Taking Stock

This is a more musing-y blog post than usual…

I’ve been bonkers busy lately, largely because events tend to cluster at this time of year, so I ended up with a stretch of about 6 weekends where I was away somewhere for every one! What was a bit different this year was that they weren’t all comic conventions. Two weekends in a row were Schoolism Live London, and the Zero2Illo conference. Both of these were fantastic events and totally worth a writeup themselves, but I want to talk about cpd (continuing professional development for the non-British) and taking stock of one’s career, more generally. (For a brilliant in-depth writeup of Zero2Illo, read Kat Chapman’s here!)

I don’t think anyone could argue with the benefit of anything that teaches practical skills related to what you do that you didn’t know before. Conferences or less practical workshops can be a trickier thing, as over time, especially if you are a person who reads books and interviews and listens to podcasts in your field and seeks knowledge, you’ll almost certainly come across panels that tread familiar ground, and talks that simply remind you of things you already know.

And of course, with so many good events around to choose from, you need to think about which are most useful to you. But aside from the boost just being around others in your field, especially if freelance, can give, I think there’s a genuine value sometimes in being reminded of things you know.

Because if you’re anything like me, your mind can only hold so much at once, and with all the daily stuff that needs to get done, those important, simple things-that-you-know about your career aren’t always there in the front of your mind, affecting your actions and decisions.

Hmm.

So having spent some time at some very good events, being encouraged by other artists, learning some new things, and being reminded of some others – as well as a couple of timely portfolio reviews at Thought Bubble this weekend with the very helpful Stephen Wacker and Eric Stephenson, from Marvel and Image respectively – I’m in a very thoughtful place with my career right now.

So I am taking a thinking day. I will go on a day trip to a nearby town, away from the emails and deadlines and laundry and distractions at home, somewhere with coffee shops for writing and parks for walking.

I will think about that all-important question of What I Want Most in my career…and how the things I’m doing and the kind of work I’m getting now relate to that. Also working the other way, what is the end result of the direction of the things I’m doing now? (I’m not expecting the answer to that to match the What I Want Most list! Or at least not quite the version or form of it that I would find most rewarding.)

Once I know those things that I want most for my career, I will use them to make some plans. I will write them in big letters and put them up above my desk. Pretty soon my eyes will get used to them being there and my brain will stop registering the words at all, but that’s okay. By then they may have sunk in, a little, and set me off in a good direction for the next year or so. Until once again it’s time to take stock.

What about you? Does this time of year make you thoughtful? Would love to hear other people’s strategies for, well, making strategies I guess! One extra note, for those in a similar place – Bobby Chiu’s The Perfect Bait is a great pick-me-up for refocussing!