Many years ago, when getting some career advice from a graphic designer friend, he asked me how much sleep I really needed each day.
“Four to five,” I answered.
“Okay,” he responded. “Then you’ll be able to handle being a designer.”
At that time, I thought I knew what he was talking about. The job of a designer can be demanding and may require long hours of stressful work. Oh, how I was so naive.
Back in high school, I got a taste of digital media. I signed up for 3D animation, broadcasting, web and graphic design classes. I wanted to know it all and I couldn’t get my hands on it enough. After graduating, I just dabbled here and there with design as a hobby. But then around five years ago, I started shifting this hobby into a career. Now, I’m just a few classes away from graduating with a degree in Graphic and Web Design, I’m the latest designer here at Joint, and I have a respectable number of personal freelance clients. I love where my life is headed, but I’m tired as hell!
Here’s the thing about being a designer, your brain never turns off. It’s kind of like when a parent accidentally says “ice cream” in earshot of their kid and now all that kid wants is ice cream. Their life goal is now ice cream. They are consumed with the thought of eating that frozen treat sprinkled with an assortment of delicious toppings, and anything less is simply garbage. Kind of like almond milk ice cream. Seriously, stop trying to make it a thing, people.
As a designer, all you want to see is good design. One of my designer friends described it as, “an addiction that sneaks up on you.” It changes the way you see the world. You notice everything, the beautiful, the mediocre, and, yes, even the visually assaulting. But here’s the rub. A designer doesn’t just want to look at good design, but they want to produce good design. And this is where my naivety was revealed.
I quickly found myself designing well into the wee hours of the morning quite often. This was not because of poor time management or that I had some crazy project due the next day (okay, most of the time those weren’t the reasons). This usually happened because I wanted to push my design skills further. So, just like a kid who can’t think of anything else but ice cream, my focus was on learning a new skill or perfecting a technique. I would read forums, watch videos, check out examples, and consume anything related to that skill/technique, then I’d practice. After that, I’d practice some more. Next thing I know, it’s 4:24am and my wife grunts at me to go to bed as she walks to and from the bathroom without ever opening her eyes. I don’t know how she does it. I always stub my toes in the dark.
Recently, I was working on a personal project late at night. I couldn’t quite get the results I was looking for, so I got to point where I saved it and then went to bed. 15 minutes later, I was eating a snack while I waited for my design programs to reopen. I couldn’t just fall asleep without working it out first. I felt like I was giving up and I couldn’t do that.
Each one of us here at Joint has similar stories of sacrificing things in our life, like sleep, to get better, learn more, and fuel our passion for design. Behind the curtain, we sacrifice so much because we’re maniacs about perfecting our craft.
So what are you passionate about and what are you doing about it? What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals? Burnout is always looming around the corner, so staying healthy and learning to ‘unplug’ every once in a while is a must, but stay at it. Make it happen.