Charting a new path

***I have been working on this post for a few days. I was nervous…okay, terrified…to release this. There are people who will criticize, or even laugh at me for this one. I had to push through my fear and convince myself that my dreams are worth more than these people’s opinions.***

I love Creative Pep Talk. It’s like Andy J. Pizza is in my head. No joke. It seems that the issues that I am contemplating end up being part of the next episode, AND he uses all kinds of comparisons that I totally get—like Fraggles! Oh, and did I mention, he has ADD, too? (All the cool kids do.)

In episode 136, he interviews Debbie Millman (my design hero!). They discuss Debbie’s new projects, branding, doing what you love, process, value, life-planning, and more, but it was her perspective on value and life-planning that really resonated with me.

She says that creatives figure out our value through a personal journey of building our body of work and learning as you create. She points out that there is no process—it’s really just a lengthy slug-fest: “…You put your ass in the chair, and you start working,” she says. “That’s it!”

It’s when we share our honest perspective that we become valuable. Debbie said, “It’s like pulling your heart out of your chest and creating something with that, where there’s no armor…where your sense of humanity is evident and palpable and tangible and not put on for the world to see.”

As a freelance illustrator and designer, I have struggled to find my “value proposition”—the idea just seems so professionally conformist and money-centric. That’s just not me. I don’t want to conform by hiding my true self behind the mask of professionalism or squeezing myself into society’s expectations of me. I just want to make things that make a difference. Big (helping people chase their wildest dreams or realize their unique potential) or small (inspiring a smile or a laugh)—as corny as it may sound, I want to make my world a better place, not just make money.

But, how does that fit into the next phase of my personal journey?

As Debbie described an exercise she had participated in as part of one of Milton Glaser’s courses, sparks of inspiration started to fly. “What would you be doing in 5 years if you were doing exactly what you wanted to do? Forget about fear, acceptance, rejection, ” she said. “What—if you could be doing anything—what would you want to do?”

My response: “I JUST WANT TO MAKE STUFF!” (I might have yelled this at Ruby, my car.)

That’s really all I want. I want to make my living by sharing my quirky creatures with the world through my own product lines. I want to design things—textiles, art prints, stickers, notebooks, t-shirts, mugs, button magnets, pins, etc.—that add whimsy to peoples’ lives and make them smile or laugh. I want to use my illustrations & designs to inspire people, even if it is for just a minute or two.

I agree with Debbie that there’s a bit of power in declaring what it is that you want. I did it once before (becoming the first full-time employee of a nonprofit that I helped to found). She also state that NOW is the time to pursue that dream. “Because if not now, when?” Debbie said. “Life is finite, and it goes by so F-ing fast. Do whatever it takes to get to your non-negotiable.”

So, here goes…something! I don’t really have a plan, but I know where to start. I’ll be putting my tush in my chair and doing the work—learning and creating and making. Sure, I might end up lost on some deer trails and have plenty of stumbles and wicked face-plants as I create my own journey, but I’ll bounce and find my way. It’s like Andy pointed out in episode 131: “You’re not going to be Bob Dillon. His has time has passed. His roadmap is dead. That’s a ghost town. Following in his footsteps will lead you nowhere. You need to update your maps.”

I’ll post my adventures, lessons, and any resources I find along the way. I hope you’ll follow along and share your thoughts, too.


Creative PepTalk:
Episode 136: Debbie Millman and The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

Episode 131: Find Your Roadmap









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