Sketches, and Writer with a Day Job by Áine Greaney

Quick and dirty sketches of my two principle characters.

Quick and dirty sketches of my two principle characters.

Hello! It’s been over a week since the Unicorn Writers’ Conference now. Life’s been pretty good. I’ve even been exercising. I’m trying to leave my book draft alone for a little while, even though Eileen Albrizio‘s workshop  at the Conference made me want to FIND and DESTROY all the adverbs. I have been getting positive feedback from the good folks reading the current draft, though, which is awesome to hear. To keep my oar in and try to cultivate the habit of writing every day, I’ve been futzing around with book two. It’s still in the very early stages of development, but I’m playing with some ideas and I like what’s shaping up so far. Mostly, I’ve been sketching and working on thumbnails for the rest of book one. I need to really tackle those illustrations soon. For now, I’ve been sketching with a cheap ballpoint pen and hoping that the permanence and nonchalance of the medium will take some of the pressure out of making pictures. It’s a ballpoint pen. I have to ACCEPT that the things I make with it will NOT be perfect—and this frees me up to just DRAW.

Some sketches for a secondary character in Wanderlust. If you can ignore the one on the bottom right with the panda eyes, I like how he's turning out

Some sketches for a secondary character in Wanderlust. If you can ignore the one on the bottom right with the panda eyes, I like how he’s turning out

 

urlOne of my favorite (ha ha. They were all my favorite) workshops at the Unicorn Writers’ Conference was Writer With a Day Job with Áine Greaney. Writer With a Day Job is also the name of one of her books, which I bought and she signed for me. If you ever get a chance to meet Ms. Greaney or attend one of her workshops, I highly recommend it. She is a delight to listen to, and not just because of the Irish accent. She is a very clear and demanding speaker who holds your attention, makes you laugh, and says a lot of very true things that make you think, and keep thinking. She has a soft a soft voice and wields this power gently; the overall impression is of kindness, hilarity, and respect.

You might wonder why I chose this workshop, since I have no day job to speak of. Well, not having a day job isn’t really a sustainable life choice. I’m even starting to suspect that having regularly scheduled, gainful employment, would help my writing—and this was one of the points of Greaney’s workshop. In fact, when I flipped through my Áine Greaney book looking for likely quotes, I came upon this: “Your day job can give you the structure you need to get things done” (19). I also found, in my notes from the conference, this bit of wisdom: “[Having a day job] takes [the] ego and financial burden away [from the writing].” That really resonates with me right now, because, as much as I’m living a cushy little existence as a writer/creative with parent-provided room and board, I am trying very hard to enter into the adult world and take responsibility for myself and for my obligations. In short, making those student loan payments at the end of every month stresses the crap out of me. If having a job meant I didn’t have to worry about paying the bills, it might actually free up more energy for my writing and creative pursuits. I attended this workshop in anticipation of getting a day job in the near future, and I attended the workshop to learn how to do it when I’m in the position of having a job and needing to write. It was the best choice I could have made; Greaney’s workshop gave me a lot of hope for my future and for the future of my writing and creative endeavors.

The most important thing, Greaney said, is to ask ourselves this: Why do I write? What is my deeply personal reason for writing? What do I want from my life as a writer?

When I asked myself these questions, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I remembered that it isn’t about getting published or making money and getting recognition for my work. I want all that, yes. I want it bad. But what it’s about is telling these stories. What it’s about is the love I have for my characters and the deep compulsion I feel to make something physical and tangible and shareable out of the stories and people I’ve created in my head. That, at the heart of it, is why I’m doing this—not for money or fame or a job. This realisation means—well, it means it’s okay if I have a day job for YEARS before the writer/illustrator lark can be my full-time occupation. It means that, as long as I’m creating and sharing these characters, I won’t have failed. The only way I will be a failure as a writer and an artist is if I stop working and creating every day.

I can’t share the whole workshop with you here, so I highly recommend you check out the book if you’re interested. You’ll find a lot of good strategies about how to fit writing time into your busy schedule. I especially liked how Greaney talked about transitions between your work (or your life) and your writing. Sometimes you can’t go straight from one to the other, and it helps to set up transition rituals (like finishing that cup of coffee, or spending twenty minutes journaling, or putting on a specific sweater) that you always perform to get from one place to the other.

I came away from the workshop with two overall messages. The first was: If being a writer is truly, deeply important to you (refer back to that deeply personal reason mentioned above), then do it, any way you can. Write every day. Make it happen. Use whatever available time you have, and make it work for you. And the second message? Be nice to yourself. Accept that you won’t be brilliant every day, and move forward on your writing anyway. At least visit it, even on the crap days when you have nothing left to give. It will all add up, and you will move closer to your writing goals.

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Grace,
    What a pleasant surprise to find this lovely review of my book, WRITER WITH A DAY JOB and to hear that you enjoyed my presentation. I will be snooty here and say that I think I got by far the liveliest, funnest (is that a word?) group in my workshop at the conference, and enjoyed it thoroughly. So glad you found the book helpful. Your artwork is nothing short of gorgeous. I’ll be anxious to see your book, WANDERLUST when it comes out.

    BTW, I hope you don’t mind if I link to this post in mine …

    Reply
    • I would love it if you linked to my post! And I agree, it was a very good group for the workshop, though having such an excellent presenter still made a big difference. Thanks for your nice words about my artwork, and I’m glad you found and enjoyed this post. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Grace,
    How lovely to read that you enjoyed the conference and my presentation. Presenters only work with the energy that’s in the room, so it’s as much about the “crowd” as it is the presenter. But I do appreciate your kind words, and I look forward to your book coming out. What gorgeous artwork.

    I would like to link to this post in mine … hope that’s o.k.
    Hope our paths cross again,
    Aine Greaney

    Reply
  3. You said it for yourself – the only way you fail is if you don’t write. And you’ve got this part too: you sit down and do it, whether you “feel” like it or not, whether you like what is coming out of your pen or not. With those two life lessons already mastered, you are going to be well on your way to accomplishing all your writing dreams!

    Reply
  4. “The sitting down an doing it …” Yup, but some days … well … but so long as you get some writing done before we set the alarm for next day, right?

    Reply
  5. I just wanted to say thank you for the inspiration on this post! (I feel the need to print it off and hang it on my inspiration board.) I haven’t really written for me in such a long time…feeling bogged down by life, and by being back in school, and a whole list of excuses I could probably come up with. Recently, I’ve had a few life happenings that have stirred something in me to write again. Call it a muse, call it inspiration, call it me finally telling myself I HAVE to sit down and write if I ever want to write a book.
    I think what I have been missing is that deeply personal reason for writing.

    So…just thanks for this post. it was inspiring and motivating. And I definitely have to get my hands on this book!

    Reply
  6. Thank you, for a thought provoking blog. Well done! I’m loving your sketches. I’ve been sketching a lot on my iPad … AND I’ve been doing some writing, as well. The two are beginning to come together and I’m excited by the possibilities. I also need a day job, lol, and totally get how freeing that would be. You inspired me, today. 🙂

    Reply
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