Last month, I was pondering what a strange ride life is and sketched this.
We all come to the same place with different eyes and develop a different picture of what joy is, what success looks like, and what stories we want to tell.
It’s pretty amazing.
As humans, we are infinite perspectives creating infinite outcomes on a planet that spins like clockwork and supports life without prejudice. The tricks to survival are an observable science. When things don’t follow that pattern of science, we call them miracles, magic, outliers, or flukes.
Meanwhile, we’re all on the same stage trying to make the best of it all while playing our part in our societies as a whole.
Some of us decide to be doctors. Others become architects. Some are chefs or mechanics. Some spend their lives being artists, musicians, or psychiatrists, or some other type of creator.
We all play a role.
I, for example, am a storyteller.
I’ve been a lot of other things in my life — worn a lot of different hats in a lot of roles. But no matter where I go or who I meet, the storyteller in me never sleeps.
Even when I quit writing altogether to pursue more practical and predictable sources of income, I’ll meet up with people and they’ll say to my face. “You’re a storyteller. Why aren’t you putting more into that?”
This is beyond flattering but also a reminder that — for as many books as I’ve written — I’ve never really gone all-in on myself and my vision for storytelling.
I see where I want to be … and where I am … and the gap in between and always think, “I just need more practice. I’ll get there someday.”
I’ve had this same thought since I was a teenager.
It’s funny how the idea of not being enough doesn’t really age along with the rest of us. A QUARTER OF A CENTURY later and the thought that I need another 20 years of work still feels as convincing now as it did back then — pumping the brakes on my vision of things.
You see, I’ve always written stories, but I’ve also always wanted them to be illustrated — not necessarily like a graphic novel, but like a children’s book … for adults.
In my mind, there doesn’t need to be pictures on every page, but enough to do some mental lifting on world building.
Back in my teens, I imagined would do the writing and some awesome illustrator would come on board to illustrate.
I was 18 the first time I asked an illustrator to partner with me on a story.
After explaining my vision to them with wild enthusiasm, I noticed that the artist wasn’t smiling back at me. His brow remained furrowed and he avoided eye contact before politely replying that he didn’t think he was good enough to illustrate yet and … once he was that good, he would follow his own vision.
It was the first of many rejections.
So I accepted that I needed to become a better — more successful — writer to attract a talented illustrator. I had to succeed on my own merits to attract a publisher or an artist who illustrated for a living who saw my stories as a good way to make money.
With this goal in mind, I learned to write in other ways that didn’t rely on pictures to tell a story — ultimately, writing novels that many of you may have read.
I considered them practice, did it part-time, worked other jobs for income, and never really went all-in on establishing myself as a novelist.
Then 2020 hit.
My mom died suddenly right before COVID hit, then quarantined dropped, and my creativity went bye-bye. 👋👋
We all responded differently to quarantine. Some learned to garden. Some got closer to family. Some lost family. Some lost their jobs. Some increased their income. LOTS of people moved.
Through it all, I was like a spinning compass that had lost its north who kept wandering well-trodden paths trying to find it again.
It was like yelling into a vaccuum. Nothing seemed to bounce or have resonance.
I didn’t know what to do or how to find direction again.
When I asked others, they all came back with the same question: “What brings you joy?”
When I applied to work for companies, their question was: “You’re an author. What is your motivation for staying with us if we hire you? What if inspiration or success strikes in six months? Where will you be in a year?“
I was completely ready to give up on my own creativity and move permanently into the corporate world to play a role in someone else’s vision but, for the first time in my life, not a single employer was interested in me.
Meanwhile, I wanted someone to tell me which direction North was, but everyone who knew said it could not be pointed to, only found by following personal joy within.
Yet I was stressed out of my mind, which masked feeling joy about anything. Even thoughts that should have made me happy stressed me out because they were so impractical and put in the position of doing sales for my own product — something I have always felt anxious doing.
Like many, I can promote and sell others quite well, but tend to go small when it comes to advocating for myself. I like to imagine that if something is good it will sell itself.
PSA: That’s not how the market works. Believing you can succeed without strategic promotion just a comforting delusion for people who are shy of spotlights.
Anyway, one thing did happen in 2020 that was new: I drew something.
I liked it. It made me laugh. And it was a time when laughter was a bit scarce so I posted it.
And the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
An artist friend I’ve know for decades even called me and said, “Did you really draw that? Because I’m kind of weirding out that you can do that.”
I wasn’t sure how to take that comment, but stuck with taking it as a compliment and made another comic:
Again, there was really positive feedback.
So I started drawing other things, like:
… and more.
And while none of these sketches compare to the art of people I admire and would wish to hire, I realization has settled in over the past year-and-a-half:
I am good enough to be my own illustrator as I start down the path I first pitched to someone 25 YEARS AGO. I don’t need to wait on anyone else to start writing stories the way I want to write them.
These stories may not be perfect out of the gate. There will be a learning curve for discovering which words can become pictures and vice versa. But I don’t need another 25 years to get started.
I can do it now.
And I am.
I’ll outline HOW in my next blog, but this is the backstory to it all.
It’s time to stop telling myself that what I want to do lies down some distant rode and requires someone else to carry the load.
That is simply not true.
I can write and draw well enough to get started on my own — even if I would prefer to be better. That is simply ego.
Objectively speaking, I am good enough.
On the stage of life, I can pick both the pictures and the words to tell a story and find an audience who loves the play I offer.
All I need to do is get my act together and hold the spotlight when it lands on me, and not bow out of sight and pass it on to someone who’s more “ready.”
And if you have $10-25 of disposable income, you are ready to support me if you value what I’m doing.
So it’s time to find my people and do this thing while overtly asking you to support my work if you like what I bring.
Let the play begin!