Do NOT give up!

Sometimes after a conference, you will experience an emotional high or low.  Last weekend after one writing/illustrating conference, I had an emotional low.  This weekend (after another similar conference), I’m on a high.  What makes the difference?

There wasn’t anything in particular anyone said.  We heard and saw amazing things and yet everyone at the first conference was highly intimidated.  We saw amazing illustrations from successful illustrators that blew our mind and almost universally said “I wish I could do that.”  Which was quickly followed by “OMG I can’t do that!” and inevitably “my work is no good.”  I saw it repeatedly in the others around me and tried to encourage them.

There was a LOT of talent in that room, with artists of a LOT of different types: one was a water color artist, one a wood block printing artist, another a scientific illustrator, etc.  And THEY too were producing amazing things that I couldn’t hope to achieve.  But just as I told them, I cannot hope to be them; I can only be myself.  We each of us have different passions and talents that we bring to the table.

The work we saw was from an Art Director who was trying to show a variety of artists, a variety of styles, and why they succeeded to give us an idea of what is looked for in the illustration world.  And yet somehow, we were all overwhelmed in a negative way.

I kept telling others the message I took away from this was “do what YOU do, pursue it, and perfect it.  Find your schtick!  And it will be what is needed.”  And this helped to encourage some of them.  But by the time I got home, I was in a terrible funk myself.  I took that message home with me, but I didn’t take it to heart.  I simply felt like I’d let a perfect opportunity (an open door if you will) pass me by because I wasn’t prepared.  And to be frank, I wasn’t.

This was a busy summer.  Between falling madly in love, planning a wedding, then a move, then the start of the school year setting up my classroom with my new name, etc., I simply didn’t have time to devote to polishing up my Portfolio as much as I wanted to.  My first step out into the illustration world felt like I’d stumbled and then had a great big fall like Humpty Dumpty and couldn’t ever put myself together again. I even had thoughts of giving up.

My husband (love of my life that he is) found me crying at one point (as I’d tucked myself away in a back room for a bit of a pity party) and had to talk me back up from this ledge of “I don’t have what it takes, why am I even trying.”  How is it that I can encourage others with what I see, but I can’t do the same for myself.

Deciding to write picture books and learning that process didn’t happen overnight (in fact it’s still a work in progress).  WHY do I think learning the illustration process is going to be any different?  The funny thing is that I went in prepared for nothing to happen, but to just look at it as a learning process and yet … it’s still scary putting yourself and your work out there for others to see, isn’t it?

This weekend, I had the privilege of listening to one of my writing heroes, Jane Yolen, talk about rejection.  EVEN she fails!  And she has published umpteen books!  She talked about holding onto a rejected project for 20 years until the time was right.  And sometimes that’s all it is!  Timing.

I should know this better than anyone.  It took me 40 years of being single before I met my soulmate.  And when he came along, he wasn’t what I expected.  But oh my Lord how our souls do fit together!  Finding an agent, or a home for a manuscript, etc. is just like the search for a soulmate.  Last weekend Robert Dugoni said much the same thing: “All you need to find is that one!”  That one who believes in you, supports you, and is your biggest fan and encourager.

Yesterday I also got to see the first draft of a Newberry award winning manuscript that the author so bravely decided to share with us.  I was blown away by this.  Not only because of how humble he made himself in doing so, but because he was willing to show his own struggles in the beginning to where he got with his final product.  We all have to start somewhere my friends.  This is a journey, not a destination.

Is there ever a day where we reach a point of being perfect at writing?  At being perfect in producing our art?  NO!  Not even Jane Yolen is there!  She writes sticky note revelations that she sometimes has to trash!  She has a critique group to help her polish her work and point out when her endings are endings at all!  Bless her!  I’m so glad to hear that even those who are successful struggle.  And trust me, the struggle is REAL!

It can tear all of us down.  The difference between those of us who quit and those of us who are successful is only a matter of who of us will brush ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and keep pushing forward.  Because we must.  Because we have to.  We can’t stop trying and producing books and art because it’s our passion.  We can’t let our own self doubts beat us up.  We can’t!

Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best, so I will end this particular musing of mine with his words of inspiration for us all  (listen to it as a writer or an illustrator and it carries new power): Never Give up

About jenabenton

I'm an elementary school teacher, writer, illustrator and storyteller.

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