Illustrator or writer? Why not both.

Updated: May 18, 2020

You might be asking yourself, should I pursue a creative profession? It must be filled with rejection and difficulties making it to the top. Well, you are right it can be hard but there is hope. We got to know Tom McLaughlin who is a successfull illustrator and childrens book writer. What is his story and what advice can he provide you who are looking to pursue a creative career?

Tom McLaughlin had a tough time getting through school as a dyslexic child. He was pushing thorugh school so that he one day could go to arts college. After college he got a job as a political cartoonist and the rest is history. Since then he has been working with: Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press, Walker Books, Puffin, Simon & Schuster and even Cartoon Network.

Today Tom is working full time as an illustrator and childrens book writer. When we ask why he chose to dedicate his career to childrens books? He answers: "I guess, it is just about me being a big kid myself" Growing up as a dyslexic child he has always been a very visual person. This has later on led to other kids being able to enjoy his visual imaginations in the books he makes.

"Dust yourself up, get back up and do it. Keep going and keep believing in yourself and your ideas"

It has not always been an easy road to success for Tom. When he first started out, it took him about 4-5 years to get signed by an agent and to get his work published. Today anyone and everyone can make themselves a published author online. There are platforms such as Kindle and Lulu where you can sign up and publish your own work. Today a big publishing house nor an agent is a must, even if some might advise it.

However, it still takes reciliance and hard work to produce a publication. Whether it is on your own or through a publisher you will bump into hurdels. Tom's advice to any of you working towards publication is: "Dust yourself up, get back up and do it. Keep going and keep believing in yourself and your ideas".

Coworking and going on book tours

Tom's day to day consists of working from a co-working space The Generator in Exeter, UK, where he is currently based. Most of the time he is busy writing and drawing, but he also likes to spend time chatting over a coffee with the other co-workers in the space.

Though Tom's day to day has been a bit different the past couple of months as he in January released his newest book 'Attack of the smart speakers - eight-legged and power hungry'. Since then he has been busy visiting schools to promote the book. Also to speak to teachers about why funny books are so important for kids. Luckily, he managed to finish the tour just before the lockdown hit the UK and schools closed down.

One would think that fame and fortune sort of "comes with the job" when you become a published author. It does but it does not mean that one is ready for it. Tom mentions as the introverted creative he is. It was hard for him in the beginning to find his public persona. But nowadays he seems to have gotten used to it.

What advice would you give to someone looking to explore illustration or book writing?

  1. Keep your head down and keep your ideas as true to yourself as you can. When we go to look for too much inspiration we tend to get lost and move to far away from our own ideas.

  2. Write/illustrate the books that you would have wanted to read as a kid.

Final advice from Tom in these crazy times is to "stay safe, drink lots of wine and eat lots of cake.. can you say that?" Haha yes Tom you can definetly say that. We thank Tom for joining us for a coffee break and can't wait to hear what his next book is going to be about.

To get in touch with Tom and see more of his work you can find him on Instagram

Tom also recommends you to go follow: @procreate @linziehunter @bonbiforest

Go to Xperienceships YouTube channel to watch the full interview with Tom

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