Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a bit of a whinge and a whole lot of thanks!

It's been a while since I wrote... again. You see, it's been quite quiet of late, but also far too stupidly complicated for me to get my pea-sized brain around.

Since starting work at Waterstones and the nursery, I don't feel like I've stopped. I also don't feel like I've done very much illustration- Yah boo sucks. It's a strange thing. Combined, the two jobs take up two and a half days; a piddly amount, really. However, since I started a couple of months ago, my role as an illustrator seems to have changed too; becoming very much about promoting 'Lively Elizabeth'. When all the admin-typed stuff that that demands is also deducted from my week (plus, all the regular, boring, house keeping stuff) I reckon I have about 1 and a half days to actually draw. Now, I have to confess, even 1 and a half days a week of proper illustration work is more than I've been doing of late. There has, I'm afraid, been an enormous amount of navel-gazing going on.

Now, my navel is of average shape and size. It doesn't sing or dance. I don't remember it ever having produced a haiku or a sonnet, and I'm pretty sure its' views on current affairs lack depth (if not belly button fluff). By all accounts my navel is average. It does not warrant fixation of any kind. And yet, since the beginning of February, it's been enjoying the sort of limelight, I normally reserve for a semi-naked Christian Slater, or a particularly gooey chocolate cake. Why is this?

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I defy science. Not in any useful way, mind. I can't fly or turn invisible. I can't even conjur a cup of tea, using only the power of my mind (ahh, how cool would that be?) What I mean is, I'm female, and I'm not a multi-tasker. ALL women are multi-taskers, right?! Well, not me. And to add insult to injury, I'm as spatially aware as a drunk, partially-sighted moth- obviously my brain has no blokey compensations either!

But it's not just that I can't turn my brain to two tasks at one time- dear god, that (to me) would be as exciting as invisibility! It actually seems my brain very much rejects the idea of doing two, or more, tasks per week! No, I tell a lie. I must give my poor, weary neurons a break. It's not really the tasks themselves, it's the way of thinking that's the problem.

Working in a shop, working in a nursery, promotion, and drawing all have very different thought processes behind them, and it's the swapping between these that sets me all of a dither. For a start, I'm not used to having to make sense verbally, dagnammit! Normally, as long as things make sense in my head, that's good enough for me. I don't have to use too much reasoning with illustration. I just know something has to be done a certain way, in order for a picture to work. I have kids at nursery who think it's fun to cover themselves and everyone around them in pasta sauce and snot- strong powers of reasoning are necessary to avoid a bad case of coagulation!

So, here's what's been happening. I've been going to either job, wrapping all my wits about it... (for all my flaws, I do try damned hard to do any job to the best of my abilities). But unfortunately, these are wits I'm not used to using (I guess you could say, up until now, I've been a half wit) and upon arriving home to do my regular work, I've realised that my brain has fried. Yes, fried. And scrambled. And boiled. And poached... no, maybe not poached (but by heck I'm hungry) Hence I end up navel-gazing my time away. The navel-gazing turns to stress, as I realise the weeks are going passed and I've done nothing. And because I've done nothing, the work's mounting up, and the stress gets worse.

Now, I think it's usual to expect a period of adjustment, and let's not forget I've been my own boss for over three years now. However, what I forgot is, part of the reason I love illustration is because I've always been rubbish at dancing to anothers' tune. I don't mean I'm some kind of militant rebel, and I actually really love the nursery and Waterstones. I just mean that I'm so much better with a routine and doing things in my own time. My illustration is better when I have time to daydream about it, and sort of 'live' with the characters a bit. And, above all, illustration is my passion... so... anyway, some further thought needed, I think.

In other news

I want to give huge levels of thanks to everyone who's been in support of me the last couple of months. I got news that 919 copies of 'Lively Elizabeth' had sold before 28th of Feb- that's 2 weeks before it was officially out. At one point it actually ranked about 8,000th on amazon- that's out of ALL the books in all the world! Since it wasn't in the shops then, I know most of those purchases were by you, dear blog readers. I can't tell you how completely chuffed I am. You're all amazing!

