BY ANNE BELOV
June 15, 2016
You hear it everywhere you go: I’m so busy; I’m too busy; my children have a packed schedule; Lunch? Let me look at my calendar… I think I have a Tuesday next August. Does that work for you?
I thought, when I moved to Whidbey Island 27 years ago, my life would become calm and serene and, more importantly, far less busy. At first that seemed to be the case, since I only knew a couple of people and had little disposable cash to go to many things. WICA did not yet exist and The Clyde Theater only showed two movies a week.
While in college and graduate school, I always had part- or full-time jobs, so I learned to juggle class work with making a living and even (occasionally) having a little fun. This learned ability to multi-task allowed me to keep a roof over my head and continue to make paintings when I left school.
When I finally hit the tipping point of being able to make a living with only my artwork, the juggling didn’t stop. If you think making a living in art consists solely of staring at the lovely landscape till inspiration strikes, and then you create a masterpiece that instantly sells—well, I’ve got news for you. There’s the paperwork and record-keeping and making sure you have supplies. And then there’s framing and scheduling and transporting the work. Oh yeah, and then there is doing the work itself.
Eventually, in order to have money coming in more regularly, I added printmaking with a small company that sold etchings around the US and in Canada. This worked great for a while, until it didn’t.
Eight years ago I started drawing cartoons, and, shortly after that, decided to dip my toes in the waters of children’s illustrating and writing. Boy, do I know how to find (non) lucrative, time-intensive pursuits or what?
What works for me is having several creative irons in the fire all the time. While scheduling all these different aspects of my creative life can be challenging, it’s not impossible and—truth to tell—I kind of like it. I must have a short attention span or something, because working at different activities throughout the day keeps me mentally engaged.
When all I did was paint, I would sometimes find myself doing stupid things late in the day because my attention had wandered off somewhere. Breaking up my day into one to three hour segments allows me to keep all the balls in the air, only occasionally dropping one on my head. I keep a calendar (mostly…Oh, yeah, I need to go write this week’s schedule in the calendar!) with notes about what I’m working on in each of those varied projects. And, oh, let’s not forget gardening, yoga, and hanging out with friends.
Add blogging and website maintenance and keeping up with fans of my panda cartoons to the mix and you have a very busy life.
There is a vast online community of writers in every genre you can think of, and I’m lucky to have connected with the KidLit writing community, mostly through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Unlike the Seattle folks who can get together regularly in person, since I prefer not to “go to America” as we islanders call it, I’m more active online. This has led to creeping internet obsession, and I finally had to take myself in hand to cut down the amount of time I was hanging out online.
There’s an App for that…
Fortunately there is a Facebook group for that. Yes, I belong to a Facebook group, whose goal is to stay off the internet until we have completed at least one hour of creative work each day. Started by Bay Area children’s writer Deborah Underwood, this group keeps us accountable so that our day’s productive potential does not get consumed by watching panda videos or trading witty dialog for photos of pandas, or…well, you get the picture.
Because, in this group, we are all swimming in the KidLit pool, we have interests and challenges in common. It is an accountability group, for sure. But it has also become a support group, as we navigate the turbulent waters of children’s publishing.
It was a liberating revelation to realize that I don’t want to get rid of “busy,” since I finally realized that it’s what drives me ever forward. The best I can do is to keep “busy” under some amount of control. And isn’t that the best we all, in this busy world, can hope for?
Anne Belov is a painter, printmaker, cartoonist and writer living on Whidbey Island. You can find her paintings at The Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm and The Fountainhead Gallery on Queen Anne in Seattle. Her pandas hang out at Panda Chronicles. You can find the six-book Panda Chronicles collection at Moonraker Books in Langley or at the Whidbey Writer’s Network booths at the Bayview, Coupeville, and Oak Harbor farmer’s markets. She is working on a graphic novel starring pandas. Don’t miss seeing her work, along with a baker’s dozen of other painters, printmakers and sculptors at this year’s Froggwell Biennale, Friday through Sunday, August 5-7.
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