Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Striking a Balance

This week we hear from the talented and prolific Elizabeth O. Dulemba.

I started working at fourteen, so a work ethic was never my problem. After receiving a BFA in Graphic Design, I worked as designer, Art Director, and always in-house illustrator in the corporate world for twelve years.

Then I met my husband and everything changed. My dream had always been to write and illustrate children’s books. As we joined our lives in a new city, he told me to “go for it.”

It was scary to quit my day job—I’d never done something that felt so irresponsible. And yet, it was amazingly freeing. No nine to five? WHAT!

I did worry I wouldn’t have the discipline to work on my own career every day, but that was short-lived as I quickly found I had the opposite problem - I couldn’t walk away from it. I went freelance for three years while I researched the industry and worked to break in. Then I got my first contract for The Prince's Diary and never looked back.

For those first eight years I was a complete workaholic. In my office (my cave), I worked 24/7, from early morning until late at night. After all, if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t going to happen, right? I got a lot done, illustrated several books, and built a career, but I also wore myself out. After a vacation that resembled a coma and health issues from sitting too much, I’ve had a wake-up call—I need balance.

Now, I try to make more time for me, for exercise, quiet time, and dinner with my husband. I try (not always successfully) to shut it off. But it’s hard when what you do is enmeshed so integrally in who you are. It’s who I’ve always been—this creative soul.

The hardest part about quitting my day job has been to keep time for simple things that have nothing to do with furthering a career—to learn how to PLAY. Who knew I’d have to relearn something so basic at my age? I’m *ahem* working on it...

Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning children's book author/illustrator of over a dozen books. She is Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern Breeze Region of SCBWI, on the board of the Georgia Center for the Book, and adjunct professor of illustration at the University of Georgia. She speaks regularly at conferences, schools, and events, and teaches "Creating Picture Books" and "Beginning Drawing" annually at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Her latest picture book is The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia (Sterling). Visit her web site to learn more and download free coloring pages.


  1. Thanks for letting me stop by Tracy! :) e

  2. Great post. I have found that visual artists in particular are inveterate workaholics. When I freelanced as a copywriter, I used to get faxes from graphic designers at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. They'd work all night to meet a deadline!

    Finding that balance is so hard. When all we got is ourselves for motivation, it's hard to strike it right. Now, go play!

  3. Fun to get to read about part of your journey, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing and congrats on all your successes! Yes, I can identify with the non-stop work. It's just so easy to get absorbed in what we're doing. I was that way as a teacher, and now am still that way with my writing career. Best wishes to you. And thanks, Tracy, for hosting Elizabeth.

  4. Elizabeth it sounds like you figured it out. Balance is so important even with the things we love. Thanks for the reminder:)
    And Tracy, thanks for the post

  5. Great post, Elizabeth. I had the same feelings after walking away from my career position with the Social Security Administration many years ago. And I continue to struggle with turning off my writing and my online books and collectibles business, all headquartered in my home office which I call the book cave.