5 Lessons Learned from Starting Over


Positively Present - Start Over


Okay, so I'll say right up front that the "starting over" I had to cope with last past week is related to the loss of an app, not a person or a situation. It might sound dramatic, but it was just a tad traumatic for me to lose access to the place where I spend a ton of time these days: my Procreate drawing app.

When it started crashing repeatedly and the Procreate team (despite their best efforts!) wasn't able to fix it, I knew it was inevitable: I would have to delete and reinstall. Now, I know this sounds silly — Who cares?! You had to delete an app! — but it was, much as I hate to admit even to myself, kind of a big deal. Yes, I had backed up most of my work (PSA: ALWAYS BACK UP EVERYTHING!), but deleting the app meant losing all of my settings and favorite brushes, and facing the daunting task of reinstalling over two years' worth of work. 

The app crashed every time I tried to open a file and my first response was, Why now? Why me? I see artists doing way more complex art on the app and I don't see much of anything in the message boards about having to delete and reinstall! This, of course, is a pretty typical reaction to a loss. First I was desperately hoping it could be fixed (denial) and then, when I realized it couldn't, I was upset. It was a very strange feeling. I knew it was just an app, and the situation could be way worse (I had, after all, backed up most of my work), but there's something deeply unsettling about having something you use every single day taken away from you without warning. 

Equally as unsettling: realizing how much of my life had become intertwined with an app. The first night without it, I was restless. To unwind, I usually spend time drawing and, while I was waiting to see if Procreate could be fixed, I tried playing around with other drawing apps. It just wasn't the same. They didn't work like Procreate did. They didn't have my brushes and my settings, all of my colors and sketched-out ideas. I was unnerved. But I decided that, if this wasn't a time to try being positively present, what was?

After that first night, I decided to pay attention, to see if I could learn anything from this situation. Obviously, I couldn't get the app back in its original state, but that didn't mean I couldn't learn from the experience. So here's what I took away from this experience: 

 

TRYING TO CONTROL EVERYTHING IS POINTLESS. 

As someone who is decidedly "Type A," control is something I love to pretend I possess. All of the organization, backing-up, and planning in the world can't prevent life from happening, though. Situations like this one — however silly it might seem — are great reminders for those who enjoy control. They show us that, no matter what we do, things are sometimes going to fall apart or go wrong. That's part of life and the quicker you learn to take it in stride, the quicker you'll be able to bounce back. Over the years, I've gotten better at letting go of control, but it's always good for me to be reminded that there are a lot of things in life that I can't have authority over. 

STAYING POSITIVE MAKES IT MUCH BETTER. 
 
When things are going wrong — particularly when they have a big impact on your day-to-day life — it can be tricky to stay positive, but if there's one thing that this experience has taught me, it's that positivity does make things better. Staying optimistic obviously didn't fix the situation (I still had to deal with the app-less days and the reinstallation craziness), but by staying positive and knowing that, no matter how the situation ended up, I'd be able to make do, made it a lot easier to cope with. This particular situation also reminded me how far I've come in terms of trying to be more positive and present. Positivity takes practice, but it works.
 

RELYING ON ONE THING IS DANGEROUS.
 
Though I can't deny that I love Procreate (and nothing reminds you of how much you love something like losing it!), another lesson learned from this experience was that relying only on one program is dangerous. If something were to happen to Procreate, or I wasn't able to use it for whatever reason, I'd be really upset. Losing Procreate for a few days was a good reminder not to put all of my eggs in one basket. Sure, it's fine to have a favorite thing / person / etc., but it's dangerous to rely only on one thing. Diversity — in apps and in life — is important. Don't wait till you've lost your one thing to realize that. Losing Procreate for a few days prompted me to explore other drawing apps. None of them can replace my beloved Procreate, but now I've at least dabbled a bit in other options. 
 
 
FEELING HOW YOU FEEL IS OKAY. 
 
This was a very unexpected (but important!) lesson: I realized that it's okay to feel how you feel, even if seems a little ridiculous. When this first happened, my first reaction was to be upset and my second was to say to myself, Don't be ridiculous. It's just an app. You don't have any right to be upset about something so trivial when there are so many important things going on in the world! While those are rational thoughts, comparison isn't very helpful, especially because emotions aren't a finite resource. I can be upset about losing an app and recognize the millions of ways I'm fortunate and feel empathetic for those who are suffering from real problems. Just because a problem is trivial doesn't mean you're not allowed to feel something. 
 
 
HAVING A FRESH START CAN BE PRODUCTIVE. 
 
