Sam Kalda: Of Cats and Men

05/24/17

If you have been following my blog for the last few years, you know that I do interviews periodically with people I admire — mostly fellow artists and writers. A couple of years ago, I discovered the work of illustrator Sam Kalda. Sam came to a book signing for my book Art Inc in Brooklyn back in 2014, and introduced himself to me after the signing. I looked him up the next day, fell in love with his work immediately and asked him for an interview. You can read that original 2015 interview with Sam here to get to know his story.

Recently, Sam, whose career has continued to grow over the past couple of years, published his first book, Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers and Statesmen. I love this book so much (and I am sure you will too) that I decided to have Sam back to chat with him again. Welcome back to Sam Kalda!

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Lisa: Sam, I absolutely love this book! Tell us about how the book came to be?

Sam: Thank you! As long as I can remember, I’ve loved to draw and loved cats. I began the book while in my first year of the MFA in illustration program at FIT. In college, I came across photos of Marlon Brando and Jean Cocteau with their cats. In these gorgeous black and white photos, cats seemed to unite these two very different fellows. They were the first members of this rag tag gentleman’s club that evolved into Of Cats and Men.

Lisa: Demystify the CAT MAN for us. How are Cat Men different from Cat Ladies (or are they?). What are the defining characteristics of Cat Men?

Sam: The book’s introduction serves as a kind of “Catman” manifesto (Catmanifesto?) that’s playful rebuttal of the bizarre way we gender animals and of the cruel “crazy cat lady” stereotype. The way I like to think of it, Catmen are enlightened fellows standing alongside their cat-loving sisters as “crazy cat men.”

Lisa: When I read the book (and part of what I love about it), I couldn’t help but think about what your research phase must have looked like. How does one go about finding out which men from history were Cat Men? And then how did you manage to learn so much about their cats and life with cats? It seems so obscure!

Sam: I had the benefit of time in accumulating these characters—an early version of the book is about four to five years old. The project was always in the background, so I could be a bit of a magpie and pick up ideas here and there. I love to read and do research, and collected books about cats in art history, literature, etc.

In terms of finding the subjects, the writers were probably the easiest to find as they tend to leave an extensive paper trail of their thoughts. I discovered Balthus’ cats at a show at the Met. I love Murakami novels and anyone who’s read Murakami know’s he loves cats—especially cats that can talk to humans. I had classmates and later fans of the project send me suggestions of people they came across while reading, or while surfing the web. In fact, George Balanchine was recommended by a friend in an Instagram message. From there, I just worked one by one to unearth interesting stories and anecdotes to really confirm their Cat Man “credentials.”

Lisa: Oh, what would we do without the internet! It’s a virtual treasure trove. Who did you discover in your research that surprised you the most?

Sam: I’m not sure surprised is the right word, but I was absolutely delighted by some real gems discovered in the research phase. For instance, while reading up on Maurice Ravel, I came across a biography stating that he (Ravel) was one of the first men in Paris to wear pastels. Amazing. Another favorite anecdote about the painter Balthus didn’t make it into the book. According to one writer, Balthus was known to refer to himself as “The Thirteenth King of Cats.” Balthus came to the number thirteen because the capillaries in one of his eyes vaguely resembled the number 13. Research can occasionally be dull, but I live for those eccentric tidbits.

Lisa:  I love the section in the end about robots and cats, because it begs the question: what is the future of cat men? And what role has the internet played in making us all cat people again? How do cats make us all — even robots — more human?

Sam: Originally, I envisioned the narrative voice in Of Cats and Men to be reminiscent of Werner Herzog at his most “out there.” While that changed slightly, my inner Herzog gave me permission to go a little Sci-Fi in the conclusion.  I’m little prone to Luddite paranoia and certainly had fun camping that up.

You’re very right to say that basically everyone is now a cat person because of the internet. But our everyday interactions are so mediated by devices. We are very uncomfortable with being present and unoccupied. I think spending time with cats—animals in general—is something that is fundamentally good for us. It keeps us present and strengthens our reserves of empathy. Ergo, cats make us more human. Art can do that too, but *most* art unfortunately is not covered in fur.

  

Lisa: If you could spend a day with any one of the men (and his cats) profiled in your book, who would you choose and why?

