Moving In the Right Direction

For the last 4 or 5 years, ever since I’ve started working harder at my personal work, I've dreamed of being able to illustrate full time. And I’ve had a very specific vision in my head as to what my career, and what my life would look like.


I pictured my mornings…

My afternoons…

...I could see what my life looked like as “An Illustrator”.

The problem was, I couldn’t see how to get there. I couldn’t see how I was supposed to support myself once I got there. But I had this goal, and the only path I could imagine travelled in a straight line. But I was having a hard time even picturing the steps I needed to take to begin.

The harder I tried to see the path, to answer the questions - What was I going to draw? What was going to sell?? How was I going to afford to live? - the dimmer the path got, and the more distant the goal would seem.

So I did what I would normally do when I couldn’t figure something out.

I would quit.

Not forever - just in that moment. I’d step away from drawing, rethink things, determined to come back to it when I had a better plan. When I could finally make out some of those steps.  

It meant I spent more time planning than drawing.

Predictably, that made me unhappy. I wasn’t doing what I loved. I felt guilty, like I was wasting a talent I’d been given. It sucked, actually.

It got so bad that I gave up on goals - avoided them like the plague, really - and just focused on the act of doing something. Today, “Just doing something” has replaced that “Become an Illustrator” goal for me. My goal these days is just to draw and write regularly, to build up a body of work through a daily practice.

I’ve been reading a book by Scott Adams (yeah, the Dilbert guy) called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. One of the ideas he talks about is about how our current trajectory determines our happiness:

“A person who is worth a billion dollars will feel sad if he suddenly loses one billion dollars because he’s moving in the wrong direction, even if the change has no impact on his ability to buy what he wants. But a street person will celebrate discovering a new Dumpster behind an upscale restaurant because it means good eating ahead. We tend to feel happy when things are moving in the right direction and unhappy when things are trending bad” (emphasis mine).

This makes perfect sense to me. It explains why I’ve been so happy lately - I’m doing something that lines up with what I think my purpose is.

The path to my goals, it turns out, isn’t a straight line. In fact, the path is NOTHING like what I imagined it to be.

I’m less fixated on the goal these days, because my trajectory is taking me in the right direction. The act of creating something makes me happy. And the goal itself, if there is one, might not look like what I expected. Maybe it’ll be better. I have no idea. All I know  is, today I’m Doing The Things. That’s enough, for now.

I used to think that if I wanted to be an illustrator, I had to have the right training, the right contacts, the greatest ideas. But now, I know that if I want to be an illustrator, all I have to do is….Illustrate.

Geoff Coates10 Comments