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Taking time off as an illustrator

If there’s anything I’ve been learning in the creative industry of illustration it is how to take a day off.

I thought I knew how to rest, I thought I knew how to take time off but the reality is that I don’t.

What a typical day off usually consists of is feel like my mind is whirling and swirling with unfinished projects and a backlog of creative ideas.

I can literally feel my heart race and stomach turn when I think of all the amazing things that AREN’T getting done. Things that could potentially propel myself and my career forward.

Taking time off should be restful and relaxing, however every freelance illustrator knows that time off can also be stressful and anxiety inducing for many reasons.

I’m no master of relaxation, but I have had to learn the hard way that I cannot treat myself like a creative machine- pumping out artwork every day. I must learn to treat myself like a human being that gets tired, feels stressed, loses motivation, and has the potential to burn out eventually.

If you resonate with feeling stressed because you think some time off will squelch your career, this article is for you.

1. Let yourself be human.

As mentioned above, you are not a machine that was built to produce masses of perfectly lovely, print-ready files, that are waiting to be purchased, sold, or developed into products.

You are a wonderfully creative person who has the talent, ability, and passion to make thoughts, ideas, and concepts a visual reality.

You are capable of many great and awesome things, however you are also susceptible to fatigue, low-mood, and loss of motivation from time to time.

And that’s okay because…you’re a human being and you are not defined by the amount of work you produce in a day.

2. Let your previous work speak to you.

Upon discovering you need a rest, rather than fret about the personal and client projects that need doing, look back at the work you HAVE accomplished.

Revel in all the projects you’re completed, turned in, or handed over to a client.

Take pride in the copious amount of hours you’ve spent perfecting your craft, working your fingers to the bone for the joy of creating and the passion within you.

Look at how far you’ve come, from the first illustration until now. And just think, you’re not done yet- you will only keep improving.

3. Let your physical, mental, and emotional limitations spur you on.

You would think limitations deter creativity, however it’s commonly known that they actually help it.

Whether it be limited colour palettes, limited canvas size, limited resources, or LIMITED ENERGY, they can actually breath new life into your work.

If you’re given three colours to use to create a vibrant landscape, you’re going to mix and match and work those colours until you’re happy with the result.

The same is true of energy levels. If you’ve found your energy lasts a solid 4 hours a day, I encourage you to find a way to make those 4 hours count rather than push yourself to 7 or 8 hours of half-heartedness.

I’ve found that when I allow myself to stop, rest, and not feel guilty for my apparent lack of drive, I’m more excited to go back to work when I feel ready.

4. Let yourself find the value in rest.

It’s very easy to look at time-off through the lens of what you’re missing out on as opposed to what you’re taking part in.

It’s very easy to feel bad about yourself- thinking that if you had more energy you wouldn’t need as much rest. And if you didn’t need as much rest you could be getting more work done, achieving your goals faster, and keeping up with the seemingly endless cycle of productivity you see on social media.

Rather than thinking about all the things not getting done, think about the things that are getting done.

As you rest you are allowing your body, mind, and spirit to re-charge. You are giving your thoughts space to fully develop. You are coming back to a place of stillness where you are not defined by your productivity. You are allowing creativity to exist as part of what make you happy, not just what keeps you busy.

As you rest, you are doing more than what meets the eye.

5. Let go.

As one who tends to hold grudges, letting go is not a strength of mine.

However, I’ve been learning that to find rest usually requires letting go of unhelpful thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.

Let go of the idea that you are what you make. Let go of the belief that you’re only purpose in life is creating and coming up with new ideas. Let go of the constant desire to be somewhere in your life or career that you are not yet.

These things are hard to let go of sometimes but, to take time off and truly enjoy it, you have to find contentment where you are and with who you are.

Otherwise you are letting work define your worth. And work can fluctuate A LOT in freelance businesses.

Closing out...

I sincerely hope you enjoyed the read and found some of this to be useful. As Christmas and New Years approach I hope you find truly restful moments.

As always, I love to hear your comments and feedback! Message me through my contact form or reach out on social media for a chat!

With love,



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