I've been staring at the renewal notice for my DBA for the last two days. I'm not planning on renewing it. It's difficult to shake the lingering feeling of defeat I have about the whole thing, but I'm making this decision for positive reasons. If it is defeat, it's one that I intend to turn into victory.
There are two main reasons I'm dropping my DBA. Firstly, it's too narrow to encompass what I'm actually planning on doing going forward; secondly, it simply wasn't a step I needed to take in the first place. I believed it was at the time, but have realized since that I was wrong.
Ten years ago (this would be my second time renewing the DBA, were I to do so), I had only the vaguest idea of how to have an art career or even what sort of art career I wanted to have. I hadn't even finished my last college class. I was going based off what I'd heard my whole life: I was good at art, so I could do art for a living. I read advice books on how to proceed (at least one of them was from the early 90s, and while I readily discarded the bit about sending out physical mailers, I didn't pause to consider whether a staunchly separated business identity was also no longer necessary), and checked off the steps. DBA, not thinking the name through too thoroughly? Check. Separate bank account, despite how much of a hassle I knew it would be? Check. Start a website in that name? Check. Put together assorted social media materials and such, also in that name? Check. I had no idea what would come after that. I think I imagined that I would advertise a bit and then get jobs. Illustration jobs. Maybe RPG book illustrations, maybe interior book illustrations.
But that's not what happened. Nothing I did that worked out or that I felt passionate about ended up using the Morgan Lees Illustration name at all! When I was paid for illustrative work, people wrote me personal checks or gave me cash anyway, and what became my main project from 2015 to 2020 – Corner the Maze – was under my name, because it seemed weird to attribute a comic to 'Morgan Lees Illustration'. I hated maintaining the separate bank account. It stressed me out. I still keep careful track of my expenses and what are business expenses, but going to that step never felt necessary, and it always made it ten times more mentally difficult for me to do anything business related. Maybe it'll become a necessary step some day, but I can deal with that when I get to it.
I've learned in the intervening ten years to consider whether the business advice I read will work for me before I implement it. A lot of it doesn't. Nearly all marketing or selling or business advice assumes a level of effortless ability to socialize that I don't have and likely never will have. I know why that is now, but the advice is still written for people who don't have an inherent clash between "be yourself" and "smile and make eye contact". And although not to the same degree, tunneling in on illustration and trying to check all the boxes without considering anything else was also not something that worked for me.
Lately I've been focused more on writing than anything else, with a secondary focus on comics. I've learned that while I do certainly enjoy drawing, I'm typically only motivated to draw other people's characters if they're paying me, which creates a bit of a loop, because who's going to want to do that if I only ever draw my own characters? Plus, as much as I tried to force myself to do the realistic painterly thing for a while, and I very much enjoy looking at that style, it's not what I'm drawing to making.
So I'm very much not giving up. I'm reassessing, which is well overdue.
If I end up with a separate business identity again, it'll be something that can encompass comics and perhaps self-publishing at least, maybe even one or two other endeavours I've considered. But unless I need something, it's simpler to just be me.
Time to move that renewal notice on to the recycling and get to planning what things will look like next year! (It will include more articles and updates here on Scattered Leaves.)