One of the best things I discovered over the past week is that, even if you don't necessarily like it, a fresh start can be a good thing sometimes. For weeks I'd be wanting to better organize my files. I'd thought about getting rid of some old brushes I never use. I'd worried if maybe I wasn't backing up my work frequently enough. Well, when the app crashed, I was given a chance to revisit my organization and back-up and got to start fresh with my brushes and color palettes. I even think the new brush I'm using is better than my old favorite! Yes, there are a ton of little annoyances, but there've been some really productive aspects of this fresh start, which is a great reminder that you never know what good things a bad situation can bring! 
 
 
 
As silly as it might sound, the loss (and reinstallation) of Procreate was a bit of a shake-up in my world. But, as frustrating as it was, it was ultimately a positive thing, especially because I learned a lot about the app (and myself!). If you're in the midst of starting over in any aspect of your life, try to focus on these lessons and it'll be much easier to cope with the changes (chosen or unexpected!). Even frustrating times can bring about some wisdom! 
 
If you do any digital drawing, I highly recommend checking out the Procreate app. I've been using it for years and this is the first time I've ever had any trouble with it (and the Procreate team did everything possible to help me sort it out). Other than this one fluke breakdown, it's an AMAZING program for digital art (on iPad or iPhone). If you already use it, check out my Procreate brushes here
 

Announcing... Positively Present on Patreon!


Patreon Screen


For years, I've been working solo on Positively Present, and I absolutely love what I do, but I've been looking for ways to expand on my work and on the Positively Present community. Like many who create primarily online, I've struggled a lot with friction between wanting to create and share and not feeling as if my work is valued (and, in some cases, stolen, even by large companies). 

The world of online creating is still a bit like the wild west. We're all trying to learn the rules, to figure out how we can consume and share and create in thoughtful, productive, and rewarding ways. A lot of online creators choose to run advertisements or work with brands. I've done these (and may continue to do so), but, at times, it feels disingenuous. Even if I love a brand or product, it's turning me into a salesperson when I'm a creator. I want to make things you like and I want to be able to afford to do it, and I don't want to have to sell you random stuff you don't need (even if it's my own stuff!) in order to do so. 

I'm not the only creator who feels this way. Luckily, someone came up with the awesome idea for Patreon.

 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

Patreon is a membership platform that allows patrons (people like you) support creators (people like me) while getting access to exclusive benefits. What I love about it is that it's a direct relationship between the creator and the patron. It's a way to show creators that you value their work and to support those who spend their lives trying to make the world a better place online. 

Creators set up a series of tiers and the more a patron contributes each month, the more rewards s/he receives. You can see the various tiers (starting at just $1/month!) on the right hand side of this page. Basically, it's like this: you pay a set amount each month and you get access to cool things you wouldn't otherwise see. 

  Patreon


WHO IS PATREON FOR? 

Every creator's Patreon platform is unique, but, for Positively Present, Patreon is for... 

  • People who love Positively Present and want to support my work
  • People who want to support writing and art in general 
  • People who don't want ads or sponsorships interfering with content
  • People who want behind-the-scenes looks at what I'm working on
  • People who want access to exclusive digital content
  • People who want to contribute ideas and inspiration for Positively Present
  • People who want to download Positively Present artwork
  • People who long to learn more about creativity and digital art
  • People who get something valuable out of daily (free!) posts

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? 

If you've never heard of Patreon before, you might be like, Wait. What is this? I still don't get it. Don't worry! You can learn more about it by checking out the Patreon page or my FAQ post. And, of course, you can reach out to me via email if there's anything you want to know more about! 

 Patreon

 

I've been hard at work setting this up, but it's still a work-in-progress, so stay tuned for updates (and even more rewards for each tier!) coming soon. I know the idea of directly supporting a creator might sound odd at first, because it's still relatively new, but the digital landscape is changing and more and more of what we use and consume is going to be online. If you are regularly consuming something you enjoy — whether it be a piece of digital art or a piece of delicious cake — you should want to compensate the person who created it. Yes, it feels like you get content for free, but nothing is really free. There's a give-and-take for everything. If you're consuming something that someone else worked hard on without ever giving something back, that leads to an imbalance that puts a lot of pressure on the creator.

The creator either has sell you a product (which can be great, but isn't ideal in a world where we all have so much stuff or where people have come to love the digital work and don't necessarily want things), sell an ad for another product (leading to the same problem of more consumption and/or the often icky feeling that comes with selling things randomly -- take note of all of the creators pushing Audible or Skillshare...), or sell a service (which isn't always doable or reasonable to expect of someone who already has a job creating content on a daily basis).

The more creators have to balance advertising, sponsorships, brand deals, etc., the less time they have creating content that you really love and find valuable. When you join a creator's Patreon, you'll have access to extra cool rewards and a community of people who love the same stuff you do. Plus, you become a real-life patron of the arts, which, let's be honest, just sounds fun and fancy! 

I've been so excited working on this for the past few weeks and I'm so excited that it's now going live! If you have any questions / comments / etc., let me know in the comments below or via email! 

