There’s a lot I’m really upset with right now.

A lot of it has to do with myself. Big surprise! I’m an artist, and I sometimes still feel like that is a dangerous admission. It is no easy feat to be an artist right now. It is no easy feat to admit that you are good at very little other than being an artist. To try and fit yourself into a square peg of a world when you are clearly round.

Unless you just decide NOT TO.

If we decide to operate as independent artists, our worth is seemingly determined by social media accounts, by how many likes you can get within a certain amount of time, how many followers you can have on each of those accounts. This is the structure that exists. The idea is that the more followers you have, the more jobs you can get, the more shows you can get, the more you will sell, and the better you will be able to live.

I reject this. This might be reality for some people, but this is not my reality.

I do not want to live in this world. I am working my ass off to create my own.

Last year, I started my own business. After years of working for other people, or doing projects for little to no money, I was over that life. I wanted to work for myself, on the projects I cared about. My little company created t-shirts with my own illustrations on them. I loved what I made and I wanted to get it out to as many people as possible. I started researching online how to do this.

My life quickly became consumed with action plans steeped in how to gain more followers on Instagram, how to reach tastemakers, how to commodify what I believed in and make it applicable to everyone who happened to come in contact with me. I hung out in the marketing section of large bookstores (where they don’t care if you stay for hours pouring over a book). I started going down a rabbit hole of girlboss and ladyboss hashtags at 10 pm, and coming out of it at one am. I tried to set up systems akin to what other women had done in terms of how they promoted themselves or their work.

It was fucking exhausting. I felt desperate, all of the time. Like my brain was spinning on 18 different cylinders, but different ones would stop and start at different times, and I’d have to backtrack the cylinder to get it revved up to go again. As much as I wanted to be a 24-7 badass boss bitch, I just wasn’t. All of the systems, tactics, and gameplans for domination were so forced that they confused me at certain points. I over thought things. I constantly compared myself to those who were doing “better” (read: had more followers, more likes, were seemingly making a living off their work). I worried about how my company would look to other people– I’m a white presenting person of color who is also a feminist vegan, and I felt like I couldn’t really explore this aspect of myself and my upbringing without directly being connected to the conversations that were happening on social media. It was all too much to constantly have these discussions in my head and then have them echoed times a trillion via what was being said by different people online.

The truth is, I’m an artist, not an entrepreneur. By the end of 2015, I had learned my lesson.  In a world where followers are bought and sold, I realized I didn’t need to worry about how many likes or followers I had.

I should be using my time and energy to make quality work, not to create timetables and schedules for researching keywords and SEO. I began to realize that my time itself was of value, and in fact, might be more valuable than any sort of gameplan I could conjure up.

The world I want to create for myself is a collective group of like-minded individuals who have a variety of talents and interests. They work their asses off, they trade information and ideas like their going out of style. They are protective of one another. They are loyal to one another and believe in one another’s work. They meet up regularly armed with ideas and ways to move forward and support one another.

I would like to propose a solution to you. It is half baked, and I expect you to poke holes in it so that we might make this idea better, stronger, more vibrant, and more applicable for people in similar situations:


  • Make good shit that you are proud of. Keep a notepad and a favorite pen on your person at all times, for drawing up, writing down, and spitting out every one of your ideas, whether it be bad or good at the time of inception. Take these tools with you everywhere.

  • Create space for yourself on the regular. Brain space. Creative space. Touch down with that space every day. Be as generous and kind as you possibly can with yourself– good work takes time, effort, dedication, and sacrifice. This space should have everything you need for proper creative making– your pens, your papers, your camera, your lights. Yes, be patient as you create. But, conversely, do not wait for a “muse” or to be inspired. That idea is a joke. Make NOW, and watch your muse or inspiration come to you because you are actively open to her.

  • Use the computer as a tool to get your work out there. That’s all Instagram and Facebook need to be– a tool. Take Facebook off your phone, or set up a app like Quality Time that monitors how you use your phone so that you can create perimeters that prevent you from being distracted. Use the internet as a research tool– look up and find others making amazing things that light you up. If you can’t find anything in ten minutes, then stop wasting your time and go back to that pen and paper. If you do find that idea or that person, then read/research only to the point where your brain feels sparked, and use that feeling to hit that pen and paper. Always go back to the pen and paper.

  • Meet other people and tell them about your project when they ask what you’re up to. Don’t ever say “I’ve been so busy!” and end it there. Allow yourself to share your excitement and nerves over what you’ve been working on. Ask them what they are passionate about, and how they spend their time. If you get the number of a potential new friend, follow up. Make a date for coffee or drinks or walking/sitting in a park. Whatever. Just create a time for distraction-free sharing with that person, focusing on their projects. Treat your work as your opportunity to meet like minded people. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to meet up in real life. Barring that, use Skype or Facetime. This is about building a real friendship.

  • Always throw ideas at people as generously and ferociously as you would give them to yourself. Some people will use them. Some won’t. Keep creating ideas. Keep making cool shit that turns you on in wild and radical ways.

  • Find out what other people do really well and build relationships with them that benefit the two of you. Find people who do different things from what you do. Find out what other people need. Hook your friends up with one another, but only after you’ve vetted them as mutually hardworking, reliable, and on the same wavelength. Offer up your own talents when time and effort and payoff (whatever that might be for you) line up for you.

  • Follow your gut. Follow your gut. FOLLOW YOUR GUT. Have faith in your vision, experience and work. Have faith in the world you are creating for yourself

Are you ready? I’m ready. Let’s make cool shit.


Aurora Lady

Aurora Lady is a mixed media artist who has been an ardent proponent of the DIY ethic since her teen years. Her original pieces, illustrated wearables, and zines all zing with the spirit of pure love for women and community. She’s also our special guest for Friday’s inaugural “VOX & Voices” reading + music event at Stories! RSVP here and see more of her work at


Tuesday, Februray 9, 2016