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No Struggle, No Progress

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After an exhilarating and inspirational time at Creative Works Conference, we took a moment to reflect on what we took away from the speakers and their stories. There was a recurring subject circulating throughout most of the conference: the theme of conflict vs. progress. From my perspective, there are many types of conflict that creative people will go through, but those can be further broken down into two: physical and emotional conflict.

PHYSICAL

(Anything outside the mind: financial, societal, health, etc.)

Dana James Mwangi was a very literal example of this type of conflict when she shared her struggle with financial burdens and two pregnancies while trying to make it as a designer and mother. How she made progress was by fighting to become what she wanted: a superstar mom, entrepreneur, speaker, and owner of an award-winning brand and web agency.

Ryan Booth had to overcome time and learning new skills to make progress on his career as a filmmaker. He talked about how he learned the hard way; how an accumulation of tiny moments builds an entire career. Even now he admits that he’s still progressing in his career, but it helps to understand and know that the kind of progress that matters will always take overcoming some physical struggle.

Physical burdens are the hardest, in my opinion, to deal with because they’re outside forces that sometimes can’t be controlled. Like they say, however, “Where there is a will, there is a way” and finding that way will eventually lead to making progress.

EMOTIONAL

(Anything within the mind: mental illness, insecurities, anxiety, etc.)

Kaye Blegvad shared a very personal story on how she dealt with her depression and how that gave her success in her career as an illustrator. Using her art and storytelling as a medium for talking about mental illness was her way to make herself feel comfortable with confronting and sharing it.

There’s no doubt that Adam J. Kurtz really plays on the emotions in his work. The way that he progresses as an artist through insecurities, loneliness, depression, happiness (literally all the feels) is so effortless because you can see it in every piece he makes. The transparency of his work and voice as an artist is what has really helped him to become so popular and progressive in his career.

Mental illnesses and self inflicted emotions can really set us back and they can keep us from moving forward in our goals. However, when we find ways to deal with them (and sometimes ways to use them to our advantage) we can see positive momentum in our lives.

PHYSICAL + EMOTIONAL

And of course, you can have both types of conflict present in your life.

Lauren Hom hit a wall in her career and life when she physically and mentally felt drained from her time as an art director at an advertising agency. She talked about how she came to the realization that she no longer was happy or feeling fulfilled as a designer so she had to make a choice to focus on her passion at the time: a lettering project she started in college. That decision changed her life dramatically and helped her make noteworthy progress in her life.

Shawna X had a similar experience when she struggled with making work that she felt passionate for. By letting go of that physical and mental conflict of working at a job she could no longer feel happy with, Shawna X found her voice and calling in her illustrations. She is now venturing into confronting societal conflict by creating work surrounding what she had always felt insecure with growing up: Chinese food and culture.

I used to hate how my handwriting looked. My earliest memory of this was in elementary school when I tried to copy the bubbly, girly handwriting some of my friends had to make mine look less like a boy’s. Writing is something most of us have to live with, so I dealt with that struggle for years. When I began my design career, I found myself in the same situation that I was in back in grade school: I was so envious of all the beautiful lettering and calligraphy in the design world. I decided about two years ago that I would practice my lettering so that I could write something for once in my life that looked pretty. Eventually this daily practice gave me more confidence in my own handwriting. I learned to embrace my writing and now I’ve come to terms with my unique style and can finally appreciate it. By practicing lettering, I’ve found a way to deal with a struggle I had for most of my life.

In my opinion, when it comes to dealing with struggle, you can either give up or you can learn to love it. Conflict is part of everyday life and the only way to move forward is to confront and deal with it. If you want to be stuck in a limbo of non progression, then avoid that conflict. If you love something enough to deal with the struggle that comes with it, then it is meant for you and you will find success in it.

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