In Which Everything Takes a Long Time But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Worth Doing

Here’s something I’ve learned about myself in the last 6-8 years of living: I get real antsy when something takes a long time to accomplish.

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if my college career is any indication, I probably would’ve started building Rome two days before it was due, and done 90% of the work the night before they opened the city gates.

Seriously, my collegiate and professional life to this point has followed a very predictable cycle:

1. Get assigned to a project with a due date two weeks out.

2. Sleep on it for the first week and three days.

3. Start getting anxiety about it four days before it’s due.

4. Get a stomach ache from anxiety three days before it’s due.

5. Two days out, google something and call it “research,” or draw margins on a page and say “I started!” Feel the stomach ache begin to fade away.

6. The night before, do 90% of the work. This night is filled with self-loathing and, ironically, more stomach aches.

7. The morning of, do the last 10%. Hand it off and revel in the freedom of being out of the woods and fully impressed with myself for finishing something that looks pretty good in so short an amount of time.

8. Get assigned to another project with a due date two weeks out. Tell myself, “I’ve got time, I only need about 6 hours from start to finish,” and let the cycle begin again.

Fortunately, I’m beginning to learn something after all this time. Sometimes, to do a thing well (or even do it at all), it has to take a while.

For a long time, I loathed the idea of trying to pay off my student loans. It’s like taking one step up a ladder and falling back two steps every time—the concept (more accurately, the reality) of interest piling up on my unpaid loans, the lack of funds in my bank account to maintain a consistent payment schedule, and the cold, hard facts of working a minimum wage job at the time made me feel like making payments on my loans was futile. I would often daydream to myself, “maybe one day I’ll get like, a large sum of money for something, and I’ll be able to pay off all my loans in one fell swoop!” What a familiar feeling, to accomplish such a large goal in so short a time, to be out of the woods, and to be fully impressed with myself with doing something in less time than what was expected.

I did some math a few days ago, and with mine and my husband’s current payment schedule (in conjunction with using the debt snowball method—v. helpful), we can allegedly have all our debt paid off in approximately six years.

That feels like a long time. But unless I find $60,000 sitting under a tree somewhere, it’s going to have to take a long time.

All told, this desire to skip over anything requiring consistency and temporary discomfort is a common theme in my life. And I think when it’s boiled down, the core of this weird personality quirk is ultimately a fear of failure. It’s a scary thing to think that you could put an awful lot of time and effort and work and blood and sweat and tears into something only to watch it fail. I imagine it hurts a lot less to put in only a little time on the front end—then, if it fails, at least you didn’t waste a lot of time on it, right?

I’m learning that that’s no way to live. There are some things that you just can’t accomplish overnight that are still absolutely worth doing. To allow fear to disguise itself as procrastination and perfectionism is to let fear run my life and make my decisions for me. I can’t write a children’s book overnight. I can’t illustrate 25 spreads in three days (trust me, I’ve tried). But to let a fear of failure stop me from digging in and doing the hours of work, from picking up the task of drawing or painting a little bit every day, and from ultimately releasing something worthwhile and good into the world would be the biggest failure of all. If I do it, it has a chance to succeed. If I don’t do it, it never will. Even if it takes months to finish this book, whatever happens on the other side of the work will be good because doing the work was good. Whether the book is a success or not, I will have sat myself down in front of the work and overcome it, and that alone will be a success worth celebrating.

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In Which I Explain Why Pirates With Good Manners are Actually an Important Life Lesson

Probably the most frequent question I asked as a kid was “why.”

Why is the sky blue?

Why is it raining today?

Why is grass green?

Why are birds different colors? (Listen. I was exhausting.)

I’m sure my mom loved it (jk, sorry mom). Regardless, the most boring answer I could be given when I asked “why” was the most common answer given by most people who don’t feel like answering a barrage of questions from a four year-old: “Because.”

Granted, I’m well aware that most parents of small children are too exhausted to even eat three square meals a day, much less delve into life’s deep questions with a tiny person who doesn’t even know all the words yet. Still, I cannot believe the answer to “why” is as simple as, “because, that’s the way things are,” or “because, that’s what I told you to do (I’m sure this one has more caveats than most, but bear with me).” “Because” is not a sentence; there’s always a deeper reason for why we ought to act a certain way, even if we’re not mentally present enough to dig it up and present it to a questioning kindergartener. Children—honestly everyone, I believe—need a deeper reason for why they ought to act a certain way.

