the low points

Saturday, 24 June 2017

soaring high before the low - barn owl pin by Jess Racklyeft

Recently, I had the most glorious news--something I've been waiting a career lifetime for. I'm still pinching myself, and the project has deep meaning to me. I might have even leapt in the air. Very soon, I'll be starting work on it, and this will be immensely happy-making.

This kind of news has happened to me before. Then not long after, it's been snatched away (for a variety of reasons), and I've found myself on the floor. This may also have happened to you. The floor is a very supportive place, non?

I have every faith there'll be no snatching, but it's been nevertheless interesting to experience quite the plummet since receiving this news. After discussing with friends, it seems this is a natural phenomenon. Just as we go up, we must come down. And of course, the creative career path is rife with intense highs and crushing lows. The rollercoaster metaphor could never be more apt.

The frustrating thing is, I'm currently working on two illustration commissions that I'm loving to bits, so I should be smiling from ear to ear. What, then, is the issue?

I think part of it may be about our perception of success. To an outside eye, I may seem 'successful' in terms of publishing, but I don't feel I've reached my own definition of success. In fact, I'm falling short. There's still quite a 'gap' (see this brilliant short by Ira Glass called The Gap).

There's something insightful about that good old concept--'success is the journey not the destination'. Each time we achieve something, no matter how big, we simply turn our face to the next thing. It's not that we aren't grateful for, or proud of, what has come before. We simply move ever forward, learning, growing, ever-improving, finding success in the actual journey, not the achievement.

Everyone works hard, but the creative often does so in near-isolation, with little feedback, scant response and countless variables and unknowns. Authors and illustrators spend anything from months to decades working on something they don't even know will come to anything, let alone publication.

Yes, we have peers, but the increasing levels of busyness and overwhelm means most are caught up in their own highs and lows to offer much solace or empathy. So we bear a lot on our own. Especially if you're like me, and you rarely reach out.

I don't know. Perhaps this is seasonal. It's bloody cold right now. It's the end of a long term. My girl is about to get a car and oestrogen is vacating my body so fast, my bones may soon turn to dust. We've had a few illnesses and stressors in our family, and the overseas call sends me into long periods of sitting on the floor like a doll, staring into space. And if I have to vacuum one more floor or swipe one more shower screen...

Yada yada. I know you can relate. Oh the resentment for anything that interferes with the overwhelming desire to create. Showers, especially washing hair--so overrated!

Fear not. This blog post is not one of those God-awful sympathy-seeking public whinefests that some stoop to. I actually cringe from sympathy, and I know This Too Shall Pass. But I did want to share this deep low so others know they're not alone. Lows affect people no matter where they are in their journey. I know emerging creators experience more lows than they deserve! but it happens to all of us, and it may surprise you just how much others struggle in this industry--even those we deem outwardly 'successful'.

Lows are part of the creative process and I think that instead of clawing to get out, we should probably sit with them awhile. Feel them. Move through them and know that their inevitability is what makes the highs so magical.

We should also keep an eye on other friends and colleagues and check in with them, too. More than ever, we are caught up in our own worlds and issues, but reaching out to others is beneficial in so many ways. It helps others but it also lifts ourselves.

If you are in a low, be kind to yourself.

Talk to a good friend.

Bake cookies. With too many choc chips to handle.

Walk. In the sunshine.

Dress in your best frock and go for a coffee or a drink somewhere chic. Sparkly handbag optional. And wear that crazy coat you think only Audrey Tatou should wear. Just do it.

Snuggle up with Netflix (loving Anne with an E right now).

Buy yourself some fluffy socks--you know those ones that feel like walking on marshmallows.

Pick wildflowers and put them in a vessel that's anything but a vase.

Cut out tiny things with scissors. It's remedial but so satisfying. Paste them onto paper to make a picture.

Take a break from your project, even if you're in deadline. Just take some time away from it for a while, and so you can come back refreshed.

Start a new project. Just for fun. It doesn't even have to go anywhere, but starting on a fresh idea can be really inspirational. Jot down picture book ideas if you're not keen to launch into something.

Look around for inspiration, whether it's a Pinterest binge or a visit to an art gallery or immersing in a great book.

One thing I do that really inspires and lifts me, is turn to the famous women I've always admired and enjoyed. I might read an interview or a biography or just read their works or look at their artwork. Their strength and persistence and talent always, always lifts me.

And remember, above all else, This Too Shall Pass. What goes down must come up.



My Famous Women Admiration List
{who inspires you? leave a comment below}

Katharine Hepburn

Frida Kahlo

May Gibbs

Diane von Furstenburg

Aerin Lauder

Florence Broadhurst

Arianna Huffington

Iris Apfel

Maya Angelou

Anna Walker

Orla Kiely

Lauren Child

Elizabeth I

Liz Gilbert

Ella Fitzgerald

Mette Hay

Caroline Fleming

Beatrix Potter

JK Rowling

Coco Chanel

Kristina Karlsson

Florence Nightingale

Sarah Jessica Parker

Simone de Beauvoir


Sheryl Gwyther said...

Standing at your shoulder, my sister. With much love, hope, encouragement and support. ♥♥♥

Cate Whittle said...

With you all the way... plus I would add a different Hepburn to the list - Audrey. An amazing woman. And Amelia Earhart (probably spelt incorrectly). And Marie Curie. Oh, and you, dearest. You, too.

Leanne Barrett said...

I'm here sending you wishes on the breeze across the lake's water, up the river and along the creek to your lovely area just over the boarder. And now for a happy dance at your good news, looking forward to hearing more about this when the time is right.

Los said...

Love this post Tania - even for those of us who are not creative or successful there is so much that resonates xx

Anonymous said...

This too shall pass is one of my favourite phrases - everything is fleeting, even life. Swings and roundabouts. Sounds like you're soaring now though - try not to think of the crash - it may not happen and if it does it's because something better is round the corner x x

Darlene Campbell said...

Laughed at the part where shampooing hair is overrated...taking precious time from the creative activities. I thought I was the only one thinking this. You sparkle with insight. Thank you and Cheers-

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