mention this email as a humblebrag AT ALL BECAUSE I SUCK. I just find it funny that I can be having the worst week I've had in a while and then this email just arrives in my inbox out of the blue. It hasn't fixed my bad week—I probably ripped up a dozen different attempts this morning alone—but at least I can kind of see things from a different perspective and remember that maybe I'm not that bad and maybe there is hope for me after all? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

TELL ME: Do you ever have bad hours/days/weeks where nothing seems to go right in your work? How do you deal? I need to know!