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Vulnerable Me

Vulnerability by Traci Van Wagoner I promised to share my creative journey as a children’s book writer and illustrator. I feel I may have been portraying an unfair look at my life as an illustrator. As an introvert I keep everything to myself pretty much. I don’t want to bother others with my problems, and so, I show and share the good stuff. I am a very positive person for the most part, so this is not a lie … exactly.

But it’s not fair really for those struggling to balance life and creativity to not see the full picture. So, here goes some heavy sharing. I’m feeling vulnerable lately and unsure, afraid, worried, and all those things that freelancers feel when they don’t know if they’ll ever get another job, and if they’ll even be able to do that job and satisfy the client, which leads to, why am I doing this in the first place? What makes me think I can do this? Imposter syndrome. Which in turn leads to why do artists and creative folk have to work so dang hard to get paid pennies anyway? I’m a dollianaire, yay!

And then after getting a job, working through all the self doubts and barriers along the way of finishing a project, getting paid and seeing the work out there — Yes! That’s all wonderful — then illustrators have to deal with oftentimes not getting credit when they’re books and projects are shared in the world.

I send out postcards, I email with new samples, I update my website regularly, I participate in twitter and instagram challenges, and paint and draw every day, and write mostly on the weekends, creating, and learning, growing, sharing and promoting. For what? Yes, I love it, I must do it, I’m happiest when creating, but even with all the promoting and getting out there, I seem to only get maybe 1 job per 10 pitches and responses to inquiries. It is disheartening.

I celebrate the amazing things — like the publication of books (Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life by Joan Schoettler), and a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and Book of the Year 2018 from Story Monsters for Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons written by Joseph Goodrich. Again, all great stuff! But underlying all the celebration, is the dread, wondering from where will that next paycheck come. Royalties are still taken up by advances. Who will hire me? Will an agent ever notice me and see my talent and passion and buy one of my own manuscripts? Or editor or Art Director? Will I be able to pay next month’s rent?

Along with budget management, comes time management. Is there value to my constant feeding the beast of social media through various platforms? Is there a point? I want to inspire all who see my work, but I also need to get paid so I can continue creating, and I often wonder if what I’m doing is going anywhere. And then there is also all those other writers and illustrators who are doing amazing things — yay! — I celebrate their victories, but I also wonder about my own lack of progress or certain successes. I know comparing never helps and this is my own journey, but sometimes that green-eyed monster doth appear.

During the dry spells of work, the self doubt and guilt tap me on the shoulder and tell me that I’m not trying hard enough. Or I’m not going about this the right way. I haven’t set solid enough goals. I haven’t accomplished enough in a day. I haven’t sent out enough submissions. I haven’t finished that manuscript and that illustration and that dummy book. And what I did create was not good enough so should get filed away and never seen.

Sometimes I cuss and mutter under my breath, sometimes I clean (not so often), sometimes I yell and scream, sometimes I cry, sometimes I walk the dog, sometimes I drink, sometimes I play a game with my honey, sometimes I sit on the roof and just be. And then I start writing, drawing, or painting again with one of my favorite movies or tv series on in the background, my husband playing a game or working on his own project, and my dog cuddled up by my side.

And I celebrate the little things. Oh, look a bowl of peanuts and raisins. Yum!

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Traci VanWagoner
Traci VanWagoner
Feb 27, 2019

Thank you so much, Rosie. Your support means the world to me!


Rosie Russell
Rosie Russell
Feb 26, 2019

Traci, I received your blog post today.

I just want to tell you, your work is amazing!

Keep your hard work and passion going.


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