Continuing my new found love of non-fiction, I recently read Alain De Botton’s Status Anxiety and knew it had to be included in my next book club post because it had such a profound effect on how I think. I’ve been a big fan of De Botton’s writing for a while, but I’d never read what is arguably his most popular work.

Just in case you haven’t heard of it already, Status Anxiety is “a book about an almost universal anxiety that rarely gets mentioned directly: an anxiety about what others think of us; about whether we’re judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser.”

I realise that I’ve gotten to Status Anxiety over a decade after it was originally published in 2004, but I think I read it at exactly the right time for me. So many of the topics touched on in the book seemed to seamlessly weave into qualms and questions I’ve been having about my own life and the world around me recently. I feel like particularly after starting blogging and trying to navigate the world of work while deciding who I want to be and what I want to do, perceived status has been a silent shaping force in my thinking.

My perceived status does matter to me. I know some people will see that care as something negative, wrapped up in vanity and ego, which I guess to some extent it is, but not conicously. Status Anxiety has really helped me to understand why I care so much about my status and why that doesn’t necessarily make me a bad person. So much of how the world is shaped and organised is based on status, it’s how we’re taught to make sense of the world and our position. That doesn’t mean it has to rule us though. But even just knowing that has helped me debunk my negative perception of myself for caring about it, and to some extent diminish its impact.

My alternative cover design for Status Anxiety

The first half of Status Anxiety sets out De Bottton’s case for why status anxiety is real and a particular problem in the modern world (I would love to see an update on it for an increasingly digital world). He collates a thinking from a whole host of other philosophers as well as examples from throughout history. While at times this can feel more like De Botton is synthesising ideas rather than adding his own, the clarity with which he stitches these different ideas together is what makes Status Anxiety such a useful read. Yes, many of those ideas were out there already. Does a lot of what De Botton claims read like common sense after a while? Sure. But would I have read those other texts, or brought all of that thinking together on my own? I don’t think so. The principles this first section presented to me so eruditely have given me an additional set of lenses to view my world through.

The second half of the book poses some potential solutions to suffering from status anxiety. I have to admit that I didn’t get along as well with this half of the book. I wasn’t really all that convinced that any of the solutions presented worked as anything more than outward performances, but I guess it is hard to know how someone else truly thinks. This section, for me, turned into a challenge to try and think of ways that I could reduce my own status anxiety. I have yet to find a solution, but maybes the first step in that is just acknowledging it as a common condition.

I would whole-heartedly recommend Status Anxiety to anyone and everyone. It’s such a good eye opener and thought provoker. It doesn’t have all of the answers, or anything that’s particularly ground-breaking, but I think that’s its power. It’s easy to relate to and use as a platform to start reconsidering your own thought process. Plus, despite being a philosophical text it is surprisingly accessible and easy to work your way through – I think it took me a little over a week to finish just reading it in my lunch breaks.

SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU READ

  • Do any of the anxieties and principles suggested in the book affect you? If so how aware of them were you?
  • To what extent do you think that status anxiety can be diminished or eradicated? Have you done it?
  • How do you think social media has affected our perception of status, and thus our feelings of status anxiety?

IF YOU WANT SOME FURTHER READING TRY…

IF YOU WANT MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS HAVE A LOOK AT…

Other books (this list is a little short because I need to read some more to be able to recommend things to you confidently – please add to this in the comments, and I’ll amend the list!)

Why not use Status Anxiety themed bookmark I designed to keep your place as you read? You can print and download it for free here.

As ever, let me know if you’ve read Status Anxiety, or if you have any recommendations for what I should be reading next.

You might not know that one of my big, pipe-dream goals for the future is to write and illustrate a book. I made my first one when I was 16 for a class, about a Llama who lost her Mamma and I loved it. It’s still at my home in York, and I like to flick through it when I go back.

Now I’m a little ways away from being able to have a published illustrated book, but there’s nothing to say I can’t make my own. So, in a now age old tradition I decided to self-publish and start small by making my very first zine.

