Mojo gone missin’

(This is the post I was supposed to put up early last month. Kind of a new year’s post. I think early February still counts…)

Last year was a tough year. It was full of fear and stress and disappointment and sadness. The passing of what seemed like an extraordinary number of people in the arts, watching an incredibly vitriolic campaign, and the anxiety from the results of the election messed up my mojo. For most of last year I felt distracted, angry, and in a creative void. I had the illustrations of one book that I worked on sporadically most of the year, handing the final art edits off Thanksgiving morning. But other than that I didn’t write much or draw much at all. I typically sketch a little everyday and write snippets of rhyme or ideas, usually filling a couple of sketchbooks a year. I didn’t even fill one in 2016. I also lost my wife on November 20 after a 9-plus year struggle with young onset Alzheimer’s disease. I know this played a role in my lack of productivity, and I understand how I need time to get back on track. But I want it now. I need it now. I haven’t drawn anything of consequence in nine or ten months. I haven’t written much at all. But I recently created this little piece…

Sometimes it’s easy to understand why you are blocked, or why you’ve lost your mojo. Last year was one of those times. There were very obvious reasons I was in that creative void. Knowing the cause doesn’t always provide solutions. I could have turned off the TV. I could have stopped reading about politics. I could have celebrated my heroes that left this world. I don’t know that that would have helped me break the block. And yes, I still had the steep decline of my wife’s health in the mix, but I had been watching that, grieving that for years and was still able to be productive. I’d adapted to that. Maybe it was the combination of all these things. I don’t know. But I’ve been blocked for the longest time. I’m ready to start creating again.

kevan atteberry

98 Comments:

  1. Dear Kevan –

    I am so sorry to learn of your wife’s death. Please accept an email hug and a huge dose of empathy from a fellow writer who has lost many loved ones.

    • Hey Kev, you and I have been on similar paths & I so appreciated how you put it in your wonderful piece. I figure it’s NOT the hurricane that hits us. It’s if we decide to pick up & build again or not. Like you-it’s how. Starting with loved ones, then just taking one step at a time. You are meant to create, my friend. Your hardships will only make you a BETTER creator with deeper meaning in life and contribute to all of us that love you❤

  2. Glad to know I’m not the only one in this situation. Thanks, Kevan.

  3. Kevan–I have no doubt you will find your mojo again! You have been through so much, and when you’re ready, something beautiful will emerge, just like a butterfly from the cocoon of darkness.

    I am so looking forward to meeting you in May. A giant bear hug awaits!! <3 <3

  4. Kevan, my best thoughts to you also! I am going through many of the same emotions, etc. with the political process and also dealing with my mother’s decline due to Alzheimer’s. I have been relying on friends and family. Hope you are able to do the same!

  5. Kevan,

    Please do find your mojo. It has such delightful humor and heart. Hello, stick. Hello, dirt. Hello….MOJO!

  6. Kevan — The world needs you and your mojo. Happy hunting, and be kind to yourself as you search.

  7. Sending a big hug after a hard year. And the wish for the earliest return of the Kevan mojo.

  8. Thinking of you, Kevan. May the memories of your dear bride give you the strength to move forward as you rediscover your mojo.

    ~Suzy Leopold

  9. Spring is just around the corner and rabbits love dandelion greens too! love from the cold coast.

  10. Dear Kevan:
    Let our love wash over you. Then read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Then have a pink drink. Then come to Indiana and let us show you how to laugh again.
    XOXOXOXOX

  11. Hello Kevan,
    Hugs to you as you find your mojo. Your post is wonderful – it’s good to read something that brings on a smile.

  12. Kevan, so very sorry to hear of your wife’s passing. Thinking of you.

  13. Kevin, sometimes you just have to give yourself the grace to go mojo- less for awhile, knowing that it WILL return. I’m glad you’re starting to feel its return. May you be surrounded by friends bearing donuts and other good things.
    ((Hugs))

  14. My sympathies for your loss.
    Thank you for bravely sharing your story. I pray for better days in your future!

  15. Kevan, I lost my mom unexpectedly this year so I have the utmost empathy. We work in a very solitary profession and environment. I hope that you’re lifted and supported by your many friends and fans in this wonderful kid lit community just like your sweet critter in your story with his doughnuts. And I don’t think you’ve lost your mojo at all, it’s still there, just doing something different at the moment. xo

  16. Kevan, this is darling! And I’m not surprised to hear you haven’t been too productive since your lovely wife passed away. It takes time. Grieving can’t be rushed. When I lose loved ones, books by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross helped me. You may already know this: She spent her life studying death and dying and started Hospice in our country. One of my favorite books by her is a tiny, but powerful one entitled ON LIFE AFTER DEATH.

