I was recently asked about my ‘career’ by someone interested in writing and illustrating books.
I still have a difficult time saying this is my ‘career’. I have worked as an art director, character designer, UI designer, graphic designer, producer, product manager, creative director…the list is long. I’m not sure how good I was at any of those jobs. And I’m not sure my career path can even be called a career path. It was more off-roadin’ until I got somewhere I wanted to stay awhile. But, I believe all these professional experiences have helped shape who I am as a writer and artist and created good work habits in me.
But about writing and/or drawing books -
It is not a job where you get promotions and yearly reviews or daily meetings.
It is not a job where you can get ahead by (saying this nicely) becoming involved in someone else’s project.
Response to your work can be fickle. No one knows what will resonate with the public at large. Though some have slightly better luck in guessing.
Working from home takes a lot of focus and I hate to say it, discipline. You must have the ability to push chores aside – or you spend your whole day cleaning and walking the dogs (and posting to your blog) and get no work done.
It is a job for those who like to spend time alone. If you need social contact you will have to cultivate that.
For me it is a job where one day I am happy with my work, the next I want to repaint everything I did.
It’s not for people who can’t take rejection. Maybe it’s just me but I spend more of my time with rejections that acceptance letters.
There is no one path to ‘get there’. And there is no cleared path to where it will take you.
Everyone who manages to be involved in it seems to have come to the work by different means. I know some people who were offered work the first time (yes, the first time!) they showed their portfolio. I know people who were rejected repeadtedly by agents and worked years to get offered a book.
Writing a a good picture book is as much work as writing any other book. Picture books aren’t ‘easy’ because they have fewer words. The people who make it look easy are just really, really, really good at writing picture books.
It’s the best job in the world when it’s not being the worst job in the world.
But it’s not what most people think it is. And I love it.
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