Changing Careers - how not to
blow up your life

Damien Stuart Wood
Art Heroes Contributor + Self-Proclaimed
Wannabe Art Guy at the end of his rope
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My name's Damien. I tell stories. And sometimes, I even tell those stories well. A long time ago (and for a long time), I did so as a crime reporter in newspapers.

I did it until, one day, I realized I didn't want to do it anymore. There are only so many stories about dead babies a person has in them, I tell folks.

The actual reason is... more complicated. But this one's accurate enough. And regardless, the result is the same: midlife crisis and career change.

That mess, I'm still sorting out.
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Today, depending on what day today is, I could be a cartoonist or a storyboard artist, a comic book letterer, a copywriter or a copy editor, or even (and, believe me, the irony is not lost on me) a career coach for individuals trying to make their way into creative fields.

Some of you here, learning how to be badass 3D art heroes, might be young(ish). It could be you've known since before you could walk, talk, or otherwise make your presence unignorable that this is what you're meant to do with your life.

And, you know, you could be correct. You've got your own journey lying ahead.

Some of you might be old(er). It could be you're looking at your second, third, or tenth career, finally heading toward that thing you really want to do with your life.

And hey, that's OK. Know that you're not alone, even when it feels like you are.

Some of you could be stuck somewhere in between the knowing and the doing, wanting to but not yet willing to because life is hard and the struggle is real.

And this bit is for you:

Make sure you have a plan in place

While many might dream of one day flipping off their boss, kicking their desk over, and strutting off to live happily ever after, the reality is there's more to it than that. If you're peacing out of a career, have an idea what comes next, because when you wake up the next morning the world will still be turning and, if it's the first of the month, you will still owe rent.

Wait until you've lined up a job-- at least a transitional one.

Wait until you've settled on a school or alternate form of education if that's a thing that needs to happen.

Wait until you've got money aside to cover you.

If you've got a spouse, maybe a couple of kids, wait until they're on board and have done what they need to do to get ready for your great escape, because what you're about to do will impact them as well.

remember what you already know

The creative type you become at 40 won't be the same creative type you coulda-woulda-shoulda been at 18. That person doesn't exist-- never got the chance to. But I'll put it to you that this is a good thing.

Whatever you did before will color whatever you do after.

Whether it's something as simple as just knowing what it is to be a functional adult eight hours a day, five days a week, or something a bit more specific (like, say, living or dying by deadlines, the art of storytelling, or deep knowledge of criminal behavior and the justice system), you have spent time in the world doing stuff to accomplish things, and that's not suddenly wasted experience.

Embrace it. You have understanding and perspective the pup next to you doesn't, and skills that can prop you up while you're sorting out the mess you've made for yourself.

be willing to tweak or abandon that plan

Any similarities between what you've laid plans for and what actually ends up happening are likely to be slight at best, absolutely non-existent at worst.

Back to the bottom you go, to face an uncertain, rickety climb all over again.

There might be false starts-- you might need to dip your toe and run away a few times before you're ready to get wet.

You might need to do some things you'd rather not, take some detours you'd rather not before your course is finally firmly set and you're on your way.

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Be good.


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