Hi friends! You will notice that this post contains no images. This is because I have so many good things I want to blog about, but I am deep into a huge book project, and don't have a ton of time to work on images that I feel like posting because I am concentrating all my time on finishing this project on time. But I would like to talk to you a little bit about something I have really been thinking about lately. And I would love feedback and comments!
The topic is working on personal project when you are bogged down with illustration jobs. This has been my big dilemma in the last couple of years. I think I have pretty much had non-stop projects for the last year and a half with out any breaks, sometimes more than one project at a time. This has been a blessing to our family because my husband does not make enough for our family on his own. But I have felt bogged down, always under deadlines and never getting the chance to work on any of my 25+ personal projects and ideas that have been building up and wanting to surface. I see friends around me fulfilling their dreams and illustrating things that they love. I find myself in tears sometimes because I wish that was me. My desire is to change and evolve my style and do more stylized things, but I never get the opportunity to do so because I always get the same type of jobs. So I recently discussed this very dilemma in a kidlit group I am part of. I got some great responses and ideas from other illustrators. I hope they don't mind me sharing those ideas here!
Will Terry said: "Hang in there - the projects
you're working on are still helping you improve and formulate your
theories. I know exactly how you feel because I've been there. Wealth is
created in your spare time so it comes down to sacrifice. When I'm
dealing with the same situation I try to channel Will Smith in "The
Pursuit of Happiness" - the concept that every second counts - he took
fewer bathroom breaks to increase productivity. You have to keep working
on your own projects - even if you can only squeeze a half hour or 15
min/day...Imagine what you can accomplish in one year if you do?
....hope that helps."
Thank you Will! The 15 minutes a day is such a good idea. I bought myself a new sketchbook which I named "Shawna's Idea Book." I am going to set a goal to spend 15 minutes a day in my idea book. Each time I spend that 15 minutes, I get to color in a square. When I color in 50 squares, I get to buy myself a nice art book I have been wanting. (Yes, I am a mom and can also bribe myself). Baby steps and setting goals.
Hazel Mitchell said: "I
have had to put aside my own work for most of the last 18 months, but
am happy to have paying book work. I now realize I can't say 'I'll work
on my story when I am through with this book', because then another
project comes along. So I have to make the time and schedule to work on
both ... It's hard ... I don't enjoy changing gears and like to work on a
project constantly till it finished. But now I see this isn't how it's
going to be ... So my only solution is a schedule. I'll let you know how
Such a good idea, Hazel. Schedule in your personal projects as if they have a deadline also. I always tell myself, "When this project is done, I will feel so much better and I will be able to have time to work on my own projects." Sometimes that does happen- for about a week- which only gives me enough time to catch up on sleep and laundry. So I guess scheduling it in may be what I need to do.
Andi Butler: Talked about how everything in life comes in cycles and seasons. She said, "You never
know what life will throw your way. I think the hardest part though, is
that being creative is sensitive to any stress in our lives, and we can
get blocked so easily. Wills advice is perfect, 15 minutes a day, more
if you can, but at least that. Even if it just gestures, because it
will keep flexing your creative muscles and they won't atrophy under
stagnant work we sometimes have to do. Hazel's schedule will work too if
you treat your personal project with equal importance as a paying one!
We need to take ourselves seriously if we expect others do too. My two
cents: turn off the email. I don't mean hide it, quit out of it. I found
it a bigger time suck than FB or Twitter, because all my notifications
come through it. Even on my phone, it's unlaunched so I'm not
distracted. It surprising how much time is used more wisely now! I check
the email three times a day and that's it...
Such words of wisdom from Andi. I often feel like all my creativity is being sucked out of me and I am just a work machine trying to get the current project done and turned in on time- because of stress. Giving my own personal projects equal attention and priority is something I need to do or the love of art might just be sucked right out of me. And how can I do this when I feel like every extra minute I have is taken up by me trying to finish my projects? And this is on top of taking care of my family and church responsibilities. Well, spending less time in email and the Internet is a very good suggestion. As Will Terry put it, "go on an internet diet."
I bought a program called Freedom for Mac which I bought in a bundle with a program called AntiSocial. I have started using these programs more to help me focus on my work and get more done (yes, you have to consciously make yourslef turn on the program). Freedom turns off the Internet access completely for any amount of time you decide, Antisocial turns off access to email, facebook and twitter (social media).
On keeping a record of ideas for personal project:
Sherry Meidell: "Write down your ideas that pop into your head that you want to
work on. Then when you have the time you can look at your notes and
sketch books and run with your own ideas. It might be years but when you
check back to your notes, you can run with your own ideas."
I like this. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our ideas may take time to take flight. But it's good to keep a record so you can always come back to your ideas later.
Hazel Mitchel: "I
like to write things down on post-it notes as they occur, even random
thoughts. I slap them round a window frame in my studio and look at them
from time to time. Then they get moved into different positions and new
Thank you everyone for all these wonderful suggestions and inspiration. I am going to have the courage to work on my own ideas even if it is 15 minutes a day.