Sam: Probably Edward Gorey. Maybe go antiquing and browse some used bookstores around Cape Cod? Talk about the virtues of fog? Sounds joyous.

{Sam and his cat, Sister}

Lisa: Tell us about your cat! What is her name, how old is she and what is she like?

Sam: Her name is Sister. She’s a 10 year old black and white long hair and looks like a nun wearing a habit. I think that’s my Catholic school kid coming out. She was born in a boiler room in Brooklyn and now lives with her two dads in a small, well-curated apartment. Like all house cats, she’s a rags to riches story.

  

Lisa: I love it! Sister is very lucky. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and for making this book! It’s a gift (And I’ll literally be gifting it to many cat men in my life!). You can get it here and wherever books are sold.

Sam: Thank you, Lisa!

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On Self-Employment, Workaholism and Getting My Life Back

05/23/17

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

-Mary Oliver

I could have titled this blog post What a Difference a Year Makes.

Or What Happens When you Really Lose It.

Or, simply, Freedom.

What I call it doesn’t matter. It just feels important to me that I write this down: part warning, part catharsis, part story of recovery.

I’m not telling this story because it’s at all unusual or because I think it’s in any way special. I’m telling it because the American ideal of busy-ness, success-by-hard-work, and the layer of bizarre importance we place on both social media & email — have the potential to be damaging. And I wanted to talk about how all of those things have impacted me and how I’m beginning to find freedom from them.

This is a story that started ten years ago when I left my job to begin making a full time living as an artist. But the important part of the story starts one year ago, almost to the day.

At the time, I was on a book tour on a stop in in New York City, and I was about to continue on to Minneapolis to deliver the 2016 Commencement Address at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and then do more book events the same week. I woke up in my friend Debbie’s apartment in Chelsea on a beautiful May morning, and came to the profound realization that I was done with the way things were in my life. I was exhausted, in physical pain, anxious and depressed. Something had to change, and this time was serious. I had hit bottom. I realized I could no longer sustain the intense workload and travel schedule that I’d been carrying for the past few years of my ten year career.

True fact: I used to be person who had a job and also thoroughly enjoyed her life outside of her job. I went to work (I worked for many years at two different non-profit organizations), felt committed and did my thing, but I didn’t bring it home with me. There was a tight container around work between the hours of 9 and 5. After 5 pm and on the weekends, I rested, swam, went hiking, hung out with friends, read books, slept in, went dancing, did some sewing and art projects, and relaxed in front of the TV.

Ten years ago in 2007, when I was 39 years old, I quit my job at the non-profit to pursue a career as an artist full time and, almost immediately, something inside of me shifted. As an artist just beginning her freelance career, I didn’t have an income yet, and I adopted a new mindset very quickly: time is money. I began to feel like even if I wasn’t working on a paid project (which I rarely did in the first couple of years), I had to be working on something — something that I could add to my portfolio for potential licensing, something that might spark some interest in my work from an art director (I started sharing my work online early in my career), or anything that might lead to something in the future. I also understood that because I was self-taught, I needed to work hard to develop my artistic skills and find my voice. If I wasn’t working, I began to feel like I was slacking. This mindset was buttressed by the fact that I was authentically excited to be making art full time. I loved what I did, and compared to an office job, I felt like I had hit the lottery, even before I made a penny. And this second factor was important.

As a result, I began working all of the time. For the first couple of years, I also opened a little store with my friend Rena to supplement my meager art income, but when I wasn’t there, I was making art and I began sharing it on the internet. For the most part, I stopped swimming regularly and I stopped relaxing in front of the TV, going dancing, sewing or sleeping in. When I was watching TV or “relaxing” in the evenings, I was doing it with a laptop or drawing paper perched on my thighs, where I was also working. In my mind, if I wasn’t working and sharing, I was losing a potential opportunity to get paid work.

This mindset served me well, initially. Within just a year or two, I began to build a following. As I drew and painted each day, I became a better and better artist. And from there, I began getting paid work. In 2008, I signed with a prestigious illustration agent. By early 2010 I signed a contract for my first book and began showing my work at a San Francisco gallery. I started getting regular illustration jobs, and I started making a regular income. (Eventually, I even wrote a book advising others how to do it).

