Being creative is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m trying too hard or if I’m lazy, but such is the doubt that comes hand in hand with creativity. Pursuing a creative career can be much harder than working your way up the ladder of 9 to 5’s. There is no set route, no guidelines, nobody setting you tasks, nobody setting you goals. It is such unknown, ever-changing territory, and there are never two stories the same from those who have been successful at making their passion their livelihood; a sure-fire strategy doesn’t exist. From a more positive angle, there is no right or wrong in the creative industries, and you are in charge of your art and your hours, and that is all part of the dream. So it depends how you look at it.
Ben Tallon’s first book, Champagne and Wax Crayons, is an autobiography starting from childhood, about how he got to make a good living from freelance illustration, managed to tick off his ultimate client bucket list within three years of graduation, and why we must value the journey just as much, if not more, than reaching our destination. At the end of each chapter is a list entitled “What I’ve Learnt”, summarising the key lessons of each stage in Tallon’s life, and every single one is invaluable. This book came to me exactly when I needed it. I had actually purchased Susan Jeffers Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway on my kindle the night before – so you can guess the kind of mindset I’ve been in recently. I got as far as the third chapter, feeling just as hopeless. When you’re at the stage of purchasing self-help books in early hours of the morning, it’s hard to take the suggestion of post-it-noting your entire home with inspirational reminders seriously. My cynicism levels went through the roof.
Champagne and Wax Crayons has given me clarity and courage about taking the road less trodden. It is absolutely honest, which is what makes it so useful, as well as endearing. It presents the reality of sacrifice and how, actually, that is one of the greatest parts of the endeavour. There is deep satisfaction to be found in the obsessiveness and the struggle, and you’re not crazy to think so, too. The book teaches the same mantra as Susan Jeffer’s, to feel the fear and do it anyway, but it does so implicitly and thoughtfully, through real-life, tried and tested experience. It suggests that the key to progressing in your creative pursuit is to simplify things as much as possible. Follow your nose as opposed to the target, as long as you’re enjoying yourself. Enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it. And above all else, thank you, Ben, for the reminder: it is okay that you do not know what you’re doing. Nobody else does either.