 


The Art of Instagram Etiquette


  Artists-Positively-Present

 

"I'm so happy I found your account! I see your work all over the place, but I never knew who made it!" 

This was a comment I received on Instagram last week, and it's not the first of its kind. Last week I hit the 100,000 follower mark on Instagram, which, silly as it sounds, was a big deal to me. I know I'm supposed to act like I don't care about followers and these numbers don't matter, but when you're a brand — when you work hard to put up content almost daily and the number of people you reach correlates to your ability to actually afford groceries and rent — these numbers do matter. It was a really exciting milestone for me, but its brought to the surface some really mixed feelings I have about Instagram.

I love Instagram, obviously, and I want the platform to continue to thrive, but there are some major downsides for creators. Creators post on there, driving traffic to the app, but, unlike a platform like YouTube, creators aren't compensated for all of the work they do to bring people to the app. That's a big scale problem, and one that I don't have the capacity to directly address, but there's also the sharing (and, all too often, stealing) issue, which is what I want to talk about here. 

Before I get into it, I have to admit that writing about this is difficult for me, because I feel the following: 

  • Worried that I'll sound ungrateful for my audience
  • Silly for being angry about something like Instagram
  • Embarrassed that my ego is possessive of my work
  • Annoyed that I have to care about "credit" as a creator

But, as uncomfortable as I feel writing this, it's something I've been wanting to talk about for a long time. See, over the past few years, things have changed a lot in terms of Positively Present's content and audience. Part of this has been my personal growth, my desire to create and share art in addition to writing, and part of it is a shift in the way people consume content online. I used to just write (and occasionally create images or illustrations) here on the site. They would get shared, yes, but typically with a link to the site so it was a give-and-take situation: someone would take my work and share it and, in return, I would be given the opportunity to reach new people. But, with Instagram, all of that's different now. It's a lot more take than give. Because Instagram doesn't make it easy to share links (particularly if you don't have a large account) or credit creators, it's up to individuals to give credit, and many people don't know how (or even that they should). 

I've shared guidelines before (the number of times a day I have to write "Check the FAQ story highlights for details on sharing!" is mind-boggling), but I thought I'd write them out again here. Keep reading for more on why these guidelines are so important for creators ('cause it's about way more than wanting more followers!).  

  

PERSONAL ACCOUNT GUIDELINES

Creators love when personal accounts share their work because we're getting a real, positive promotion from someone who genuinely likes our work and wants to share it with family and friends. Unfortunately, because the everyday Instagram user often isn't familiar with Instagram etiquette, they often don't know to credit properly. Here's the deal:  

  • Always mention the creator in the first two lines of the caption.
  • Always tag the creator in the image itself.
  • Never filter, crop, or edit the image (doing so is changing the work without permission).
  • Never share a bunch of one creator's photos in a row (it's just rude. and weird.).
  • Consider purchasing something from a creator, particularly if you share the work frequently.
  • Stop following freebooting accounts (see below) and follow creators instead. 

 

BRAND ACCOUNT GUIDELINES 
 
Ideally, brands should be paying creators to make content for them — particularly the large brands — but since this isn't how things seem to work for the most part, at the very least, brands should do the following: 

  • Always ask permission before sharing. Large brands that have shared my work, magazines like ShapeGlamour, and Teen Vogue, do this. Smaller brands frequently do not, and it's problematic because no creator wants their work connected to a cause / product / celebrity they don't support.
  • Always mention the creator in the first two lines of the caption. This is especially important for brands to do because, if you're getting content for free, the very least you can do is drive some traffic to the creator's account. 
  • Always tag the creator in the image itself.
  • Never filter, crop, or edit the image (doing so is changing the work without a creator's permission).
  • Never share a bunch of one creator's photos in a row (it's just rude. and weird.).
  • Never imply the creator is a partner of or affiliated with the brand (unless a paid partnership is in place). 
  • Never use an image to promote a sale, promotion, event, or other business-related content. 
  • Hire the creators you really like to create custom work for you. It's way cooler than just reposting! 

 

FREEBOOTING ACCOUNT GUIDELINES

Freebooting accounts are Instagram accounts (like this) that do not create any of their own content, but instead share only other people's content to grow their own page. I'm not fully aware of the purpose of this and, in many cases, I don't believe it's malicious, but it's still harmful to creators and particularly unfair when these freebooting accounts grow very large and receive compensation in the form of sponsorships, ads, and other partnerships — all while creating no work of their own. 

  • Never share creators' work unless you're going to create work of your own. 
  • If you want to curate things, hop over to Pinterest. That's what it's for. 
  • Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it? Likes? Stop it. 
  • Just cut it out.
  • No. 
  • Stop. 
  • Seriously. Why? 