And then in around 2011, things reached a new level — I call this my “tipping point.” At any given time, I was working on up to 15 projects at once, some small, some big. I said yes to literally every opportunity that came my way (and they began flowing in), including online teaching and public speaking opportunities in addition to illustration, publishing and licensing. Around the same time, my Etsy shop picked up steam, and I’ve made regular weekly sales ever since. I also consistently engaged in my own personal projects which I shared publicly as well, and which ultimately led to new professional opportunities. All of this stuff I was doing became a fruitful cycle. In my mind, even though it was often stressful, working 12 hour days and on the weekends was getting me somewhere. I was paying off debt, adding clients to my client list and building the career I had dreamed of having.

Looking back, I realize now that workload was already taking its toll, even then. I battled almost constant anxiety and I had terrible chronic neck and back pain from sitting at my drawing table and computer for so many hours. I had also started a relationship in 2008, and the weight of my workload caused tension for us as my career grew. I am so grateful that my partner (now wife) was so understanding, believed in me so profoundly and stuck it out with me. Ultimately, she had a huge part in helping me to walk away from the burdens of it. But aspects of our relationship suffered. I kept saying to her: “Look, if I work hard and often now, then in a few years we’ll be set financially and I will slow down and work less.”

The problem was, I was like a hamster on a hamster wheel who literally did not know how to stop the wheel and get off. Even though I was making a steady six-figure income and I could have taken some space, I had become addicted to working. I was also addicted to the rush that working and being acknowledged for the work brought to me. I was attached to the idea that it is the hustling that brings success. I began to feel more stressed when I wasn’t working, not just because I had so many looming deadlines, but because slowing down itself became uncomfortable. Despite early indications of burnout, I felt it was imperative that I continue in this way. I told myself, You can do this! You work fast! You don’t need much sleep! Someday you will be able to take a break.

To be clear, I also understood very deeply that this was all a choice I was making. While I wrote occasionally about my workload (including about how I was feeling overwhelmed) on this blog and on Instagram over the past six years, I was careful not to come off as a victim. I knew I had chosen this path. Mostly, I was outwardly cheery to my social media audience. In fact, in some ways, I wore my busy-ness as a badge of honor. I was busy, goddammit, and I was proud of it.

Somewhere in there, I got married, and two years later in 2015 we moved to Portland, Oregon and bought a house. Part of the decision to move was precipitated by a desire to have a slower lifestyle. We decided that moving from the frenetic work culture of the Bay Area of California to a city with a slower pace of life was going to give us a fresh start. But, like what happens anytime you say you are going to make a change but have no real plan in place or boundaries to implement it, we moved to Portland and nothing changed. In fact, for a time after we moved, my wife was working for me and then I hired an employee, and things actually got worse. My wife and employee were amazing and helped me with so many aspects of my business. But instead of lightening my load, I used having a team to help me with my workload as an excuse to take on even more projects for myself.

Fast forward to a year ago. I hit bottom. I was strung out, uninspired, anxious, and in chronic pain. I was miserable. For awhile, I thought about quitting all together. I fantasized about being a part time dog groomer or a gardener. I fantasized about crawling in a hole.

After I got back from that book tour, I began the necessary process of re-thinking my career and my life. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to keep working as an illustrator and writer. I just needed to get my workload down to a manageable size and I needed to start creating space in my life for rest and enjoyment and creative rejuvenation. About a year ago, I began to decline 80% of the opportunities that came my way. I said no not only to most illustration projects, but also to speaking engagements and some interview requests. I decided very intentionally to focus on only a handful of meaningful projects and speaking engagements for the next three years. I still had to finish the commitments that I’d already signed up for, but I set out to slowly relieve myself of responsibilities and start a new approach to living and working going forward.

You may remember that back in December, about six months ago and six months after I began the process of starting to lighten my load, I wrote this blog post about my burnout and the slow rebuilding. At the time, I was in the thick of the process of slowing down, but I was struggling — still really struggling — because even after I began making changes to improve the quality of my life, I still felt anxious and depressed nearly everyday. I didn’t know how to relax in my new-found time. I was still worried about what would happen next for me. The good news was that I was starting to feel inspired again — one of the worst side effects of my burnout had been a total lack of creative energy or motivation.

