• JR

The Paradox of Change

I am excited because today I have a portfolio review session with an illustration agent. I get to have this because I am on the Pathways Program. I am looking forward to it because I believe this will be a helpful critique, not only on the standard of my work so far but on the way that I present myself. I have been aware, for some time now, that I need to pay some attention to my social media accounts and to try to be more intentional with the way I curate the work I put out into the world.

Up until now, I have tended to put out a real hodge-podge of things. I am a self-proclaimed proud Imperfectionist, and a dabbler in several interests. I really struggle whittle things down to an easily understandable (on first glace) presentation. I used to call myself a Jack of all trades, but after earning a Masters degree, and then a doctorate in creative writing I had to acknowledge that Jack of all trades was disingenuous. It's been a mental shift for me and I'm still working it out. I still dabble a lot.

Meanwhile here I am. I have honed in on books. I have written and published a memoir for a general grown-up readership, but I also suspect it will be at least 10 years before I publish another book of life writing (I'll do a separate post on that one day). Now I am working hard as an emerging illustrator/writing in children's literature. Pathways has flung open the gates and given me the greatest shot I will ever get at doing this, so I am intent on doing this opportunity justice.

Here's the thing: I have honed in on children's books, but am struggling to hone in my illustration style, and as a symptom of that, my social media presence. The rebel in me screams They should accept me as I am, hodgepodge and all! But I do know better. I know I need to create (possibly a separate) Instagram account at the very least, where I exhibit a carefully curated and congruent selection of my work, and most likely, over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will.

Here's the next block I keep hitting though: I don't want to try to look like everyone else. I have never succeeded at fitting in, or making much sense in some wider collective. Personally, I've processed this issue and personally chosen to see it as a superpower; and there is a strong case to be argued for Artists and Creatives being exactly the sort of people who need to stick out; and how can the industry claim to have recognised a need for change (in diversity and inclusion) but then demand I present my work just like everyone else who is already in said industry and has up until now contributed to its need for change... It's a self-perpetuating cycle of homogeneity. I could write a lot more about this but my gut intercepts and I think it's more important for me to identify the relevant but.

BUT: compromise is needed if I actually want to make a career of this. If an alien world invited me over because they recognised a need for diversity, I have a choice. I can go there as a bumbling foreigner and insist on speaking my own language and doing things my way, or, I can learn about their ways, bits of their language, how they exchange ideas. Doing the latter wouldn't make me any less me, I'm not suggesting changing who I am, but it would probably expand my chances of being understood. Suddenly this all sounds very obvious and I feel a bit silly for even needing to write it out.

The way I choose to represent myself to the world in which I am trying to establish myself needs to make sense within the context of that world. This is a hard truth for someone with neurodiversity. It is yet another extra demand, yes, like many other things in life. But one that must be met. Buck up, girl.