How To Bet On Yourself

How To Bet On Yourself

When I shared with a mentor that I realized I am neurodivergent, she told me to go back to my ex after years of divorce and try to make things work. She did not think I could continue on my own. She also told me that making a living from art was too hard and that I should give up.

That isn’t the only rejection I’ve received recently. I tried to join a peer group of artists for mutual encouragement, growth and support, and I was told my art was not good enough. I was crushed.

It’s been two years. I haven’t made anything for two years. Now that I am reemerging, blinking, into the bright artificial light of the online world, the social media landscape has changed. There are ever-changing algorithms and new platforms and while I care about the people in these spaces, the engagement itself is overstimulating. I want to buck against it all with the deep fibers of my being. I keep hoping people will just join the discord server I created and cultivate a community there, instead.

The girls and I started going to a new church – a sweet little place that openly supports LGBT+ rights and trans youth. The first Sunday we showed up, the pastor informed the congregation that their bright, beautiful rainbow banners had been stolen. She told us she was thankful there was no vandalism, but I spoke with her afterwards and she was discouraged. It’s hard enough to find a place of worship that doesn’t treat people like they need to be saved from their queerness. Why can’t people leave the ones that exist in peace?

My neurodivergence is not something I need to be saved from, either. It is simply something I have needed to understand about myself. Now I know why craft fair events that lasted several days would always make me sick: there was too much sensory overload. Now I understand why I loved commission work so much: because people are often confusing to me, and I am not sure exactly how to connect with them, but when I paint them I can show them how much I love them. Art is a language that works for me. It is something that makes sense to me when other things fail.

You know what I need to be saved from? My fears that all my foibles will bar me from connection. I have been rejected again and again in my life. But then I get real quiet and I withdraw from the cacophony around me of people trying to sell me snake oil and spam and scams. I get real quiet and I hold my inner child and I tell them: you are loved, just as you are.

I used to have a vibrant Patreon. When I closed down my shop in 2020, I didn’t delete my Patreon, but I did pause it for months and months as people kept dropping off. Even so, six people stayed. Even when I was making nothing, even when I was a ghost, they stayed. When I restarted my Patreon page again, one of them sent me a message:

I’m glad I hung around. It’s only been $5 a month and every year when I look at my Patreon, I think of you doing whatever you’re doing and hope you and the girls are well!

My heart ached at these words of support, loving me just as I am.

I am making art again, not because I have to, but because I want to. I spent a while this last year trying to get a corporate job, and I almost had one that I loved. It would have paid amazingly. I could have worked from home and used my creativity. I made it to the last round of interviews when they decided to go with a different candidate. And I knew: that meant I had an amazing application. I could do it again. I could be successful next time.

But then a little voice started needling at me in my quiet moments, and it said: no one can tell the stories inside of you but you, no one can create the art you have except you. So I decided to do the difficult thing and start up my art business again. I have no safety net, no guarantees, and my network has atrophied in my absence from online life. But maybe, like a garden in spring, the fallow plot is the one with the promise of new growth.

Life is too short to waste on listening to people who belittle me in order to feel better about themselves. So I will hang new banners and create new stories, and I will attract my own community. I hope you will be a part of that by joining my Patreon today.

2 Responses to How To Bet On Yourself

  1. Lorraine April 10, 2023 at 1:09 am #

    Hi, Erin,
    I’m so happy for you and to hear from you! And I hear you with all my heart. Sometimes it takes realizing that what you would never accept for someone else is also not acceptable for you. Your art makes me happy and you rock! Can’t wait to see what you create next 🙂

    • Erin Darling April 10, 2023 at 3:31 am #

      Thanks so much Lorraine! I like that you said this:
      > Sometimes it takes realizing that what you would never accept for someone else is also not acceptable for you.
      That’s a really great way to put it. I think it is so easy to think if ways to love on and care for others, and it has been such a journey, learning how to apply those principles to myself.

      But it’s also really fun!!

      <3 Erin