Fast forward to today: a year after starting this process, I am very happy to say I feel solidly on the other side. I am living and working differently, my depression is gone, and my anxiety is at an all time low. Most days, I feel great. My days are slow. I work and rest. I am starting to feel some sense of balance again. Here are some things about the journey over the last year that feel important to share.

  1. As I mentioned earlier,  I do believe the American ideal of busy-ness, success-by-hard-work, and the layer of bizarre importance we place on both social media and email — have the potential to be very damaging if we are not careful. I bought into them, and I suffered mightily. That said, I had to take full responsibility for not buying into them anymore, and that is ongoing work for me, every single day. If you had asked me a year ago to describe my existence I would have said, “I feel like I am trapped in a box and someone has filled every last bit of space in the box with rocks and trash.” The box was my life, and the rocks and trash were all my responsibilities and obligations.  I felt trapped underneath pressure, darkness and lack of space. I was suffocating. The choices I made put me in that box, and I was aware that I was also the only one who could get myself out of it.
  2. Just because you make an intentional, conscious and committed decision to change something, doesn’t mean you will see the positive effects quickly or that it will be easy. In fact, for me, my anxiety got worse before it got better — I had grown so accustomed to being in the world in a certain way, that change felt terrifying, even though it was clearly a healthy shift that I needed to make. But change happens slowly, especially when you are shifting mindsets and behavior that have been engrained in you for years. I used the same discipline to commit to slowing down and being present as I had used to hustle to build my career from scratch. I was literally addicted to work. And so breaking the cycle of constantly working was hard.
  3. That’s right. Once I did start to create some space, I had to literally relearn how to relax. As I began to finish up existing projects and take on fewer and fewer responsibilities, I began to see and feel space around me again. I was no longer trapped in the box! How cool, right? Um, no. It totally freaked me out! I was so used to filling space with work (even self-generated projects) that when my goal was to relax and slow down, I panicked. So I have approached it in several ways. First, when I am working now (because I still work), I focus on slowing down and taking my time — because there is no need to rush. I have more time! And that has made work feel more enjoyable. You can’t relax into work with you are rushing. Second, I also only check and respond to email and post on social media during specific times of the day now. I also post far less frequently on social media or on this blog. I’ve given up making art at “daily Instagram speed” — even if that means I post less often, or some days, not at all. I’ve given up being prolific and have simultaneously unplugged, both of which have been essential in finding some relief from my anxiety. Third, when I do have space outside of work, I think intentionally about how to use it. I read, take walks, mess around in my studio with no specific outcome, and go for long swims. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t. At first this intentional use of my new-found “free time” felt like torture. I was a nervous wreck! Read a book? Shouldn’t I just go back to work? I had to practice taking  slow walks in my neighborhood (which my dog helps me with since he has to stop and stiff everything in his path), going for long swims (instead of madly trying to finish my workout so I could get back to work), or reading an entire long-form article in the New Yorker (when I first started this process I couldn’t read more than a paragraph without losing focus). And I had to practice sitting with the initial anxiety that came with doing these seemingly enjoyable, relaxing activities. I am happy to report that I not only survived, but most days I am very good at relaxing now. I just have to engage my relaxing muscles again and not give up when it feels challenging.
  4. I had to redefine my definition of success. Previously, I aligned things like hustling and hard work with success. I had proven it myself over and over, and it became how I was wired. And while I do think there is a correlation between discipline, risk-taking and action with building a sustainable career as an artist, the stress of my own level of discipline, risk-taking and action had taken a huge toll on my psyche and creative energy. In the end, I decided to let go of the idea of success all together. So, now, I am beginning to think about and define whether I have a good life in terms of space and enjoyment instead of professional success. I am always thinking about how much figurative space I have around work projects, and whether I am actually finding any pleasure doing them. This perspective now also influences my decisions about what professional opportunities to say yes to and which to decline. If I am going to continue to have a career, I need to keep taking advantage of opportunities, so learning a new way of navigating them is important.
  5. Lastly, I can’t end this blog post without talking about something that has made all of this possible: meditation. Daily meditation has made all the difference for me. I have tried to mediate regularly for years, but I never followed through for more than a handful of days at a time because I never got past the “sitting in silence with my anxiety is torture” phase. But everything I read from Eastern religion to Western medical science espoused meditation as a real, long term relief for anxiety and living with more peace and calm. So, this time, to help me both with accountability and support, I began working with a coach and meditation teacher (best decision I made in the process). But here’s the thing about meditation: like with the other changes I made, despite the support, I didn’t see the positive results immediately. I had to practice meditation every day for 40 days straight before I noticed that in general I was feeling calmer and less anxious. I also had to redefine what it meant to be a “good” meditator. I had to let go of the notion that “thinking” or anxious thoughts during meditation were bad. Really, meditation is just practicing bringing your attention back to your breath over and over as the thoughts and anxieties arise. Magically (or maybe not so magically), the impact of 15-20 minutes of meditation a day on my entire 24 hour cycle has been profound. I have a long way to go in my practice, and I’m in this for the long haul.

