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One year of my art journey

My thoughts about social media and things that I am most thankful for.

I am writing this post today because exactly one year back (9 May 2020), I had conducted my first Zoom workshop where I showed some beginner-friendly techniques to over 25 participants. I have been conducting online alcohol ink art workshops since then, and I am thankful for all the love and support you all have showered on me.

Before, I move on to talk about the things I am grateful for, let me pen down some thoughts I’ve struggled with during the past year and how I’ve put things in perspective.

At the beginning of 2020, things were looking up, we had settled in our new home in a new city (although it was our home town, we were coming back after two decades), life was getting normal again and then COVID shook the world. The initial period of lockdown was spent well and we were pretty motivated and thought it would last just those 21 days and it was a perfect time to relax, catchup with friends and family through conference calls, cook new recipes, play board games, and so on. I am sure, many of you did that as well. But it didn’t end, monotony took over and depression started to take root. During that time my husband and I started writing a gratitude journal (in the form of WhatsApp messages to each other); just small messages about any event or thing that we were thankful for that day.

Fortunately, art came to my rescue to break that chain of monotony and each day of painting brought me more happiness. I found myself sending him the same message each day, “today I painted <this> and I am so happy about how it turned out, or how it’s better than the last time I had tried”. I got my focus back. And since I was making so much art, I was posting it on Instagram as well. At that time, I guess, all the people were working from home and had more time to spend on social media. I started getting more encouraged to paint when I got good reviews and more follows from people all over the world. I felt like I had to paint daily to keep all the followers engaged and happy with my work.

As I got more active on social media, I found myself feeling happy when people followed me and each milestone of 1000 followers was such a big deal for me. I was overjoyed when I reached 3000 followers and conducted a giveaway, and all those things that people do when they reach such milestones. And I thought, it would be so great to reach 10k followers. The months that passed as my account went from 3k to 10k were great art-wise but constantly looking at the numbers to reach that goal just made me feel inadequate and unhappy. I kept getting the feeling that the work I was doing was not good enough. I often found myself struggling - Am I doing it for my own happiness and sanity or to get more likes? Was I doing it for the numbers? Will I stop making art if I don’t get any likes or followers out of it?

Social media is such a place where it’s easy to lose track of your goals. It can motivate you, provide you a community, connect you with like-minded people, give you a platform to reach out, help you get noticed; but at the same time, it can make you feel depressed, unaccepted, cheated, and hopeless. It was time to gain control over how I used this tool. Yes, it’s an “unemotional” algorithm that can be used to find “real connections” with people and businesses. The value of your work, your art, your style, and most importantly, your happiness, does not depend on it. I decided that I would use it to communicate, to make friends, to find connections, but also make time for “social media distancing” when it started to bother me. I am thankful that I accepted this at the right time.

By the time, I reached 10K followers, my mind was so much more in control. I had stopped connecting numbers with my happiness. I decided I would never associate a follower milestone with any kind of achievement, rewards, gifts, or giveaways. Instead, I would pat myself for maintaining consistency in painting, experimenting as well as encouraging others to try something new, writing about my thoughts, working on my website, offer free info and tutorials, and so on. I would do those irrespective of the number of followers. I experienced so much freedom once I changed my perspective. I feel many of you who are in the same boat as me, making sense of social media, struggling with similar feelings would find it good to know that you are not alone.

So, what am I thankful for after completing one active year on Instagram? I am happy that social media pushed me to work harder, paint consistently, and reach a wider audience (this would not have been possible through any other means). I am grateful that I have people around me, at my home and on the web, who shower encouragement, who inspire me, who support me, lift my spirits, trust me as a teacher, and push me to explore my potential. I thank you all for each encouraging remark, for those beautiful DMs, for messaging me when you resonated with my thoughts, and for simply being there. You all mean a lot to me.

I don’t see you as a number, I see you as a person I can connect with, talk to, share ideas with, joke around with, get guidance from, offer advice to, help when needed, be a friend, have a great time with, and be a part of your journey. Thank you for being a part of mine, now and in the future.

And finally, I am thankful that you took out some precious time to read this. It means a lot to me.

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