Summer Pierre¬†is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and teacher living in the Hudson Valley, New York. She is the author of the autobiographical comic series,¬†Paper Pencil Life, as well as the books¬†The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week¬†(“A virtual bible for artists and day jobs” -The Boston Globe) and¬†Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life.¬†Her writing and art have appeared in Pen America, The Rumpus, Hobart, and The Nashville Review among other places.
What do you do and how did you start?q How old were you when you realized you wanted to do what you’re currently doing and how old were you when you actually began.¬†
I am a musician, cartoonist, painter, and a writer. My dad likes to say that I was drawing as soon as I could hold a pen. I don’t remember ever not being able to draw or wanting to draw. When I was eleven I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and thought, I want to do that, so I began to write. In 1995, I was incredibly inspired by the building movement of women in rock n’ roll and so I created my college thesis on women in rock. I was further inspired by my studies to pick up a guitar and start writing songs. Unfortunately, I was very stuck in the idea that I had to be one thing or another (musician, painter, writer, etc.) and I found my dry cycles for each medium frightening and a message that I wasn’t √écut out’ to do any one thing.
What jobs did you have before you went out on your own?
Receptionist, waitress, child care provider, temporary office-goon.
What steps did you take to create your own business?
The first absolute step was coming to terms with the fact that I didn‚Äôt have a scrap of faith that I could do something on my own, only a hope that I could. This is an ongoing process, that I continue with every day. The practical things that have been key are mailing list, staying in contact with people, through mailers and blogging, I am currently working with The Seed Handbook by Lynn Franks, which is teaching me a lot about formal business plans, which are also life plans.
What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I don’t really have any formal training other than going to a very liberal liberal arts college. It opened my horizons to great women and their work, which has been the foundation for everything I do.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating?¬†
The most rewarding aspect of what I do is the exhilarating high of creating something and then watching it have a life of its own. The most frustrating is the doubt and the worry. Also, the drag of finances.
[infobox bg=”orange” color=”black” opacity=”on” subtitle=”Summer Pierre”]If you work to create the world you love, people will respond[/infobox]
What has been your biggest struggle(s)/challenge(s) with your creative career?
The biggest struggle for me has been to get out of my own way. For me doubt is the number one paralyzer. I question everything: what if I can never write a song again? What if I stink? What if I just don’t have it in me? I have found that the absolute key to combating doubt is to surround myself with people who are believing and who cheer loudly in my favor. Sometimes when I do a show I ask a friend to tell me I’m a good person regardless of how I do on stage. It may sound cheesy–but I have found it helps me not attach too much of my worth to what I produce. We’re all good no matter what we do. Sometimes we just need a little help to remember that.
Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?¬†
I have fears of being financially sound, doubts about my abilities, self-worth, etc. To combat this, I work hard to remember what makes me happy and healthy, like getting up early to watch the sunrise and writing my morning pages, and walking. Also, I like to think of the wise words of Julie Wilson, a friend of Lynda Barry’s: “If you freak out, freak back in!”
What kind of work environment do you have?
I have a great room in my home filled with: a desk, pictures, white Christmas lights, glitter on the floor, a window to watch the sunrise, books, tapes, CDs, and cats.
Who or what are your inspirations?
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Sylvia Plath, Lynda Barry, Georgia O’Keeffe, Maira Kalman, Jean Michel-Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Emily Carr, Margaret Wise Brown, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, The Ramones, The Clash, , movies in technicolor, road trips, recorded poetry, photo booths, glitter, my little brother and sister, the color red, coffee, letters, and postcards.
Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals.¬†
PLEASE DO IT NOW. You will never be adequately prepared, or have time to get ready to live your dreams. Start now. Also, If you work to create the world you love, people will respond. The J.D. Salinger quote I love goes something like this: “Write the book you most want to read.” I think that’s true for any medium.