You might be wondering, what am I up to now? I am working on two books, one that comes out in 2019 and one that comes out in 2020 — both with ample, almost luxurious timelines. The second book is a long term intensive project that will be my main work for the next two years. I am scheming a couple more video classes that I will roll out in the next year. I am making a lot of personal work. I have a book that comes out in October, and I’ll be having some book events this Fall. I have two residencies and one fine art show scheduled for 2018. Right now, that’s about it. And it feels great.

I also know I have to keep doing my other work: meditating, taking slow walks, going for long swims, participating in some activism in my community, protecting space in my schedule, and rallying against the notion that it’s all about the hustle.

I’m here to say, it just isn’t. It’s not glamorous to be busy. It’s just exhausting.

And I am done being exhausted.

Here’s to freedom!

Thank you for listening.

CATEGORIES: Personal Essays
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Bridget Watson Payne: Part One

05/16/17

Hello, friends! Today I am posting the first of two interviews with someone who I not only admire enormously, but someone who is very near and dear to me, both professionally and personally: Bridget Watson Payne. Bridget is not only an amazing writer and artist (more on that in a second), but also my longtime editor at Chronicle Books. I have worked with Bridget on SEVEN books (five of my own, two that I illustrated for other writers) — all over the past six years. We’ve become good friends in that time, and Bridget has been a steadfast champion of my ideas (even my weird ones). Working with her has literally changed and expanded my career path (and basically my life) in ways that I cannot even begin to enumerate. And I won’t, because this interview is not about me, it’s about Bridget and her recent book: The Secret Art of Being a Grown Up, which she wrote (and which was illustrated by a colleague at Chronicle).

While Bridget’s main job is helping other people make beautiful, interesting books as Senior Art Editor, she is someone who has never neglected her own creative spirit. This is part of why I love working with Bridget — she intimately understands the creative process, and also what it means to make stuff and put it into the world, which makes her enormously sensitive and humble. You can view Bridget’s super cool paintings of mostly ordinary objects on her Instagram feed under the hashtag #bwppaints.

Bridget is also a writer. Today’s post is dedicated to Bridget’s first book, The Secret Art of Being a Grown Up, which is one of my favorite books of the year. Taking advantage of being an adult is all about understanding basic things — some that we don’t even know we don’t know (but Bridget breaks them down for us), and some of them are not secret, but that we just forget sometimes (even in my case, at 49). Rather than being preachy, the book is written with humility and humor. And it’s a great gift for anyone going through a big transition in their teens or 20’s. I’ve included some great spreads below so you can get a flavor for it.

I’ll also be back in a few weeks with Part Two of my interview with Bridget, in which we discuss the second book she’s published recently. Stay tuned for that.

And so it is my great pleasure to introduce Bridget Watson Payne, in my latest Interview with Someone I Admire!

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Lisa: When I was a little girl, my mom had a jar of candy that she kept up high in a cupboard in the kitchen. Every time she ate some, my siblings and I would whine – because we wanted some too. She used to say very emphatically: “When you are a grown up, you can eat as much candy as you want.” In other words, no, you can’t have any, it’s MINE, but your day will come. I remember thinking that while that seemed like becoming a grown up would take FOREVER, it also seemed like the ultimate freedom. When I read The Secret Art of Being a Grown Up, I felt like one of the overriding messages of the book is: while some parts of being an adult are tedious and painful (like navigating relationships), ultimately, you get to eat as much candy as you want. In other words, you make the rules about how you live your life. Talk about when you began to make this realization.