The concept of the book I’ve written is fairly simple on the surface: my two characters, Appropriate Pirate and Inappropriate Pirate, are opposites. Appropriate Pirate has good manners, and his antithesis, Inappropriate Pirate, has bad manners. Throughout the book, Inappropriate Pirate is painted as rude and selfish and unpleasant, yes, but also prideful, and his distancing of himself from the rest of his crew plays as the setup for his downfall. Inappropriate Pirate’s greatest sin is ultimately not being mean, having bad manners or leaving his elbows on the table at meals, but repeatedly choosing actions that actively cut himself off from his shipmates.

Now let me do some uncomfortable work in being vulnerable for a minute: I’m very familiar with this character flaw. I’ve lived much of my life as an introvert who uses her introversion as an excuse to separate from people. I’m fiercely independent, and the thought of asking for help or accepting offered help from someone else makes me  r e a l  uncomfortable. It was never anything personal to anyone when I would politely refuse their helping hand—it’s just that I’d spent so much of my life listening to the wrong voice. It was the voice of pride that patted me on the back, told me I could do almost anything by myself, and, perhaps an even more sinister lie, told me I should be able to do it by myself. After all, if I can’t do it myself, then I’m not capable, not respectable, not useful, and certainly not desirable in a world that moves at such a breakneck pace.

I’m very grateful that this sense of pride has been in the process of shattering over the course of the last several years. Not entirely by choice, I should note—it turns out asking for help becomes a much more palatable option than pride when you’ve been fired with vague reason from your job, have no direction, and the co-workers you thought were friends have suddenly stopped communicating with you. Pride tends to shatter when you’ve got $1.78 in your bank account and rent is due in two days. But while I always thought being humbled from my pride would come as a humiliating experience, it actually turned out to be very gentle and liberating. Love is what brings us back into community, and fortunately for us all, Love is not in the business of humiliation.

The lesson to be learned in this book is that community is a lifeline for humanity—we can’t live without it. We are all connected, and our actions have a lasting effect on one another. If we allow ourselves to listen to the sense of pride that whispers to us, “I can do this myself, I don’t need people, therefore I can treat people however I want,” it isn’t long before we start to lose feeling, to grow numb, and to ultimately cut ourselves off from the very people we need to survive.

I’ve mentioned before that children’s books had a great impact on me when I was growing up. I think that’s something uniquely special about taking in good stories as a child—they stick with you in ways that a good deal of other lessons and ideas do not. The idea that I could help someone at a very early stage in life understand a concept that took me years to fully come to terms with, all wrapped in a cute story about pirates, is something that excites me and makes this a project worth completing.

In Which I Try to Reconcile My Love of Children’s Books and General Discomfort Around Children

A truth about me:

I’m terrified of children.

There, I said it.

I often feel like I don’t have a nurturing/mothering bone in my body. When handed dolls as a toddler, I’d often throw them aside and pick up a stuffed animal instead.

“But Corrie,” you say, “Why are you trying to write a children’s book if you don’t even like kids?”

Another truth about me: in spite of the fact that I don’t particularly like being around kids and really can’t see myself having any (possibly ever), I really liked being one.

I remember the rush of having a wild imagination. I remember pretending that our pine tree island in the middle of our front yard was my forest home. Most of all, I remember spending nearly all of my time before kindergarten started reading children’s books. As soon as I could pick up a pencil and make something out of it, I started drawing books that resembled what I spent so much time reading.

I made up stories about dinosaurs getting dressed up to go run errands. I made up stories about where the moon goes when you can’t see it anymore. I made up weird, wordless stories that only a five year-old could understand about the adventures of a swan, a cat, and a blue jay. Seriously, I have a veritable library full of scraps of printer paper scrawled with crayons and pencil and really poor best-guess spelling, stapled together to resemble real books. Five year-old Corrie really knew what she wanted out of life (full disclosure: 29 year-old Corrie is a little jealous).

And then my school years started, and over those years my love for drawing and telling stories fell asleep to the structure of only drawing in art class once a week, and only drawing what you were supposed to draw in those art classes, and otherwise keeping your mind focused on social studies instead of doodling. I guess that’s a necessary part of life, for a while.

For most of my life after that point, I assumed that my path would follow my parents’: get married at 21, have kids shortly thereafter (this terrified me especially because I’m not good with kids; see above), get a job because you have to, not because you want to. Work at that job until your kids are grown. All throughout the majority of my grade school years, I prepared myself for a life that I would have to be willing to toil through, not one that I truly enjoyed.

Then, like a huge nerd, I watched the special features on the DVD for The Fellowship of the Ring. I watched footage of Alan Lee and John Howe creating the concept art for the films that would absolutely consume me for the next few years. And everything about my ideas of the future changed.

“Wait,” I said to my 8th grade self through my (probably lime green) braces, “This guy makes a living sitting in the woods and drawing what it might look like if Tolkien’s elves lived there? Like, he doesn’t have to stay in an office filling out spreadsheets all day? And he gets to play a key role in the re-telling of one of the best stories ever? AND I bet he got to meet Orlando Bloom??”

