It’s not often I’m lost for words. I mean I use them for a living. I do talks and workshops, I write books, articles and try and do facebook posts without any typos – I can’t afford to be lost for words! However for the first time in my life I found myself looking like a stunned mullet with mouth gaping.
Let’s back up a bit. I was invited to run a Find Your Creative Mojo Workshop and be a panel member at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival and when the final line up was released I squealed like a school girl.
One of the few people I look up to and admire was also on the line up, writer, cartoonist and Australian Living Treasure, Michael Leunig. He was featured right next to me on the official website and program (as it was in alphabetical order Langley/ Leunig). It’s not often you get to be on the same page as your idol, but also right next to him on the page is even better! It also helped that my husband Andy Macleod was on the same row!
I manged to get into Michael’s sold out session as I’d never heard him talk live before, and I found myself nodding to everything he said. Even the way he drew his little sketches and used simple lines to completely change emotions, I felt it was familiar. It was because that’s what I do. It was like I was watching myself up there in a strange freaky way. However a much wiser, older, taller and thinner version.
Not that I want to compare myself to the high caliber of Michael, but everything he said, I already felt, thought and was doing. So I thought.
But there was one massive thing he gave me that I hadn’t counted on.
Permission to keep doing what I do and in the way that I do it. I know I tell that to other people, but I had Michael Leunig tell that to me. He gave me permission to put my doubts aside. And that my work has it’s place.
I had known, since the program had come out that I couldn’t leave the festival without a autograph, so I grabbed the program and left the session as the applause died down and waited in line.
How do I explain the kind of impact he’s had on me? Do I show him my books? Do I bring him a gift? Do I shake his hand? What does one do in situations like this? I wanted to be all cool and smooth about it but sadly the reality ended up being very different.
As it came to my turn I was still paralyzed by all those thoughts. So when I got to speak to him, all I could do was mumble something about inspiring me and giving me permission to do what I did, which to him could have been making cakes or trying out for realty TV shows as far as he knew.
So I pulled out the festival program and pointed to my picture and then to his picture and said ‘This is me and this is you”. I felt like the biggest doofus. Then something went off in his mind and he looked me and then back at the program and where my verbal mumblings had failed, my gestures had come to the rescue.
He said “oh, oh, that’s you.. Hang on, let me read your description”. While he read he put his finger on the first line and continued “I failed high school twice too” and he smiled and laughed.
My heart melted on the spot…. I was lost even more. So I quickly asked him to autograph the page and for a selfie. Still feeling like a doofus I thanked him again and fled.
However there was one extra thing that he taught me. He always referred to his work as ‘my work’. As though what he did was always good enough to be classed as ‘his work’, like a craft, a piece of art, an expression of himself. Of which it all is. It’s not a sideline project or venture, not a side hustle. Not a hobby. Nothing to be downplayed. Whereas I’ve never referred to what I do as ‘my work’ choosing other ways to describe it .. But now I will call it that. Thank you Michael Leunig.
Welcome to my work.