Bridget: That’s exactly it! And, you know, it’s funny—I actually know exactly the minute I started to make that realization for myself: it was a few weeks after my twenty-seventh birthday. I was meeting some friends after work at a bar, and I was early, and it was crowded, and the only place to sit was this big seating area with a big sofa and several chairs. It was the perfect place for me and my friends to hang out — but they weren’t going to be there for at least another twenty minutes. And I questioned, can I do this? Can I sit here all by myself and hold down the fort until everyone else gets here? Will people glare at me? Can I get away with this? And that’s when it happened. I answered myself, in my mind, loud and clear: “I’m twenty-seven years old!” I thought, “I can do whatever I want!” I sat down and held the spot and no one cared in the least. That’s when I saw it for the first time: being a grown-up means making your own rules — you decide what you can and can’t do, you decide how much space you’re going to take up in the world.

Lisa: Tell us more about The Secret Art of Being a Grown Up. How did this book come to be?

Bridget: I was waiting for kind of a long time on a crowded train platform with my friend Wynn who’s a fellow book editor at Chronicle. Finally the train pulled up and everyone started to squash onto it, even though there was another train directly behind that first one. And we turned to each other we were like, obviously we should wait two minutes and take the second less-crowded train! And then I said, oh, I should remember that, that’s perfect for my list of tips for being a grown-up! And he asked me to tell him more about this list, so I started to describe how I’d been collecting these kinds of tidbits for over a decade, and someday when I was elderly and had hundreds and hundreds of them I would try and put them into a book. And he suggested that, hmm, perhaps it ought to be a book a little sooner than that. And he went on to be my editor!

Lisa: I know because I’ve talked to you about the book that you’d been keeping a list of “adult tips” for a long time. But once you started writing it, did you come up with more? What was the process like of narrowing down to the right amount of tips for the book and getting the right balance all the flavors?

Bridget: Yes. Initially when I first started collecting them I was in my early-to-mid-twenties and was learning my way around the kitchen — so a lot of them had to do with cooking. Things like: “turn the bottle not the cork” (that’s how you open a bottle of champagne), “the meat stops sticking when it’s done” (a key lesson in patience), and “you don’t need a garlic press” (I’m a big believer in a less-is-more approach to utensils). But as time went on, and then as the book started to evolve, I realized I wanted to cover a lot more kinds of things — tips about socializing and relationships, tips about work and money, home stuff, fashion stuff — I wanted the book to run gamut of different parts of life we encounter as adults. And whereas I’d originally pictured a very long list of hundreds of tips, each tip just maybe five or ten words long, I pretty quickly realized (with my editor’s help!) that each tip should actually be a whole spread, should have a bit of longer text explaining it, and so we wouldn’t need nearly as many of them as I’d first thought. Because it turns out, I might say “turn the bottle not the cork” and think that’s totally self-explanatory, but other people who aren’t inside  my head aren’t going to know that’s about champagne—they’re going to be all “what bottle?” “what cork?”

Lisa: Speaking of different flavors, some of the tips in the book are sort of everyday, trivial things like secrets of opening a bottle of champagne or properly using a tin foil dispenser. But other things are actually about big and more weighty topics like setting boundaries in relationships, valuing yourself as a lovable person, the importance of expressing your feelings, and accepting that you can’t change your parents. How did you approach writing the more in-depth parts of the book so that they weren’t out of balance with the simple kitchen tips?

Bridget: It was a little tricky. I definitely had a few of those same “can I get away with this?” moments! But I just applied my grown-up skills and told myself “I can do what I want!” And what I wanted to do was really to include that mix of simple practical things and bigger deeper things—because to my mind those are two of the important things, and ultimately the really fun things, about being a grown-up: you get to master your environment in little practical ways and you also get to set up your emotional and interpersonal life in a way that works for you. In terms of writing, I did want the book to have a coherent voice—I wanted it to all feel like the advice you might get from an older sister or friend who not so long ago was struggling with the exact same things you’re struggling with and who is here to tell you that your adult life is going to be rad, that you get to do what you want, that you deserve to be happy.

