I have to be honest, I haven’t had anything I’ve written published since 2009. For a complex variety of reasons that door has been closed firmly shut. Apart from some futile efforts to prize it open again – trying to make it happen has been pointless.
In the meantime I have been illustrating for an illustration agency in London and New York; creating artwork for various publishers – mostly baby books. It’s been an opportunity to hone my skills as an ‘old school’illustrator adapting to the digital world and listening to the critique of my agents. It’s been important to take on board their advice, as they know more than most what the market is looking for. As for the digital world – well the choice has been ‘adapt’or ‘diminish.’I’m certainly not ready to diminish – especially as so many creatives only begin to truly flourish in their middle years. I feel riper than ever!
So while the door firmly closed, did I stop being a writer? Well not really. In fact there have been so many ideas. Accepting the lack of publishing opportunity has been vital to flourishing as I could so easily have given up otherwise. It has been a timing issue and it needed to be embraced rather than fought. Instead of pouring words and pictures onto my layout pads and working ideas into paintings and book formats, I have been pouring myself into my sketchbooks. Weirdly for an illustrator, I store images and pictures with words. I was wondering ‘out loud’recently about my writing doubts with a friend. She went to my shelf and pulled out one of my many sketch books and said, ‘Look! Your sketch books are full of words – not pictures! Of course you’re a writer!’
I think it might be similar to the way a bi-lingual brain works. I’m not consciously aware of what language I’m actually thinking – words or pictures – they are melded together; images and words intermingling and growing together seamlessly.
So whilst it has been hard having no clear outlet for my stories and I have felt so impatient at times, it has been a moment for something else. Sketchbooks!
Sketchbooks need to be kept close at all times. When they are absent, the ‘notes’app on my iPhone has been sufficient. Ideas that come when I am driving find me reaching for ‘quick voice’and recording myself speaking it out-loud.
Sketchbooks are a throbbing and vital life source of ideas and potential. I didn’t understand how they worked when I was at school. I would create a finished piece and go back to fill the sketchbook later! But the power of the idea is the fuel that fires the potency of the finished piece.
When I begin to sense the season change and the door opening again for my writing – I will go straight back to my sketchbooks and mine the riches that have been accumulating over the last five years. I will be like a bolting horse finally released from the stable!
The hard bit will be knowing which idea to use first!