I don’t just want to write a book for the sake of writing a book. I have something I want to say, and I want to say it in a way that will help a lot of people.
I want to write a book for illustrators. Not a book of illustrations, but a book about illustration. Not a book about how to illustrate, but about how to thrive as an illustrator. Not a business book or a reference book — not a book about how to make a living as an illustrator — but how to live as an illustrator.
There are countless books out there already, showing how to run a creative business, how to break into the industry, how to forge a creative career, how to price work, how to find your voice, how to work with clients, and so on. Most of them are helpful. I even own a few of these myself.
Few are really page turners. Few are the kind of book you would carry with you and really want to read outside of the studio.
My vision: I want to write a book for illustrators that you could read on the bus.
That’s a funny vision for an illustration-writer, isn’t it? Let me explain. So many books that have been written on the subject of design and illustration tend to overplay the design and visual element. Lots of pretty pictures. Lots of side-bar content and guest interviews. Chapters chock-full of steps and strategies for every possible stage of the creative career. These are great, but not where my heart is for my book.
I want to write a book that reads more like a devotional, a companion, even a manifesto. Something you can pick up and read at any time, whether at your desk or curled up in a cozy chair on a Sunday afternoon, and feel charged up by. I want to speak directly to the pain points we illustrators encounter at every stage of our career and the creative process. I want to speak to the heart, the part of you that knows how things should or should not be but couldn’t put it into words until now.
I don’t want to tell you how to do things. I don’t want to be a guru. I want to simply put into words what you’ve been feeling all along.
Books I am inspired by, which come closer to what I envision at this point include:
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Keep Going by Austin Kleon
- It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
- Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand
- The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero
What these all have in common: They are collections of short essays on topics that are top of mind and close to heart for creatives. They are topical, so you can read the chapters in any order. They are so well written that you might read them from cover to cover in one sitting. In some cases, they are short enough that that sitting could be in one morning. They are simple. They are linear. They are small.
They are small books with big, life changing ideas. It’s not that the ideas are new. An idea can be life changing simply by being put into the right words.
So these are my early thoughts on what I envision for the book. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I started doing this — writing short topical essays—a few years ago and continue to pepper these into my feed from time to time. This is what I do, and I think putting these into a book format, in a more curated and considered manner, could work.
But at this early stage, I want to challenge my assumptions. Maybe this is not what my audience wants or needs. Maybe they like books with complex layouts, sidebars, breakout anecdotes, guest interviews, diagrams and big shiny pictures. Maybe I’m doing what I want to write against doing — short-selling myself as an illustrator. Maybe this book is exactly where I should be showcasing my illustration. Maybe I am misplacing myself, especially as I am basically trying to wedge myself into the pantheon of great artist-writers listed above. Maybe there’s some middle road that I can’t see right now.
Of course, I want to know what you think. To be honest, I’m going to write the book that I have in me, and no focus group will change that. But I know I need to write to and for a real audience — you— and in order to do that, I need to know what you really think.
So what do you think? What kind of book for illustrators would you read on the bus?
Personal side-note: I tried to write this in 15 minutes. I set a timer. When the timer went off, I had nothing — I kept deleting my words. So I set another timer, another 15 mintues. By the end of that, I was at least leaving what I wrote on screen. It is a full hour from when I started now. It took me an hour to write this, when I had hoped it would take 15. I will be keeping an eye on how long it takes to write these posts — hoping I can get better at writing in less time. Okay, time to get to the rest of the day!