Lisa: Tell us a little bit about your trajectory as a writer. You are currently Senior Editor for Art Books at Chronicle. Have you always wanted to write your own books? Or did the idea to write books happen once you became an editor of other people’s books? Did you enjoy it? Will you write more? Did being an editor prepare you in any special way?

Bridget: I’ve always wanted to write, but it took me a really long time to figure out what I wanted to write. I’m a very committed reader of novels, so for a long time I thought that if I was going to write that meant I needed to write fiction. It took me ages to figure out that neither my interest or my talent lay in that direction. And several years I’ve written a good deal of poetry (you can read it on my blog). But it took working on non-fiction books as an editor for about a decade before it occurred to me that, oh, hey, I could write non-fiction! That’s the thing with being a grown-up, right? We’re never really done figuring it out! So, yes, once I got going I loved writing this sort of book. It’s so satisfying to get to use my own natural conversational voice and tone, to get to express some of the things that have been on my mind, in some cases for many years. I am definitely hooked and want to do more! I’m chatting with my editor now about what I might do next—I’ve got a number of half-baked ideas in mind but nothing concrete yet. I think the thing about being an editor myself is that I really appreciate the editor’s art—I found it just fantastic to have editors of my own, someone to help make what I was doing the best version of what it could be. I’ve loved doing that for others and I really valued having folks do it for me.

Lisa: I am 49 years old and yet I felt liberated by reading The Secret Art of Being a Grown Up. I don’t think we ever outgrow the reminders that we deserve to be loved or that we should always be ourselves. Talk about the purpose the book serves in reminding seasoned grownups that life is supposed to be fun and that you can make your own rules? Sometimes we forget these things.

Bridget: Definitely! Whereas perhaps the most obvious audience for this book is among young adults—recent college grads, people moving into their first apartments, that sort of crowd—I really wanted to make a book that ultimately would work for all of us, for grown-ups of all ages. I once had a conversation with my ninety-year-old great-aunt  about how, even though I was thirty-something at the time, on the inside I still often felt like I was about twelve years old. And she surprised me by saying, oh! Me too! That she would look in the mirror and think “who is that old woman?!” because, like everyone does sometimes, she still felt like a kid on the inside. I’m 41 now and I know I need constant reminders that other people’s snobbery is not my problem, that 95% of the time no one is looking at me, to set boundaries, to think long-term, to pay my bills on time, to go get an ice cream cone in the middle of the work day with a friend if that’s what we both want, or need, to do. There’s always more to learn. We all need reminders.

Lisa: We’ll be back next month with an interview about your other new book How Art Can Make You Happy. In the meantime, where can people find you on social media and the internet?

Bridget: My website bridgetwatsonpayne.com has info on my books, my drawings, my work as an editor, and links to my blog Pippa’s Cabinet. I’m @watsonpayne on Instagram and also @watsonpayne on Twitter.

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New Podcast: Stash Local

05/15/17

Hello friends, I’m popping in to let you know about a podcast I recorded recently with Stash Local, a podcast hosted by fellow maker and cool human, Sonia Ruyts. We discuss all kinds of things, including how I worked to overcome my  uncertainty and fear in the beginning of my path, and how I had to rethink my priorities and creative focus after my recent burnout. I also talk about  how your relationship with creativity changes when you become a professional maker — and why seeking alternative forms of inspiration and maintaining personal creative work is so important to staying connected with your own creative energy.

I hope you will give it a listen!

CATEGORIES: Podcasts
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Moms & Grads Gift Ideas!

05/03/17

Shopping for Grads or Moms? I’ve got some great items in my shop!

Great gifts for grads:
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One (I’ve also got coordinating stationery!)
Fortune Favors the Brave 
Begin Anyhow Poster
You Will Leave a Trail of Stars Matchbox
Mini Motto Mini Print Set

For moms and grads who are swimmers:
The Joy of Swimming
New Horizons Print

For moms and grads who are artists:
Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist
I Am an Artist Tote
Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History

Prints for moms:
She Who is Brave is Free Print
Fortitude Print

I’ve also got tons of cards to accompany your gifts!

Or just peruse!

CATEGORIES: For Sale
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