  17. Kevin, this is delightful. It made me (and so many others, I’m sure) smile and take heart.
    –wishing you lots of creative mojo–
    eve (evie) robillard

  18. Kevan, take all the time you need to find that mojo. Your fans will be right here waiting for you when you’re ready. 🙂

  19. Kevan,
    It seems that my mojo is often on vacay, even for years at a time, though at the moment I’m on a streak and ain’t nuthin’ more fun. I love the cartoon and suspect your mojo is in a corner of the box under the donuts but you gotta eat them all to see it. Bon appetit and hugs! Love the advice to read Big Magic too.

  20. Thank you for sharing all this, Kevan. I may not have been in all the same situations, but this past year, and the start of this I have been lost in the creative void too. I recently picked up The War of Art, one of many books friends recommended, but the only one that slapped me in the face – in a good way! I don’t know if I am ‘out of it’, but I am feelin’ some good feels. Please contact me if you ever want someone to rant/cry/mope with that gets it. Sending love!

  21. Sending you healing and creative mojo vibes, Kevan! 🙂

  22. Kathleen` Scurlock

    Kevan, this is the first time I have encountered you or your work… and I love it!

    I am sorry for the loss of you wife… Early Onset Alzheimer’s is one of the hardest things to watch a loved one go through… I watched some friends go through it and my heart ached for them and their boys. My brother and I lost our dad to Alzheimer’s which was rough, but not as bad as early onset…

    Your cartoon shows that you have started to find your Mojo, as “an Old Fart” who has lost her mojo several times and have found it each time… the only advice I can give you is let yourself grieve and take each second, minute, hour and day at a time…

    My best wishes for you finding your mojo! I am going to have to see if I can follow your cartoons… I loved this one..

    Kathleen

    ps: I like maple bars with bacon… for me works better than regular donuts!

    • Thanks for these kind words, Kathleen. I’m sorry for the people in your life that have had to experience Alzheimer’s. It is a cruel disease to everyone involved.

      mmmmm….maple bars with bacon…

  23. Kevan…
    I’m wishing you much mojo and many pink drinks in 2017 and beyond.

  24. Happy Mojo hunting to all! A Prayer: “Bless all who are struggling with life today. May they find the one true Mojo that lifts them up forever.” Amen

  25. Man I love this post. Terri would have loved it too, I reckon.

  26. Only your depth of feelings could have brought those characters to life. What if they are the only thing “creative” you have to show for 10 months? So what! They instantly told me everything I needed to know about them, and you. . . Brilliant and Tender, Faithful and Inquisitive. All my love, Kate

  27. Kevan – Thank you for sharing your struggle. It helps me feel better about my own. I think the best things we can do for each other are encourage and share. You’re good at that! Thanks, again.

  28. Kevan, What a brave, brave post. And funny, too. Sometimes donuts just don’t do it, do they? I pray the mojo comes back at you. Be patient. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of this, but my dad contracted early onset at 58 and died at 68. Hugs and I’m a looking for your mojo, too. TY.

    • Thank you, Kathy! Donuts may not always do it, but they are always a good start.
      I’m sorry about your dad. So young. (Teri was diagnosed at 52—though she could have been diagnosed as early as 49—and passed just after her 61st birthday.

  29. Mojo can be a dodgy thing. Here one day and hiding the next. These heartfelt illustrations and writing show your mojo is just lurking not gone. More donuts might be the answer. Big hug.

  30. Thanks Kevan , my MOJO disappears from time to time . It is my former students that always help me find it again. Love to you.

  31. Just me here, but the cartoon sure sounds like a whole Lotta mojo came back.

    Just sayin.

    I lost mine too BTW.

    I’ll go look in the doughnuts first.