And where better to start than with something I love?

An Ode to Tea is all about why tea is so much more than just a drink, it’s a comforting hand, it’s a ritual, it’s a moment of understanding. Tea can be everything and I think it’s so easy to forget how much can be wrapped up in a simple cuppa, and that’s the story I wanted to tell.

Actually putting the zine together was a lot of fun. It started, of course, with me making a cup of tea. Then I mind-mapped everything I love about tea. There was a lot. Then I made an attempt at some story boards, so I could try and stitch all of those separate ideas together into some form of a narrative. Then I drank some more tea and got on with the illustrations.

When it comes to creative work I’m usually someone who just dives straight in and tries things out. I don’t have a lot of patience for planning in the way that I do with other kinds of work. I just want to make. That’s what I did when making the zine. So there were a lot of images and bits of text I scrapped in the end because they didn’t work. But making all of those failed attempts is what informed the finished product and I think it’s so much the better for it.

It took a lot longer than I thought to be ready to print properly – I did print a few drafts to see how it would look, but the final one took a few weeks in the end. But the moment when I saw all of those pages churning through the printer I felt like I had joined a special club. It felt like I had joined a union of self-publishers. Is that weird?

As fun as mass producing your illustrations is, I really wanted the zine to still feel personal. That’s why each on is assembled, signed and finished by hand, so you know each one has really come from me.

You can buy my zine on its own or in a bumper par-tea (I know I’m hilarious) bag, which includes the zine, postcard, a greeting card, and an exclusive sheet of biscuit-y stickers for just £6. That’s the same as a tea and a slice of cake, and a bit of a bargain if you ask me.

Over the last 12 months I’ve written over 180 posts, which by my rough calculations is around 126,000 words which is about the length of a novel (Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was only 76,944). When I did that quick bit of maths I was really surprised, and, you know what, pretty proud. To think that I’ve managed to write enough to fil a novel, and drawn more than enough illustrations to fill a book, in a year all while working and settling into a new city is a real achievement, and I need to get better at acknowledging my own achievements. So, as a part of my celebration of my first year of blogging I thought I’d do a roundup of my favourite posts from the year.

MOST VIEWED: My review of Affinity Designer

affinity designer review

MOST COMMENTED: On Fighting Busyness

Juggling work and busyness

 

FAVOURITE ILLUSTRATIONS: 8 Women Who Have Inspired Me

8 Women Who Inspire Me

FAVOURITE COLLABORATION: My Interview with Hollie Arnett

Chatting Design School Experiences with Hollie Arnett

FAVOURITE POST IN A SERIES: Design Story: Dr Martens

Design history of Dr Martens

FAVOURITE LONG READ: My Love Letter to Rubbish TV

In Praise of Rubbish TV

 

Postcards are the perfect hybrid of something you can keep and display, and something you can quickly send to a friend to let them know you’re thinking of them. They somehow feel less formal than a greeting card, but just as much work goes into making them something special.

I knew I had to do something with the content from one of my favourite posts, the post that got me drawing portraits, my ode to some badass feminists on International Women’s day. There can never be enough celebration of badass females, and I knew that they were something people would enjoy, after hearing about people printing the original drawings to stick on their walls. And thus, my pack of five feminist postcards was born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did change up the list of remarkable ladies, subbing in Frida Khalo because I love drawing her, and felt she would round out the list really well, but I think it still has the spirit of the original post. I also played around with a slightly textured, paint like line, to make them feel extra special.

As well as the five feminists pack, I also wanted to make a few that were a bit more fun, and like the postcards I pick out to send to friends. I took inspiration from some of my favourite illustrations of the past year, because what’s better than reusing and elevating work you’ve already done?

I think there’s a postcard for everyone in there. There are ones for friends, jokers, lovers, tea-drinkers, and everyone in between. You can also get a postcard in a pretty tea-rrific par-tea bag of goodies featuring my zine. I just couldn’t help myself on the pun front, apologies.

