This month over on the KidLit blog, we're talking about goals. I've been attempting to write my post for the past week and have deleted more first paragraphs than I would have thought possible. Allow me to explain.
Most folks in the field of children's illustration will tell you that their ultimate end goal is publishing a book. I do want to acknowledge that, yes, of course, I'd love to publish any of my books, but I have a lot of trouble thinking about publication as an actual goal. When you define your goal as publishing, you essentially place your hopes and hard work in the hands of sales departments, "the market", and an industry, which, though it strives daily to create excellent content for children, is still an industry, and by definition, concerned with the production of commercial goods.
I can only speak for myself, but, as an illustrator and writer, my goals are about my craft. I want to learn as much as I can about illustration and storytelling and spend each day experimenting with words, composition, character, color, and line. While I do hope to publish someday, I cannot control what someone else will think about my work. I can, however, strive to tell the best stories I possibly can. It's a subtle distinction, but to me, it seems a very important one.
Fellow kidlit blogger, Jen Betton, and I were talking about this post, and she summed up what I was trying to say rather succinctly. "Publishing isn't your end goal, but rather storytelling is. Publishing is the secondary—important, but secondary—reward to telling an awesome story."
Long term objectives are great; I cannot wait until I can walk into a bookstore and find books by all of my talented illustrator colleagues and friends. However, it is really important to take pleasure in the work itself and in the process of getting there.