I had to turn down a speaking engagement this week with one of my heros, Chipp Kidd. I shed a few tears about it at first, thinking that these things don’t happen to me all the time, but it was a sacrifice that had to be made due to the pregnancy. It would have been too hectic for me and I am trying to keep the stress level at a minimum. I know it’s silly, one thing I have learned is that these things do not make or break your career, but sometimes the ego wants you to think they do, it tries to trick you into thinking you’re making a big irreperable mistake. When in fact it’s just another speaking thing, there will be many more in my lifetime, other chances to meet people I admire. And the real truth is that bringing a child into the world is a huge gift, one that I am very grateful for (one that I wasn’t sure I was going to get to experience at all). And once I thought about it in this way I let it go completely and happily.
I think another issue at hand is that it seems that my career is changing. I’m not sure if I can put it into words really, it’s just a sense I am getting. I have always operated on a slow moving path, my level of success could be described as moderate and steady, but nothing in the way of big seller or becoming a household name. And let me be clear about it, this is exactly how I like it. I am perfectly happy being able to bring my ideas out into the world in the form of books, and I don’t think I will ever stop. I can’t actually, they come out of me without me knowing exactly why or how. In the beginning I think I was trying to emulate the lives of other people, by doing what others did, just for a time, while I got my footing. But in the last few years the more I have followed my own path and process the more I am getting to my own voice. My god, it’s an amazing feeling.
To be honest with you, one of the ways that this is happened is by me cutting myself off from what others are doing. I have become isolated in many ways from the culture at large (mass media) and focused on reading works by others who only followed their own path. This transformation into uncovering my own work has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever experienced. I don’t share it here with the intent of getting on a soapbox about it, but instead just to let you know how making a couple of changes have helped me.
There are two major factors at play here,
1. a few years ago I turned off the tv for good, not because I think tv is necessarily evil, but because I wanted to take back control of my time and what I put into my head. I wanted to treat my mind as a sacred space, and begin to fill it with things that would help formulate new ideas, my imagination, and things that benefitted my life instead of taking away from it.
2. I did at some point learn that all of the things that I had done to try and “make it” were actually bullshit (ego driven) and had nothing to do with being an artist or living in a way that made the world a better place. These things included (for me), goal setting, networking, promoting, marketing, and also wanting to “get ahead”.
So I left them all behind. I made a pact to work from the heart and not the ego. And I thought at first I would crash and burn. But that did not happen. I continued to do some illustration work (which allowed me to have time to work on my personal projects). And those projects turned into books. Removing myself from the mass culture has given my mind the space to work without the constant comparing or competing (because I am most defintely a competitive soul, which I was not proud of at first but I will write more about that at a later date because it was a wonderfully freeing revelation when I finally admitted it to myself. All of the things that I didn’t like in others where often spurred by some kind of jealousy in me and had nothing to do at all with them. I am actually going to be speaking this year at Icon 5 on this very topic.)
So what have I learned? The more I just trust myself and go out on a limb with my ideas the more I am rewarded with the outside stuff. Only now am I starting to have things happen that I had wanted so badly in the beginning, speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, new projects. Except now I realize that these things are nice but don’t define me at all.
In fact nothing defines me, not even this amazing career that I have created. It feels really good to know that. I would in fact survive just fine without any of it. More important to me are the bigger things, my family, my health, my love of the world.
it’s good to tell yourself that every once in a while.