'Lively Elizabeth' got its' first book review at the bookbag here. It's a lovely review. We got 4 stars, thanks to Keith Dudhnath. I was going for Tank Girl, rather than Shirley Hughes, but I can't complain at the comparison!!!

I also think Jessica Sage at Waterstones Guildford High Street deserves a huge shout-out, for putting up with Mara and I's demands, arranging the event for Saturday. We haven't quite asked for blue M&M's, baths of Evian water, and private trailers. However, she's been an absolute star for calming our nerves with her fantastic organisational skills. I also want to thank Emma Swabey at Hodder for doing some fantastic activity sheets for the event. I'm going to try and find some way of sticking them up here, as it'd be brilliant if everyone had access to them.

Right, I'd better get on with stuff- I've a shepards' pie to take command of! Applogies for the lack of piccies. I do have some to pop up, but since it's been ages since I've written, I think it's more important I get this post out- I'll try and add some images later.


Coreopsis said...

Hi you-- I don't know you, but I really like looking at your stuff, and certainly feel for your predicament about work-issues. If you put your heart (and energy!) into ANY kind of job, it will indeed sap you. Some people are better at balance than others (I actually do more drawing when I'm working full-time than I do on summer vacations--go figure), but I feel your pain, and truly hope you get things worked out.

Best of luck. I love your work!

cassia said...

dear coreopsis. thank you so much for such a lovley comment. I envy your ability to work well, whilst doing another full-time job. I guess we are all different, and I know I will get it all worked out. It does make such a difference to know there are folk rooting for me to though, so thanks very much for that. :0)

Jon Davis said...

I used to work part time at Waterstones, and when I started, I went to bed early the night before, and had to pay lots and lots of attention, which took up a lot of brain power for me too.
But after a while all the shop processes, and short cuts to processes, and working the till, and stock knowledge and all that sunk in and became second nature to a certain extent.
It came to a point where I could go out and see a band, hang around for the club night afterwards, get the night bus home, get one and a half hours sleep, and still work ok the next day.
That is an extreme example, but I'm sure it'll settle down for you.
And then, all your illustration thoughts that tick away in the back of your mind will start leaking back in, and solutions to illustration problems will pop into your head while you're shelving books or something.
I tend to get my best ideas while I'm walking home.
Hold your breath for a bit, and it'll all slot in together :)

cassia said...

jon, I know you're probably right. It's just each week seems so goshdarned valuable. And, I suspect I've been spoilt being able to do illustration full-time from the word go.

Am so glad you commented, btw. It made me check out your blog- your work's absolutely wonderful. Fantastic line quality!

Olly said...

Hello here too haha!
No worries, I am rubbish at multi tasking too. I can't even walk and talk at the same time and usually end up walking into posts as a result.
I look forward to your next posts! Xx

Jon Davis said...

Thanks for looking at my Blog.
I really rate your drawing skills, so your kind words are much appreciated :)

Damian Harvey said...

Wow! that was a long post Cass... It's good to get these things off your chest from time to time (or out of your navel if you prefer). I know just how you feel. It's amazing how other things get in the way of what you consider to be the real work of being an author or illustrator (the actual writing and illustrating),though really it's all part and parcel of the job. It just doesn't feel like it at the time. Of course, the trick is to try and get the balance right. Not an easy thing to do when you're juggling different jobs and different roles in your life.

Some people are natural (or compulsive) list makers - I'm not, but I have discovered that making a little list of the writing related jobs that need to be done, and crossing them off as I do them, can make me feel as though I'm actually achieving something. I include all the admin on the list too as frustratingly, it is all part of the job.

cassia said...

you're right, Damian. Shall continue striving for that balance.

Olly- you nutter!

Jon, was excellent to meet you.


Jon Davis said...

It was great to meet you too.
Lovely to bump into someone you know to round off the day :)