 

So, why these guidelines? Why not just share my work and not worry about the credit? (A creator I love specifically says that anyone can share her work without credit and, as much as I love the idea of that — so selfless! so altruistic! — it plays all too well into the age-old tale of the starving artist, the notion that, in order to be creative, one doesn't actually make a living off one's work.) In reality, credit — as silly as it sounds — is a huge deal for creators.  

As far as I can tell, there's never been a period of time in history where creators' works were just taken and used whenever and wherever. If, back in the day, you owned an art shop, you couldn't just take a painter's work and then sell it as your own without physically stealing the paintings. Now, it's just a few taps on your phone, and you can take creative content and share it. For free. All the sharing is wonderful in that in can, if an image is credited properly, drive traffic to a creator's account. 

But, most of the time, creators' work isn't credited properly (or at all). I personally struggle with this a great deal. On one hand, I want to be open and carefree and think, I'm just generous creator and I'm happy to have my work shared and appreciated, even if I don't receive any appreciation or compensation for it. But another part of me can't seem to shake the notion that this work is mine. It whispers to me, You worked so hard on this. Why shouldn't you receive credit or, god forbid, compensation for what you've done? 

I don't want to feel the "mine-ness" of my work, but I do. Every time I see my work shared without credit, it feels like a sharp sting, a pinprick in my heart. Every time I see my work with the signature removed — someone's deliberate attempt to claim it as their own — it feels like I've been shoved to the ground, wind knocked out of me. 

This feeling of ownership is a strange mix of selfishness (That's mine!, my mind squeals like a toddler when her toy has been snatched away) and selflessness (Hey! When you just share others' work, you're really missing out on the joy of creating it yourself!, my mind also exclaims.) It sounds silly to say, but I almost feel guilty, being part of this culture that encourages people to look and share rather than make and create. Sometimes it feels like I'm spinning around on a giant dance floor — not the best dancer in the world, but having a damn good time — with all of these people standing on the sidelines saying, "Wow! I love your dance moves! That looks fun!" and I want to yell, If you like it, get out here! Try it. Make something! 

It makes me wonder: Why are creators giving so much away for free? (Answer: Because they have to in order to gain followers and be considered "successful" enough to be worthy of brand deals, ads, book contracts, etc.) What kinds of creativity are we losing by staring at screens filled with things other people have made instead of making things ourselves? (Answer: Unknown, but probably a lot of cool stuff!) Maybe we'd be better off if people put down their phones and picked up a pencil or a paintbrush. Perhaps this makes me sound ungrateful and petulant, but I'm constantly conflicted by the desire to make work that is appreciated and the desire to work alone quietly, undetected. And, as strange as it might sound if you're not in the same position, it's actually really stressful to be torn between these two things.

You might be thinking at this point: If you're so bothered by this, why don't you just not share it? Or just post it on your website? There are two main reasons I continue to share my work on Instagram (and other social media platforms): (1) It's one of the best ways to grow an audience and, therefore, make enough money to (barely...) be able to afford food, and (2) I genuinely enjoy it and want to help people. Have you ever heard that old saying, What would you do all day if you didn't have to worry about money? Well, I'm doing it. I love writing and drawing and creating and sharing and helping other people with simple things that speak to them. I really do. I don't really care about getting credit — yes, there's a part of me that thinks "mine!" but most of me really just wants to make things, even if no one sees them — but I do care about making a living and, like it or not, getting credit indirectly leads to getting paid.  

With this post, it’s not my intention to sound whiny or thankless — particularly amidst the joy of reaching a big Instagram milestone! 100k! Hooray!! — but, as much as social media feels like a frivolous time-waster, for a lot of creators — including me! — it’s really not. It matters. It's how we find work, sell products, build brands that will attract publishing houses or product distributors or whoever else can help us to grow our businesses. And, remember: the more a creator succeeds, the more content you'll likely get.

Mostly, I just wanted to get all of this out of my mind and into words. It's a weird and wonderful time to be a creative, and I'm incredibly grateful for all of the appreciation and opportunities that have come my way as a result of Instagram (and social media in general), but I think it's important for people who aren't creators — those who are consuming the content — to think about the other side to all of this free art. Creators are real people, people who work really hard to make things, and if you like what they do, you should support them — at the very least, by crediting their work, but, if you can, by actually paying for their work. 

If you can, buy something from a creator you follow this week. Pick up an art print. Buy a book. Or, if that's not an option, try creating something yourself. Above all, that's what I'd really love to see: more people creating, fewer people consuming. (Stay tuned for more on this soon!) 

I obviously had a lot to say on this subject, but I'd love to hear from you, too! Are you a creator? What is your experience with Instagram / sharing / social media? If you're not a creator, do you think about this? What are your thoughts now? Let me know in the comments section below!