I ran into the next room and interrupted my mom, who was like, drying her hair or something (this is a vivid memory, but it’s not that vivid). “I know what I wanna go to college for,” I said. “I wanna be an illustrator.”

So I went to college. I learned that getting married at 21 wasn’t gonna happen for me (thank God). I learned that you don’t have to have two kids by age 24 (you don’t have to have them at all, actually). I learned that lots of life paths look very different from one another, and the older I got, the more sure I was that I had no idea what mine was supposed to look like.

I’ve never really been able to fit myself into a category or box, which is not to say that I am unique and special and beautiful. More accurately, I am an absolute fucking* weirdo who has way too many interests and obsessions and gets too excited about things like storytelling and camera shots and color use and composition but has no professional outlet for that excitement. I also find myself lacking the confidence to go out and find a job that lets me use that passion for things I may or may not be genuinely passionate about. I look at my art style and I don’t see it fitting neatly into any given category, so visualizing a role for myself in an already existing professional realm within reach seems impossible, or unlikely at the very least.

I’m also a 9(w1) on the Enneagram and have come to realize that one of my most dangerous flaws is falling asleep to my own dreams and passions and goals and development in order to support someone else’s dreams and passions and goals and development. This, importantly, is not because I don’t want to support someone else, but because doing only that is so much easier than working on anything for myself. I am not blind to the fact that this flaw may be the source of some of my feelings of inadequacy and “other-ness” listed above.

So. In the interest of reawakening my dreams and passions that I know have been planted deep within me since I was a child, here I am. Writing a children’s book.

Here’s to making the art good and the spelling a little less best-guess.

*Disclaimer: this is a personal blog where I intend to be fully vulnerable and honest to communicate as clearly as possible. Sometimes I use curse words for speech coloration because language is a social construct and “fuck” is one of the most versatile and fascinating words in the English language. I genuinely mean no offense. ❤️

In Which I Remember That Writing is Fun, so I Start a Blog

Introductions have never been my strong suit; they’re often clunky or cheesy or both, so if you’re fine with it, I’m just gonna dive right in:

In the spring semester of my final year of college, I wrote and illustrated a children’s book. It was approximately 20 watercolor pages telling a highly minimal story about the manners of two pirates, one of whom was Very Appropriate, and the other who was Not. I called it The Appropriate Pirate. I worked hard on it, spent hours poring over the writing and painting and designing and trimming and creating, and then I turned it in as a project, approximately 75% proud of the work I’d accomplished at the end of a harried and frantic final semester.

That was in 2012.

Fast-forward through the next six years:

I graduated college, did an internship, decided to see what six months of unemployment-plus-scarce-odd-jobs felt like (would not recommend), tried out a job in Atlanta, landed a job in Charlotte, lived some life, learned some lessons, got married to the best guy, and have spent the last 3.5ish years genuinely enjoying the coffee industry, with a small side of freelance for some variety.

In all that time, the story about the Appropriate Pirate (and my menacing student loan debt) just hasn’t left me alone.

Neither, I should add, has the fact that I spent four years in college working toward an illustration degree that I’m not currently using in any major capacity*. Honesty hour: I have learned that, while my identity doesn’t lie in the fact that I can draw things, it low-key bothers me that most people I meet nowadays have no idea that my artwork and illustration has played such a huge role in my life, all because I haven’t made it a priority to work diligently on it in the last few years.

I should also add here that I am just the worst at being a self-motivator. If I don’t have someone telling me when my deadlines are, asking me how my work is coming, or expecting me to deliver a product to them, I will never. Do. Anything. I am a procrastinator of the highest order, even when it comes to doing things I enjoy. Like, if my stomach never grumbled, I would literally starve.

Enter this blog. For the past few months, I’ve been planning on re-creating my children’s book, freshened up and expanded to reflect how I really wanted it to look years ago. The good news is, it’s already written and I actually already have nearly all 48(ish) of the pages planned out. Now it’s time to buckle down and actually do the rest of the work, which means I need to tell somebody about it if it’s ever going to get finished.

This blog will be comprised of two different types of posts, and will be updated once a week. The first type is posts like this one, where I talk about the book I’ve written, why I wrote it, what I hope it accomplishes, and other subjects about life and art and a broader picture of what I’m learning in the process of creating. The second type is essentially progress reports, where I talk about how far I’ve come with the project, and even show a little bit of what I’ve been working on!

Please enjoy reading and yell at me if I’m late with entries! I’m excited to see how all of this unfolds.

*See “small side of freelance for some variety.” I get to do some fun work once or maybe twice a month, but I could be doing a lot more with it.