My wife, Shonna is a wonderful woman who has encouraged me in all of this cartoon and illustration stuff from day one. But supporting both of us on one income was never a realistic consideration, especially in a town like Canmore. So about six years ago, after a number of years of my working long evenings and weekends building my business, I had come to a point where my business could not grow anymore unless I quit my full-time job. But I still had to be able to pay my half of the bills and mortgage.
Looking back, it was easily the most frightened I have ever been in my life.
While it hasn’t always been a smooth ride, it is the best decision (aside from asking Shonna to marry me) that I have ever made, since every year of self-employment has been better than the one before.
I realized something this morning, though. What was once very exciting and frightening has, in the past couple of years, become routine. Day to day editorial cartoons, regular illustration gigs, a few projects here and there, but all within an acceptable margin of safety. While I’ve been busy and making a good living, I haven’t really taken any new risks. All that has changed recently.
The past month has been a whirlwind of activity, some of it brought on by winning the two Guru Awards at Photoshop World, other stuff that had been in the works already, but it’s all coming at once and I’ve been freaking out a little. OK, more than a little.
All of a sudden, I’m working on a training DVD to teach people how to do cartoon illustration for a very well known mover and shaker in the world of Photoshop. Somehow, I’m now good enough to teach? When the hell did that happen? I’ve had to buy new recording software, learn to use it, and figure out how to narrate drawing and painting techniques that I consider instinctual.
In the course of less than a year, I’ve gone from painting one funny little grizzly bear to having bought an inventory of many canvas prints of 6 more animal paintings to supply three galleries, and have been shocked that people are actually starting to buy these things. Thankful for that last part, because the financial output has not been insignificant. I’ve started muttering a new mantra over and over again as I gnaw on my fingernails, “you have to spend money to make money.”
I’ve now got writing assignments for two companies that I’ve long admired, and one of them may become a regular gig. Add to that pending character sketches for another possible dream opportunity, an overdue website redesign for a client and myself, the illustration gigs I’m barely managing to keep up with and 7 editorial cartoons each week, and it’s a full slate.
We’ve all heard the phrase, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. I haven’t been this nervous of all of the things I’ve committed to since those first months working from home full-time. While I may be a complete stress case at the moment, I realized this morning that it’s the best thing that could have happened to me, because I am no longer in a routine.
Personal growth involves risk and fear, and often the more the better. While the challenges will be different for everyone, the scenario is the same. If you just put a little on the line, then you get just a little back. If, however, you try to fly farther and faster than you’ve ever gone, it’s true that you could end up in a spectacular fireball of failure that people will see for miles, but with a little faith and luck, you just might push envelopes and break barriers.
Either way, it should scare the hell out of you.