We had the good fortune of connecting with Elly Lonon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elly, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
This topic is one of the themes of my current work in progress so is especially close to my heart. When I was in my twenties, I was consumed with this need to prove myself, to give 120% to every job. I think most of us feel that way in our youth. Sadly, that’s not sustainable. For so many reasons.
In my early 30s, I was really sick and had to take stock of my work/life balance…or lack thereof, I suppose. I thought I found the solution in working for myself, but I turned out to be an even more demanding boss with completely unrealistic expectations.
When there’s no office to leave or clock to punch, work seems to permeate every aspect of life. But I think there is so much grace in allowing yourself the space to decompress and recover. It seems a lot of people learned that over the course of the pandemic, especially during the lockdowns. It’s easy to forget in this media-filled existence of ours, but boredom is brain food. It feeds the creative process. I love productivity as much as the next person, but I can’t achieve it without making time to catch bugs with my kids or notice an unusually pink moment in the gloaming.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have a hard time choosing a medium and sticking with it. Partially because I get distracted by new and shiny things, but also because I believe any creative work informs your other creative projects. If I paint a portrait of a character, I can then better describe them in my writing. If the plot of a book I’m working on isn’t working, I recover a piece of furniture and consider the underlying structure that supports the weight of the work.
In everything I do, I try to find light—be that humor, hope, or reflection. Nothing makes me happier than hearing what other people find in my work, especially when what they find is a glimpse of themselves. If someone tells me, “I felt like you’d been listening to my inner thoughts,” then I know I’ve done my job.
Of my recent works, I’m most proud of this piece I did for the Washington Post. It’s especially dear to me both because of the subject matter and because it was my first byline for both words and art. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/lifestyle/wellness/2020/10/01/amp-stories/after-cancer-she-taught-herself-play-ukulele-now-followers-are-asking-tips/)
I think the hardest part of pursuing a creative career is the rejection. No wait, I lied. The rejection is much better than the crickets you are most likely to receive when submitting your work. And those crickets are almost worse when they follow your publishing something. It’s agony to put your creation into the universe and have no one react to it.
There’s an awful lot of screaming into the void in the creative fields, but if you just accept that’s part of it, you can acknowledge it sucks and move through it. If I remind myself before starting the submission process that I’m going to get at least 30 rejections on a piece before an acceptance, the inevitable rejections that follow are just steps in the process and feel less personal.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a graphic novelist, I would of course schedule the trip to coincide with Comic-Con. Though truthfully I’d want to attend that solo so that I could soak up every moment of that without worrying about entertaining anyone else.
Growing up, my dad talked often about San Diego. I’d want to hit the places that meant a lot to him—the zoo, Oldtown, and La Jolla. At that time, he lived in University housing and used to take my brothers to search for old ammunition in the Camp Callan remains. He still moons over the tide pools they explored together and the ferry ride to Coronado. He also adored roaming through the craft markets and the old missions. He often says he wanted to be hippie but didn’t quite make it. I’d love to someday tour his old haunts.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I credit the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop for giving me the permission and courage to wholeheartedly pursue my creative work. Every aspect of the event is true to Erma and the inclusivity she offered women through her writing. I don’t think most people realize what a feminist Erma was, how hard she championed the Equal Rights Amendment.
Erma was never cruel in her writing, always opting to make herself the punchline of her columns. But she did get angry, harnessing that anger to encourage her readers to rethink the status quo. And Erma brought light into the kitchens of many women lost and lonely. She gave them moments of levity so that their loads might feel a little lighter. I want to do that with my work, too.
My first EBWW was pure magic and forged many lifelong friendships over log lines and cake. I have never found a more supportive (and witty) careative community.
For the headshot please credit Lee Seidenberg. The rest are mine.