I can hardly believe that it was And So We Begin's 5th birthday a week or so ago. But here I am, five years since I started my company on what would have been my Nana's 100th birthday. I'm proud that I'm still pursuing my dream of creating and that I have been able to share the title and cover of my second independently published picture book. I've been thinking a lot about what I've learnt over the last five years.
1. Breathe... For years, my Mum has said to me that slow and steady wins the race and she's right. The more space I give my ideas to breathe, the more they shift and shape. Creating stories and illustrations is something I want to do for my whole life and this makes me relax into it and stops me from being frustrated if things take a while to come together. My second picture book, An Amazing Alphabet of Cake has taken about a year to take shape while I have been juggling it with full time freelance work but giving it that time has allowed me to improve it. Joanna Penn called her path 'a get rich slowly scheme'. And I'm happy to take this road. I love creating things and I finally trust that all the little projects I see through will eventually build into a body of work that will support me and give me the freedom to make more. And although slow and steady wins the race, what this really means to me is be tenacious. Life is fleeting, so focus, be dedicated, don't give up and do whatever you can to do what you love.
2. Keep the day job... This is advice from Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic. My work as a freelance event manager gives me an anchor, financial support and a change of scenery that energises me when I'm back at the drawing board. It's also really taught me the value of time. When I am between contracts, I power at my creativity and totally indulge in it. When I'm working on an event I am hugely motivated to get up early to give myself an hour to draw or write. It's become a pleasure in fact and makes me feel like I've achieved something towards my dream before I even leave the house.
3. Follow your path (even if you hadn't realised it was your path!)... I've mentioned before, I really thought I was a writer. I had absolutely no idea I was an illustrator. I started my company to launch a storybook app and planned to focus on writing. I started drawing when I was having a really difficult time and couldn't write because it made me too emotional. Drawing slowly became my escape and meditation. I joined drawing challenges on Twitter to give me a focus. It helped hold depression at bay. It really has made a huge difference to my life. I still write a lot but learning to draw is taking my company in a whole different direction. I guess sometimes the path chooses you.
4. Be inspired by others... They say if you write, you need to read. So it follows that if you draw, you need to study drawings. I find myself looking really closely at how other illustrators achieve what they do. How do they show sunlight and shadows? How do they draw eyes? How do they draw hairstyles? (Hairstyles are my nemesis!) Looking more closely has allowed me to relax because I see that illustrators have such immensely different styles. There is no such thing as perfection and this has allowed my own style to start to develop.
5. Find your tribe... It's important in life to have a tribe, to feel understood and to have people to relate to. I love the illustration community, they are so kind and supportive. And they understand the frustrations when you've spent all day drawing and still can't get that nose / hairstyle / expression right. Instagram and the lovely #colour_collective community on Twitter definitely help.
So here's to the next five years... And the five after that. Angel's Great Escape is available to buy now. An Amazing Alphabet of Cake will be published at the end of November. I'm already working on picture book number three and I'm starting work on the second draft of my children's novel. I guess what I want to say is follow your passion, create, find time, be as tenacious as a terrier and do what you love. And although slow and steady may win the race, as my Dad would say as we drove off on each new adventure, "Hold tight, it's a fast ride."