Tuesday, August 29, 2006


What kind of person becomes an author/illustrator?

Reading everyone's responses about the question of the week last week (what distracts you) brought up some interesting points that I've been turning around in my head lately... I find it fascinating that almost everyone's response was the same, that we are highly distractable until fully engaged with a project, and at that point completely unable to pull away from it. Maybe this is true of other professions as well, or maye we all have ADD, but I've noticed that just about ALL the artists I know are the same way... there is endless procrastination and then TOTAL IMMERSION. Every second of the day is spent, consciously or not, plugging away at some problem, trying to resolve a color choice or a turn of phrase. There is no time for making sure your clothes match or tying your shoes. A can of chili will do nicely for lunch because all you have to do is turn a can opener, then you can get right back to work.

I've always sort of gone back and forth in my opinion about this way of working. Part of me longs for a more balanced life- where I can spend my day concentrated, focusing on writing or painting, and then put it aside and go to the movies or a dinner party and talk about politics or the weather.

Then another part of me feeds off the creative frenzy. In some way I even enjoy the way it simplifies life, makes all problems about one problem- creating something unique and beautiful, something original.

The conclusion I usually come to is that I don't know how much choice there really is. I think if I didn't obsess and hone in a project to the exclusion of all else I would never muster the energy to get through it, to push myself, to make something I felt proud of. And there is something sweet in that one last dash to my desk to look at my drawings before bed.

One day maybe life will shift around and I won't have the luxury of immersing myself like this, so I may as well enjoy it now. Even if my roommates look at me with a confused expression as I step out of my studio, one shoe on, the other somewhere else, my hair in a mess, my eyes half glazed...


alvinaling said...

I found those answers fascinating as well, because as the only non-writer/illustrator to answer the question, I think I was obviously coming from a different experience, and the whole ADD thing is a foreign feeling to me. People always ask me if I'm a writer as well, and I say no, because I just don't know if I have it in me. I don't feel like I have the same type of instinct/drive/personality as the writers I know. Of course, I've always thought that maybe when I stop being an editor I can start being a writer, but I don't plan on finding that out for a very long time.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Anna, I agree! So true, so true.

Libby Koponen said...

Me, too. It really is interesting that the answers were (almost exactly!) the same -- we're all such different people.

Maybe to write and paint you need to be a mixture of playful/dawdling/curious and driven??

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

I missed the question about what distracts you. I can see that your blog will be a major one. I love it!

I have begun to write after years of not writing. I have rediscovered what it is to be caught up in the flow of stories. So much so it's hard to get much of anything else done. It's exciting.

I spent years before marriage and children as an intensive English instructor at a unviserity program. I responded to that in the same way. Non-stop ideas, neverending tasks. A 24-7 occupation. It must just be the way we're made, Anna.