Be a miserable artist in 10 easy steps

Although I’m increasingly disenchanted with social media, occasionally I still get to see one of my friends’ posts. This one caught my eye today:

Curious about the source of all this priceless advice, I Googled “How to feel miserable as an artist.” *PING*! Up popped illustrator Keri Smith’s wise and wonderful website.

Clearly, she’s done a lot of thinking about the creative process — and it shows in her work. As I explored her site I was impressed by her insatiable curiosity, her sense of humor, and her willingness to fail.

But what really struck me about Keri is that she’s an evangelist for creativity in others: Even on her landing page, she prompts visitors to use the built-in sketch pad to “draw or describe something that is right in front of you.”

I drew my clock, because, well, whatever …

Keri Smith whatever clock sketch

If I say so myself, it’s not an entirely horrible likeness.

Whatever 1100999 BLOG

I also loved her collection of journals that are just begging to be wrecked. (Maybe she’s finally found a way to get me past the Tyranny of the Blank Book?)

But more than anything, I loved her generosity in sharing her hilarious (yet extremely insightful) Artists’ Survival Kit. It consists of five PDF files full of fun activities you can download for free.

Keri Smith artist survival guide

My favorite was page 5 — probably because it so beautifully echoes my (admittedly naïve) notion that we can make our own good luck.

Keri Smith lucky charms

I also appreciated the opportunity to write my own paycheck, and the permission form that grants me the right to make mistakes:

Keri Smith permission to make mistakes

Plus, finally — thanks to Keri — everything I write will be award-winning!

Keri Smith own damn award

How about you? Are you ready to give yourself permission to fail, and create your own damn award? Well, in case you need one more affirmation of your greatness, I’ll leave you with this reminder:

Keri Smith immense powers


  1. I have seen her journals in bookstores and thought that they seemed pretty cool. I’ve also seen that list of ways to feel miserable as an artist. Kudos to you for finding the connection! That’s a mark of a curious mind…and staying curious is definitely on the list of ways to succeed. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for reading — and for taking the time to comment, Shane. I especially appreciate your comment in the wake of another friend’s reminder that “curiosity killed the cat.” (I reminded him that I haven’t died yet, haha.) So … here’s to making connections, and to staying curious! Cheers!

  2. The first two steps to being miserable definitely rang a bell with me. The second one is like hitting oneself in the head with a hammer. It’s so nice when you stop. The first one, I am trying very hard not to do, and I think it might be working. As for allowing myself to make mistakes? Whaat mistooks?

    • “It’s so nice when you stop.” Isn’t that (unfortunately) true of so many of the things we creative types do to ourselves? You’ve hit on one more reason why I found Keri Smith’s website so eye-opening: She’s helped me realize that I’m not alone in my self-sabotage. Or my fear of making mistookes, for that matter. 🙂

  3. Keri Smith is great, isn’t she? I bought her ‘Living Out Loud’ a few years back and was initially a bit taken aback by its messy, scrawly style – which only shows how badly I needed her inspiration! I’m still itching to correct the spelling mistakes in the extracts you show us here, but I’m learning to breathe deep and make my own damn mistaeks.

    Thanks for this inspiring post. Give yourself an award! Or whatever. 😉

    • You make an excellent observation about embracing messiness and mistaeks, DB — and I admit this is a “growth opportunity” for me too: I was tempted to Photoshop the missing “e” back into “achievment,” but then I realized that few achievments are achievd without a few huccups and eroors. 😀

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