I've just finished one picture book, which I should have kept simple, but I ended up making it incredibly detailed, and took the full amount of time I'd been allotted, and then some. My lovely designer, Rebecca Essilifie, is racing around now getting it ready to go to the Frankfurt Book Fair, in the absolute minimum amount of time I possibly could have given her. (Sorry, Rebecca! You are wonderful!) Actually, take a moment to stop and think of all the book designers absolutely FREAKING OUT right now, in the run up to Frankfurt. Yesterday, my designer at Oxford University Press, Jo Cameron, was doing a very late working night and ordering in pizza supplies. (I know this from Facebook.)
But ANYWAY... When I posted updates that I'd finished my picture book, people said 'Hooray! Now I hope you can take a break!' and I knew I couldn't. Pushing to the final extended-extended deadline on the Scholastic picture book meant I was late in starting up my chapter book with OUP. So I didn't have any time to get my head in gear, it was straight to character design and thumbnails. ...Oh, except there were two weekends of festivals, and lots of dressing up in silly wigs and performing and coaching kids in their own creativity. And I was exhausted.
I got home and the house was a mess with all my paper, letters I don't know where to file, stacks of books, craft stuff, those little canvas bags one gets at conferences, and random computer cables making the floor look like spaghetti. I knew that this mess was all my fault, too. Fifteen years ago, I moved in with a very tidy minimalist, and he puts up with so much, but there's always pressure for me to keep my stuff under control. Or not even pressure, he just gets glummer and glummer and then I feel terrible and try to make giant tidying sweeps. These cleaning rampages usually end very quickly, when, in trying to deal with the bits of paper, I find some form I needed to fill out, or something that requires an e-mail answer; Stuart comes into the room to find me sitting in front of the computer, not tidying. He looks at me working on the computer, and the untidy room, and - to my utter annoyance - doesn't see how the two tasks go together. And you know what... they really don't.
Doing things on the Internet does not mean stuff is happening in real life. But it's so easy to forget that.
I feel like I'm living inside a computer right now. All the e-mails I need to answer, all my connections with work people and friends, my digital artwork, news updates, all of it comes through the screen of my laptop and my phone. I keep in touch with my American family through Skype, but even then, I don't Skype often enough and they rely on my blog to know what's happening with me. I find myself getting twitchy if I'm away from the Internet for very long. When I used to go to cafes, I would sit and draw; now I go online and see what everyone else is doing. Or I post an only-vaguely-interesting photo and wait for people to validate my existence. I get overwhelmed with things people are asking me to do and sort of shut down, and then feel horrible because I feel like I'm letting everyone down, all of the time, including myself. This is the feeling that gets me most depressed.
I feel like I've fallen out of love with drawing.
I can't believe I'm saying this.
I used to draw in any spare moment I got, play drawing games, make comics. And now I'm supposed to be drawing so much for work (and doing a zillion other non-drawing admin tasks) that I've neglected the fun stuff. I'm finding it takes me three times as long to draw things for work; everything looks tight and tense and crabbed, and I find myself scrubbing it out and starting over again, and over, and over, and procrastinating with cups of tea and snacks (and getting chubby) because I'm hating every minute of it. I get a sore neck from craning around at my desk to look over at my computer to see what's going on everywhere else.
This is ALL WRONG. But I'm going to fight back.
Here's a silly drawing I did last night, to try to cheer myself up, based on a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger (from 1532-ish). I didn't let myself do any pre-sketching or erase, just went straight into the drawing and allowed the mistakes to make it more interesting. (It's not something I ever feel I can do with my 'professional' work.)
I know that haven't lost my love of drawing forever, it's in there somewhere, but I need to weed some space around it, to let it grow. I need to stop feeling guilty for drawing things that aren't work-based. I need, somehow, to stop letting the Internet give me self-worth. I used to write this blog completely for myself, as a diary, and I need to get back to doing that, and stop seeing it as some sort of marketing tool. I need to stop worrying it if gets any 'likes', or whatever. I need to get back into playing. And I need to come back to the physical world.
What does this mean? Well, exercise. Argh, I hate it so much, but when I get fat and ungainly, it makes my brain go all slow and fuzzy. It means talking with real people. I'm so glad for my studio mate, Elissa Elwick, who's been in a lot the past couple weeks and is there for real conversation, and cups of tea, and having a laugh. It means getting rid of some of the clutter in my flat. The last time Philip Reeve stayed with us (on his way back from the Manx Lit Fest), he helped me get rid of some of my book pile. Gosh, was he MERCILESS!
Him: 'NO, you do NOT need this book. It goes OUT!'
Me: 'But I haven't read that one yet! But my friend wrote it! But it's about a mermaid!'
Him: 'You're never going to read it, are you.'
Me: 'But I might! Some day!'
Him: 'If you really want to read it, you can buy it again.'
Him: 'This is really upsetting you, isn't it.'
I pleaded the case for keeping too many of the books, but I had three huge bags full for the charity shop when we'd finished. (Thanks, Philip.)
It means I need to set Internet limits for myself. Not answering e-mails between certain hours, setting exact times when I'm allowed to look at Twitter. (I've been doing that a bit already, telling people not to let me back on until 5pm or so. It really helps.) I somehow need to stop making the Internet and ever-present part of my life. It's hard, though; the lines are so blurred; I use the Internet for image research, I sometimes need to contact colleagues during the day, I have tea breaks where I think, I could surf Twitter while I drink this cup of tea. Maybe I need to set myself a challenge on certain days, that every single time I get the urge to go online, I have to make a doodle instead. That could be interesting. Here's today's Morning Sketch. (I love the way dry shampoo gives me awesome Gibson Girl hair.)
Anyway, I'm fighting back. (I'm going to keep saying this phrase, in my head, over and over.) I used to make Morning Sketches, and that helped get my head in gear for the day. I hate, hate, HATE routine, I'm not a routine kind of person at all. But I think I need to force myself to do a daily Morning Sketch and go for a run. Otherwise I think I might fall apart. Here's today's Morning Sketch. And blogging about it is making me run late again, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse to avoid exercise, like I have done for the last two months or so. Argh.
FIGHTING BACK. YES.