One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month (and sometimes more often!) I'll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me.
Meags Fitzgerald is one of the hardest working creative people I've met. She's incredibly prolific, in all kinds of media, and is the only person I know who has published a book - with another one on the way. I've known her literally her whole life, as our parents were good friends when we were kids, and I've always been inspired by her dedication to living a creative life.
What sort of creative work do you do?
I work (and play) in a lot of disciplines. At the core, most of my interests are about combining images and stories. By trade I’m an illustrator, a lot of my jobs are t-shirt and poster designs. However, I’m best known for my work as a graphic novelist; I write and draw non-fiction stories. I’ve also made sculptures and photographs that I’ve exhibited, as well as stop-motion animations that have screened at film festivals. I really enjoy crafting, specifically sewing, crochet and embroidery. On the performance side of things, I do live storytelling and work as an improv theatre teacher. More recently I’ve been getting involved with circus arts, primarily exploring aerial silks and contortion.
Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?
Yes. Pretty much all my interests are rooted in creativity and so I’ve structured my life around those interests. Creativity is the common thread in all that I do.
How did you get started?
Transitioning your creative skills into employment opportunities can be very difficult. (Especially in a world where hobbyists are often willing to do work for free, thereby making it more difficult for professionals to charge fair rates for their time.) I was given a lot of advantages at an earlier age; I attended a High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, then did a BFA in Drawing and later a Post-Degree Certificate in Graphic Design. The education was of course formative but didn’t really prepare me for the reality of being a self-employed creative professional. I wasn’t offered a ton of jobs upon graduating, rather jobs slowly trickled in from friends and family and I began sending my portfolio to art directors.
What’s your process like?
My process is very regimented and less flowy and organic than people probably imagine an artist’s life to be. I have a large studio space in my apartment. I start each day with a detailed schedule of the tasks I need to complete. I reply to emails from 9 to 10am and try to ignore my inbox the rest of the day, otherwise it can really interrupt my workflow. At any given time, I have about five projects on the go, at varying stages. Throughout the day I jump between my own projects and clients’ projects, trying to keep an even balance between them.
Every day at lunch I watch the previous day’s episode of Jeopardy. (This sounds like a minor detail but it’s actually key, watching it keeps my brain active so I can jump right back into work and unlike episodic, scripted television I don’t get addicted to it and can’t binge watch it.) I have a rule that I have to leave my apartment at least once a day, so I usually go for a run or walk in the afternoon. (I get a lot of my ideas while running.) I sometimes have friends who come over to share my studio space. On days that I don’t have company, I listen to many hours of podcasts and audiobooks. On a regular night I work until 11pm, read before bed and fall asleep around midnight. If I’m working towards a big deadline, I might have a week of working until 2 or 3am. Every day of the week is the same, I don’t have weekends. I have almost no down time, but because I enjoy what I do so much it doesn’t usually feel like I’m putting in 14 hour days.
What or who inspires you?
Everything and everyone! I live in Montreal and just walking up and down any street is inspiring, I love looking at old architecture. Most of my friends are employed with creative occupations, so there’s never a shortage of interesting ideas going around. I also love traveling and always seem to return excited and ready to work.
What’s your biggest struggle and how are you coping with it?
I’ve got two big things I struggle with. Firstly, I believe many artists dream of working on their own projects all day, when in reality you can easily spend half your day doing administrative-type work. I’m not passionate about writing invoices and negotiating contracts but it’s a big part of what I do. Hopefully one day, relatively soon I’ll be able to hire someone for a few hours a week to do some of this for me.
Secondly, it’s difficult to have such a radically different routine than most people. Friends and family have a hard time grasping what I do with my time and don’t understand the long hours I have to put in to keep afloat. They forget little things, like I don’t have paid holidays or sick days. I can’t easily unwind and turn my “work brain” off because there isn’t a clear line between my work and my identity. I hope to not always work the long hours I do now but I’m still laying the foundation for my career, everything I do is an investment in my future.
What’s your # 1 tip about creativity?
Make something every day and don’t judge your own work too harshly. A daily, silly sketch may not seem like much but it adds up and soon becomes fodder for something bigger.
What are you working on next?
Presently I’m on tour in the US, doing improv shows and teaching workshops. This September my second book, Long Red Hair will be released and I’ll be going on tour to promote it. This fall, I’ll also have comics published in four different magazines and anthologies. Most notably, my first work of fiction will be published in Taddle Creek Magazine. In the late fall I hope to be releasing a new animation that I’ve been working on with two collaborators titled Still Soft. I also plan to take up oil painting again and keep up classes with the circus. I’m excited!