I also illustrated my favourite joke/cheese pun of all time, mainly because if they don’t sell well I know I will still be laughing at it no matter how many times I see it – “Cam-em-bert!” oh man. Yes, I do have the same humour level as a cardigan wearing dad. Am I ashamed? Absolutely not. In fact, send this one to your dad from me and spread the love/guffawing across the postal system.

All of my postcards, like all of my greeting cards, are printed on 300gsm TruCard stock (shiny on one side, easy to write on the other) here in the UK.

As you might have noticed I’ve hit a number of milestones this past week. It was my birthday, the end of my grad scheme, and my very first blogiversary. As a compliment to all of the reflective posts I’ve written of late, I thought I’d share something that looks towards the future: my goals for the next year in creating. I’m sharing the things I want to achieve by this time next year with you in part to hold myself accountable because if I’ve told you I’m doing it, I have to do it. So, please do keep me on track. Without further ado, these are the six things I want to achieve:

GROW MY STORE

I’ve started this new year of blogging by launching my store! Yes, that’s right you can now by greetings cards, postcards, stickers, prints, a zine and original drawings all by yours truly – check it out! So it only makes sense that I want to grow my store this year, both in terms of sales and traffic but also the range of products I stock. That means a bigger range of cards as well as a bigger range of different products. If you want to keep up with all of my new products and get exclusive discounts you should definitely sign up to my newsletter (in the sidebar) – it comes out every other Friday and it’s packed full of good stuff.

DO MORE COMMISSIONS

This year I’ve done a few illustration commissions, but I’d love to do more. The business side of what I do began with a more graphic design practice with logos and publication design, but through this blog, I’ve found that I really love illustration, and I love illustrating for other people. There’s an added challenge in illustrating for someone else and trying to capture what it is they want in visual form and that little interpretive puzzle is so much fun. Plus I’m always on the look out for more faces to draw so I’m definitely keen to do more portrait commissions. If you’d like me to draw something for you (whatever it may be) please do hit me up!

COMPLETE AT LEAST ONE EDITORIAL PIECE

As well as more commissions I’d like to get into doing editorial illustrations for magazines, zines, and books. I’m not very established at all so I don’t expect this to become a huge part of my practice anytime soon, but I’d like to at least dip my toe in the water. That means I’m going to have to reach out and try and pitch editors. But now I have my new portfolio it’s something I feel a little bit more ready to do. In addition to editorial illustrations, I’d also like to pitch some writing. I still don’t consider myself a writer but I have really enjoyed writing more as a part of this blog (and I hope I’ve gotten a bit better) so I’d like to try and develop that in a more professional setting too.

LEARN SOME NEW SKILLS

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the fact that I don’t know enough about design and  I haven’t done an arts degree. But there are so many courses and ways to learn more out there I really have no excuse not to educate myself on my own terms. So I’m going to start taking some skillshare courses to develop my skills. If anyone has any recommendations for courses about design, hand lettering, or animation (on Skillshare or not) please do let me know!

MAKE ONE BIGGER PIECE OF WORK

Blogging has meant that I’ve focused on consistently turning out content quickly, which has been a lot of fun and really helped me develop my skills. Writing and illustrating at least three posts a week has meant I’ve just had to create and become way less precious about making. But it has also meant I don’t spend as much time developing work. That’s something I always enjoyed when I was in school and working on pieces for weeks if not months for exams. So this year I’d like to make something that has a bit more substance to it. I’m not sure what form it will take. But I’d like to make something I’m truly proud of, that feels much bigger (perhaps not in physical scale but who knows) than anything I’ve made this year.

TELL MY MUM ABOUT IT

I still haven’t told my mum about my blog. I know that’s stupid. We talk all of the time. But I’ve just not felt ready, or like the blog was ready to be shown to her. I feel like if I could have gotten away with it I wouldn’t have told any of my friends. I need to get over that feeling and instead be proud of this platform and share it with her because I think she’d probably like it and it is something that’s now quite a big part of my life.