A lot has changed for me in the last year and a half. Without a doubt, the most significant change was becoming a dad in December of 2013. Other than having experienced what it’s like to be a father for the first time and adjusting to it, I’ve also grown as a person in general. I’m no longer in my twenties—yes, I’m old. It wasn’t easy admitting it in the beginning, but I’ve accepted that there’s wisdom that comes along with age and there’s no point in denying it.
Sure, having the daddy title alone can be a life-changer—at least it has been for me. Without getting too cliché, it has had a positive effect on my work habits, which is exactly what I needed to give me that extra push. What prompted this change also had to do with my progression as a designer. I’ve adopted a more professional approach to the things I’m passionate about and incorporated them into my daily routine due to my newfound purpose in life. There was no better time to shake things up than at the start of the new year.
So to re-cap, I’m sharing some of the things that I regularly took part in throughout 2014. Inevitably, there were a few streaks of inactivity due to unannounced circumstances (such as a crabby baby, stress or lack of sleep), which I’m okay with. My goal was to simply start getting comfortable with everything. It’s a work in progress and everyday I’ve been accomplishing things I never thought I’d do.
In 2013, I put out a whopping three blog posts. It’s sad, I know. This year, I doubled that number with six. I know it’s not as impressive as 12 or 52, but I’m happy with the improvement I’ve made. The quality of my posts have also gotten better since I’ve started writing more. If you look back at my first few posts (I decided to remove these for consistency purposes), you’ll see how short and inconsistent they were. I just didn’t have my own voice. I’m still not at the level I want to be, but slow progress is better than no progress.
2. Listening to Podcasts
It wasn’t until August of last year that I sat down and listened to my first podcast. I’ve subscribed to a handful of them over the year pertaining to creativity, entrepreneurship, business, freelance and life. While most cover similar topics, each podcast has a unique approach and offer insightful tips from well-respected people in their industry. I’ve learned and grown so much professionally because of them. I’m going to hold-off on sharing them for now and go over them in a separate post for those who are interested.
Prior to 2014, I only practiced lettering when I “had time.” I remember looking at the work of artists I admired and wanting to be at their level. I told myself the only way I could get better is by setting time aside to practice on a regular basis. Originally, my goal was to master pen pressure. I eventually became so obsessed with it that I wrote a blog post about it. In the process, I ended up establishing a routine for myself that has become second nature. Now, I kick into autopilot and work on my lettering in the evening for a couple of hours.
4. Making Time
This was a big one for me. Even with a newborn, I managed to make time for my lettering projects every day with the exception of a few instances. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy because that’s far from the truth. It was VERY difficult, but everything around me was telling me to push forward. Getting into the habit of making it a part of my schedule was the toughest hurdle of it all. I pretty much replaced T.V. time with lettering time. I was able to do that by getting rid of our television sets—that’s right, no T.V. Although I don’t share every single lettering piece I make on Instagram, I still sit down at my desk, kitchen table or where ever space is available, and work on the thing I love.
I used to be really bad at networking. For the longest time, I was against social media, posting my work on the web and attending meet-ups. I realize now that I was limiting myself from growing as a designer and missing opportunities to connect with like-minded people. I changed that by signing up with all of the major social media platforms I could think of throughout the last three years. What really helped me was consistently commenting on other peoples’ work as well as asking questions and looking for feedback. These were all things I rarely used to do. The connections I’ve made this year with people in the design and lettering community has been a huge plus for me professionally and I regret not starting sooner.
6. Saying No
Sounds simple, right? It’s actually a difficult word to say when there’s family involved, a great opportunity or a big paycheck on the line. This year, I really started implementing the use of this two-letter word when approached with potential work. I’ve actually turned down work, which I rarely did before, simply because there was something about the project that didn’t meet my criteria. I know it sounds like I’m being picky and you’re probably wondering, “How is that possible? What about your bills?” Well…something that most people don’t know about me is that I have a day job working 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday at a firm—and no, it’s not a creative one. I won’t go into the details, but it pays the bills for now. Since I’m not dependent on every request I get, I can afford to be selective and spend my time building up my skills until I can transition to freelance full-time. I’m saying no now even though the opportunities are good so that I can say yes to the better ones later.
7. Being Patient
Without a doubt, being a parent has been a huge patience builder and I’ve never had to be more patient in my life than now. Because of it, I’ve been able to put the not-so important things on the side and give my attention to the things that matter the most, such as being a good dad, a good husband and honing in my lettering skills. I’m hopeful that the results will show for themselves in the long run.
I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for people willing to share their secrets and post screen shots of their process. Like most people starting out, I found process shots extremely helpful. I decided early in the year that I’d pay it forward and share my bank of lettering knowledge, even with the limited amount that I have. I’ve written blog posts on the tools I use, brush pens and pen pressure, and even uploaded a few videos on YouTube. A lot of what I share are things that I was curious about when I started or questions that people have asked me more than once. I’m still getting used to the video format of sharing content and I’m hoping to kick it up a notch next year.
What’s in store for 2015?
I’ll be making prints available for purchase and some other goodies.
I have a few tutorials I’m putting together to answer some common lettering questions for beginners. I’ll be focusing specifically on brush pens, revising techniques and vectorization.
I’ll announce when people can begin to sign up in the near future. Those interested can anticipate the content to revolve around lettering.
You can expect more blog posts (definitely more than six) and a more active social media presence.