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June's inspiration

How has it been six months since I last wrote a post?!?

I knew I was going to go into hibernation mode for part of the winter, but I didn’t realise quite how long it would take me to get back into things in the spring. Here we are ten days into June and I’ve only just started catching up with everything I’ve been meaning to do since January.

The main milestone of spring was my 30th birthday in early May. I think a lot of people of my generation have dreaded turning 30 because of how we might be unfavourably compared to previous generations in what we’ve achieved. Our parents were more likely to own their own home, have a good job, and have started a family at 30 than us. Not to say that I’m complaining, I’d rather be travelling now than taking out a mortgage (even if I could afford the ridiculous housing prices in London). If anything, turning 30 has been an opportunity for me to think about my goals and what I want to achieve in the next decade.

I’m really lucky to have gone on some amazing trips in my late 20’s. Alexej and I went to the Maldives for our honeymoon in 2013, New York City in 2014, New Orleans in August 2016, Costa Rica in June 2017, and Japan over Easter this year. We’ve also been to Reykjavik, Paris, Hamburg, Venice, Nice, Roskilde, Vienna, Porto, Dresden, Florence, Corsica, Macedonia, Berlin, and most recently, Croatia.

Panoramic view of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Panoramic view of Dubrovnik, Croatia, where I spent my 30th birthday

Back in my parents’ house in suburban Illinois, I have a cork board above my bed with a world map I got out of a National Geographic. I’ve been gradually covering Europe and other bits of the world with pushpins showing where I’ve visited. I never could have imagined as a teenager when I first put up the map how many of those wonderful, far away places I would get to visit in the following decade.

Finish my children’s book

When I think about my ultimate 'bucket list' activities, having a finished children’s book is definitely near the top.

March to your own beat! Baby penguin with drum  - soon to be a badge!

Baby penguin with drum - soon to be a badge!

My children’s book project has been in the works for years now, and only last summer did I start to get serious about finishing it. I took a break in late autumn to focus on designing prints for my shop, and then didn’t do much work at all from January to March.

I kept amending my timeline, and then feeling enormous pressure to get it all done by a certain date. I still think that setting myself a deadline is a good idea, but I need to work on being realistic about what I can do. My goal is to have a dummy book finished in June or July, and a final version ready in the autumn. This may not work out, but now that I’ve written it here, I’m going to hold myself to it even more.

The project is gradually chugging along. The main work is done between 5 and 6 am every morning, and it’s hard to get much momentum when I’m only working on it at an hour at a time. Still, I think setting myself that goal of working for an hour each weekday has really helped it progress. I still find it hard to do longer periods of work on the weekends. The unintended consequence of me procrastinating from working on my children’s book has been that my house is now much cleaner than it was earlier this year!

Ultimately, I’d like to have a nice routine that I can stick by. It’s one thing to push yourself to get a project done, but you need to have a sustainable routine so that you can continue with your projects.

I have this bizarre idea in my head that at some point I’ll have figured out my life and achieved all I want to, and then just ride off into the sunset with everything being awesome forever. Of course, that’s ridiculous, nothing is that simple. I’ll always have some degree of depression or anxiety popping up its head.

One of the main things I’ve learned from my job as a librarian is that while planning is important, at some point, you just have to do the scary thing (like teach a lecture theatre full of students how to use databases) and you may be rubbish at it at first. The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. I think it’s the same thing with illustration work, this project may not be a ‘success’ by any conventional standards, but I just have to get it done.

‘Working through failure’

I was listening to the Design Matters podcast recently and I was struck by Debbie Millman’s interview with Nick Law, currently Chief Creative Officer at Publicis Groupe, formerly at R/GA. Nick Law has worked on some massively high profile advertising campaigns over his career, and he said, ‘In some ways, you gotta think of your work as a portfolio of experiments, some of the high-risk ones will not work, but you’ll learn from them’. It was really nice to hear someone who is so prominent in his field be so candid about his failures and the value of experimentation.

While it was inspiring, I also felt a bit silly for being so inhibited about getting my work out there. I’m a classic perfectionist, always thinking I can’t let anything go until I’m 100% happy with it. I have a tendency to labour over tiny details until I lose sight of the (literal) full picture.

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