  32. Kevan, it seems kind of super-human that you’ve been able to maintain your mojo for so long given the challenge of your wife’s illness. Sitting quiet-like and waiting seems like a pretty wise response–looks like it might even be working based on this post. <3

  33. Kevan, your mojo is SO strong that I remember it and you vividly from one brief meeting years ago when my wonderful sister-in-law Lois Brandt brought me with her (I was visiting at the time) to a local kid-lit meeting. You walked in mid-way, and your stunning intelligence, humor, wit, warmth, and above all enormous heart made an immediate, indelible impression on me, as it clearly has and does on so many. You are a shining light in this world, Kevan, today and every day. And that’s some huge mojo.
    Sending you my deepest compassion, care and respect. — Galen

  34. You are amazing. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. And, Kevan, you reek of Mojo.

  35. Be brave my friend. The sun still shines, the wind still blows, and you’ll find your mojo again.

  36. I think you’ve found your mojo in these characters. This would make an awesome book! How to Find Your Mojo! OR Missing Mojo. And kids would love the donuts! Praying for you.

  37. Oh, Kevan, you beautiful soul! I have a feeling you can’t escape your powerful mojo. It’ll come hunt you down and make itself known. The drawings above suggest sooner rather than later. xox

  38. Love you! And love your creations. So love this! Sending you hugs and mojo! xoxo

  39. Kevan,
    I am so very sorry to hear of your wife’s passing. I remember hearing how sick she had been. It’s been a rough year for many people I know and they are all having a hard time motivating. It’s hard when one is angry or sad or just plain despondent. Personally I hadn’t even been reading much (aside from not creating one thing), which is unlike me. So I just started finding little things that make me happy and take me away for small moments. Binge watching The Office from the beginning is working for me now. I come back to all the crap, but at least I feel a wee bit lighter. And I’m back to reading. Find a little spark each day and the mojo will slowly find its way back to you. Take care.

    • Binge watching The Office would certainly make things lighter! And limiting my exposure to the news might help too!

      I have been finding a spark most days. The mojo is nearby I’m sure.

      Thanks for the kind words regarding my wife.

  40. Thanks, Kevan, for your beautiful expression of what we all feel at various times in our lives. Your drawings seem to say your mojo is near! xoxo

  41. So sorry to hear of your struggles over the last year and especially sorry for the loss of your wife. Sharing your journey and looking for that mojo takes courage. I pray that each day you discover more of the creative joy that’s been missing in your life.

  42. Kevan,

    Big, BIG hugs! I love your work so much and know that your mojo is in there and seems to be sneaking out in this post. I couldn’t help but think of BUNNIES! and PUDDLES! and the excitement Declan feels. So I’m wishing you many Declan moments with bunnies and puddles, and such that will build the excitement that will bring mojo with exclamation marks!

    • Awwww, thanks Penny! SOme of that mojo IS creeping back in, I suppose. Maybe I’ll be exclaiming with enthusiasm, Mojo! Mojo! Mojo! soon. 🙂

  43. I’m so sorry for your loss, and that’s a lot of loss to deal with: loss of love, heroes and maybe even hope. It’s bound to take a lot out of you. A lot of us creative types have been feeling lost mojo. You voiced what we’re all feeling. *virtual hugs* and thanks for being bold enough to voice and share it.

  44. I hope you find your mojo again soon. Wonderful characters, Kevan!

  45. I’ve never come across you or your work before but from the outpouring of warmth, love and humour coming “back atcha”, you are a special person whose MOJO is not gone. An acronym for that word for you: Mojo On Just Oftener might be apt. It’s there, in the donut holes, to keep that analogy going, peeking out at you! I’m now following your work since I love what is coming across! from you and your characters!

  46. Here’s to all of us — Let’s help each other find & keep our mojo. Now & in the future.

  47. Kevin Atteberry: here’s my VERY TIGHT hug. ()
    I am cheering you on!
    And, thanks to your courageously honest post, mojos around the world are making themselves known and findable.
    THANK YOU!
    You’ve done a mitzvah for children’s book creators everywhere.

  48. Dear Mr. Atteberry,

    First of all, my deepest condolences to you. Even with the long demise of your wife, I think there is a grief and pain in the final goodbye that has got to have caused great heartache and you might have felt that coming on all year. —I respect your honesty in sharing your creative journey and the struggles this past year. I love the story you have posted here–it is wonderful and speaks to the healing aspects that go with telling one’s story, hearing one’s thoughts out loud, having a companion who cares, having that creature try to bring comforts, and then knowing its time, with that support and self knowingness, to get moving again. Your cartoon story tells it all—I think that story is on its way to being a picture book for children.

  49. Kevan, I’m so sorry to hear of your wife’s passing. Grieving is a process and it takes time to work your way through it. Give yourself–and your mojo–that time. Though judging by your post, I see signs that the two of you are already finding ways to work through this together. 🙂

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