say no

March 24, 2010 |  Category:   life rambling



1 month on this intensive work schedule and I’m starting to lose focus of the goals I set earlier this year. All those personal and Whimsy-related projects I was excited about are becoming distant and hazy. I think if you aren’t in there diving into them, you start to either over think the ideas too much or not give them enough attention and they start to lose their point and meaning.

In a weird way, I almost feel like I’m taking the easy way out after having set all those goals earlier in the year. When you’re working on client projects you’re given clear assignments, a deadline and at the end, a paycheck. It’s much harder to do your own thing, set your own goals and deadlines and attempt to make a living from what you create, but it’s also hard to turn away good money and say no. It’s made me reassess my wish for this year to transition out of this career. It’s hard to be in a line of work where your work is constantly critiqued. It’s all subjective. Sometimes you can separate the critique from your feelings (it’s not about you, it’s about the work) and other times you feel like shit when something you put out in the world gets slammed and ripped apart. You would think that you’d get used to it after spending more than half a lifetime sitting through critiques in high school, art school, music school, grad school and then with clients, but it doesn’t necessarily get easier. Despite the fact that my heart is never in this kind of work, that I have insecurities and suffer from nerves being shot every time I await feedback from a client, I work hard and I can maybe finally admit to myself what others have been telling me for years – that I am good at what I do.

I feel burnt out today. No focus at all. I just want to sit on the couch and watch crap TV on YouTube (recent obsession, Be Good Johnny Weir) and eat a bunch of KitKat bars. So despite the fact that it seems to go against my usual nature of taking everything on and dealing with the stressful consequences if the shit hits the fan, I am saying no to new projects that have surfaced the past 2 days and learning not to have any regrets. Can’t do it all. It’s not worth it, not even for the money.

(thank you to Andrew who gave the girls some tooth fairy and kokeshi charms (shown above). The generosity of others is always inspiring).

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  • wendy March 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    glad to hear that you’re admitting that you are good at what you do (and YES, you definitely are jenna!) and saying no. it really sucks when you work hard on something and clients don’t like it.. esp in your case where your work is obviously very good. i haven’t done a lot of work for clients.. but i’ve done enough to dread the feedback. hope you can rest up a bit and be re-inspired to work on those goals — i’m looking forward to seeing what you have cooking!

  • Amanda March 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Doing graphic design work can be really hard, especially when the criticism is a little more hurtful. I have to remember that my work doesn’t reflect me as a person, but man, that is easier said than done! Especially when I love the final product and the client hates it. I feel for you!

  • Andrew Thornton March 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Hey Jenna, You should definitely check out the essay by Agnes Martin I posted on my blog. Especially pay close attention to the last couple of paragraphs. I think it hits the nail on the head as far as advice goes.

    And it was my pleasure! Thank you for featuring them on your blog. I hope the girls enjoy them! A little bit of whimsy for the fine folks of Whimsy and Spice!

  • Kaho March 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    From seeing and reading your blog, I know that you are very talented and I have no doubt that you are really good with what you do. Don’t let other people pull you down. To me art is perception. I think critiques are for those talented. I don’t think I have received that many critiques in my life since I’m not worth critiquing!! Life can hit the bottom, but the good news is that you can only go up from there. You’re stronger after that. Chocolate is also my friend when I am feeing down. 🙂 I hope you’ll have a better day tomorrow.

  • bridgett March 25, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Good for you! Sometimes I find it hard to say no too but in hindsight it’s the best feeling ever.

  • jennifer March 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I admit, I am also obsessed with be good johnny weir:)

  • Ginny March 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Is that a bowl of paper pasta?

  • michelle March 25, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Jenna, this is really brave to say out loud. It’s so easy to rationalize what you need to do for you but it’s a lot harder to turns those words into actions. For what it’s worth I think you are extremely good at what you do but if it doesn’t serve your soul than why continue to pursue it. You are very talented and I sure you are going to find that thing that is worth putting your energy into.
    And if you need a day to veg, eat cheap chocolate and watch crappy TV then take it. We all need those days every once and awhile.

  • Jen March 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I’ve been a silent reader of your blog for a while now. And not only do I think your work is great but you face the issues most of us designers are going through but are not afraid to talk about it. Thank you for being a voice for the rest of us. I’m also at the moment having to learn to say no and taking it all one step at a time.
    A kit-kat and a mental day-off makes any day better!!

  • Tara March 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Jenna , I think you are lovely also your girls , for me you are always an inspiration , everybody has these days i think they are important because they make us stronger . I adore your courage of trying , this is more important , at least you tried , so be happy because you are brave .
    Kiss from Brazil

  • Jenna March 25, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Ginny, why yes. that is a bowl of paper pasta, courtesy or miss mia.

  • julie March 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I can remember that first time I allowed the possibility of declining a job offer actually become a real option – contrary to what I expected it gave me a sense of relief and freedom. It´s not easy juggling all those demands, wishes and feelings but I do believe saying NO is a neccessary part of transition. Wishing you all the best on your path ( and a big bag of kitkats), julie