Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Our Art Thrives with Hope

I'm experiencing something I couldn't have imagined a few years ago: I'm a full time picture book author and illustrator now! There is officially no part of my year when I'm not making books! And as I celebrate/promote/fret about the release of my new book while I work on the next, I came to a realization:

From my new book, BALANCE THE BIRDS by Susie Ghahremani

For me, promoting a new book is an anxiety-filled endeavor. I worry it won't find its way onto library and store bookshelves. I worry it won't resonate with readers. I worry it will be forgotten or go out of print. And, quite often, I have to step outside of my comfort zone to do in-person events like book signings and talks. I have to promote and market and share which feels like the antithesis of why I got into art. And all of it opens me up to very public, very permanent criticism.

But making art comes from the exact opposite mindset: I think about the audience -- little readers -- almost to the exclusion of everything else. I try to make something that will resonate with them. I want to make something timeless and lasting. I work in comfortable solitude doing what I love best -- being creative. No one is judging my process or skewering me for it, and I feel totally free.

This same spread, back when I quietly painted it in pieces on translucent vellum.

Today, when writing about my complicated experience promoting a book while working on the next, I had a revelation: Making a book -- whether it's creating the first "draft" of a manuscript, putting pencil to paper to sketch, or painting the last detail on the final art -- it all thrives when we come from a mindset of hope and optimism. But, immersed in the anxieties of a book launch, your hope and optimism fades when you need it most.

This has all made me think about how important it is as creators to protect our mental health and to try to create joy in the less comfortable days after publication so we can get back to our studios with that great mindset. Here are some of the things I've been doing to reset my hope and optimism in-between the tense high wire act of a book launch:

Signing my books with drawings! Fun for me and you.

1. Plan to have fun -- CREATE fun -- at your book launch events!

Yes, you might be out of your comfort zone -- but drawing in every book I sign brings my favorite activity into something that might otherwise be stressful. Making a face cut out made for hilarious and adorable photos that allowed my art to come alive with the interaction of visitors.

2. Don't stop making art during stressful times!

Even though a book launch is a demand on your schedule and time, and you might have other deadlines to meet for your next book, try to create space to make art just for fun. Not for your book launch, and not for your next book, but just optimistic, hopeful art just for fun. Maybe take a class! Maybe doodle in your sketchbook. Maybe post for #Inktober. It will energize you in all kinds of ways and reset all that book launch anxiety.

Making ceramics - totally unrelated to my work on books - has helped me during stressful times! Shoutout to my ceramics studio, a 501(c)3 non-profit called Clay Associates, and my marvelous teacher Eric Woods who is always bringing me back down to earth.
3. Live your life.

There will always be more you can do as an artist and author -- a new portfolio piece, a new proposal, a new manuscript, edits, outreach, education. There will always be something you have to do: a deadline, an event, an interview. A blog post (like this)! Try to protect time in your schedule to just be a person. Cook a meal from scratch, read a book, call a faraway friend, travel and go for a nature walk to see what you might discover.

Those simple interactions are filled with hope. These events strung together make a lovely life. The hopeful acts of making art and launching it into the world again and again can make a lovely life, too. Keep optimism on your side if you can.

Hiking in Japan with my husband! Living life, immediately after delivering the final art for Balance the Birds.

4. Get back to work!

These books aren't going to make themselves!

What are your favorite ways to get back to a hopeful mentality where creativity thrives?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Susie Ghahremani is the author and illustrator of BALANCE THE BIRDS and STACK THE CATS. She paints in gouache, drinks a lot of coffee, and is always looking for great reasons to feel hopeful. One hope she has is that you are registered to vote in this upcoming election.

Susie is represented by Stefanie von Borstel of Full Circle Literary. Find her at:

No comments:

Post a Comment