Friday, May 17, 2013

I won't be seeing you at Quilt Market. Here's why.

A few weeks ago, I put the last corrections onto the PDFs that I create for the layout of Generation Q and uploaded them to the printer. I then gave the final approval for those pages and got the word from our technical service representative that the magazine was going to plate. I had finished my fifth issue, and it was a good one. It was also my last.

As of now, I am no longer the creative director of GenQ. I made this decision around Christmastime, and gave my official notice at the end of January (though it had been made known to Jake and Melissa in less formal ways a few weeks earlier). I said that I would see them through the next issue and I also agreed to continue writing my column plus two other uncredited pieces that I have been writing for each issue so far, and I agreed to continue maintaining the website.

It is very important for me to emphasize that I am not leaving that role at GenQ because I was unhappy with GenQ, but because I was feeling a desperate need to pursue my own creative goals. Being a part of the creation of GenQ has been an amazing ride, and I have accomplished things I never thought I could do.  I have no formal training in graphic design. I once taught myself just enough Quark Xpress to layout a simple book, and later, as the assistant editor of a very small, local magazine, I learned some InDesign just by putting things into the template our graphic designer (the boss's son) had already set up. I learned just enough to occasionally design some ads, and later designed a logo and more ads for a friend's business. Then I didn't touch it for about three or four years. Taking on the design and layout, with no help, of an entire publication with only that much experience in my pocket was like deciding to ski down the double black diamond trail after having sledded down a backyard hill on a lunch tray a few times. It felt reckless and stupid. But I was all we had.

As a start-up, we simply couldn't afford a real graphic artist, and though nobody knew I had any experience at all when we started and I could have kept my mouth shut, I offered to try my hand at working up a logo. I had it down within just a couple days, and it was so much fun. But I still assumed that somehow they would find a way to bring on a real graphic designer for the first print issue, and I also assumed that the first print issue was a lot farther off that it actually turned out to be. Less than a year after we launched the web site, we were planning the first issue. And, by default, I was going to have to put it together.

This was terrifying. I don't now how many times I sat with my husband, my head in my hands, saying, "I can't do this. They think I can do this but I can't. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm a writer, not an artist. I don't even know how to number the damn pages or make sure the text all lines up at the bottom. They're depending on me and they won't listen when I say I can't do it and now I'm going to have to fail and I hate that." I was so upset and so convinced that I was going to let everybody down.

But I didn't. I did it, and it was good, and then I did it four more times, and I loved doing it; I really did. Every time I finished designing an article, I felt exhilarated, and I still flip through the pages of all the past issues and give myself little secret pats on the back. That why this decision was so incredibly hard for me. I'm not giving up something I hate. I'm giving up something I love so that I can have the freedom to pursue other things that I love even more. Designing GenQ made me realize, as almost nothing has before, that I really can do anything I want, even if I don't already know how, and so I knew I needed to start doing all those things I've been wanting to do, or time would surely run out and I'd regret never having done them.

And yes, I am sure that my brother's illness and death had a lot to do with this decision, though it didn't feel consciously so at the time. It may be a cliche, but you truly never know how much time you have.

As proud as I am of what I have done for GenQ, in my heart I do not feel that magazine graphic design is what I am meant to do. It turned out that I was okay at it (considering my experience) but I knew that I would probably never be great. I also knew that even though I loved the work, there is work I love more, and that is writing. I cannot remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer or when I wasn't writing something, even if it was doggerel. When Quilter's Home died, I took that as my signal to start doing several things that I had wanted to pursue: write a novel, expand the blog, and eventually start teaching and lecturing, all of which went on the back burner when they asked me to join GenQ. Since then, I have discovered even more things I want to do and write and create, and I have learned that the work of designing GenQ takes up so much of my creative energy that I have very little left over for other pursuits.

In other words, I want to make my focus a creative world that is entirely my own. And to do that, to really go for all of that, I need time and freedom. And so for months I cried big, copious tears because I knew in my heart I was going to have to step aside from GenQ.

I will forever be grateful and loyal to Jake and Melissa for all they have done for me. From giving me my first humor column to entrusting me with the look and feel of their new magazine, they have given me some of the most wonderful opportunities of my life. I am forever in their debt and am even more so now as they accepted my decision with such grace and kindness and have allowed me to remain on staff in a much-reduced capacity. I am also grateful to the rest of the GenQ staff: Scott, Vicki, and Tracy for all their understanding and support. If you have become a GenQ reader through me, stick around. My column will continue and, who knows? You may see my by-line on other articles and projects in the future.

I am really looking forward to the next phase of my life, but I'm also completely terrified. The last few weeks have been hard as I've been second guessing my decision and wondering if perhaps my prime has already passed. All I can do is forge ahead, and hope that the chance I've taken is the right one.

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