On self doubt

Grandad & the Baby Dolphin.indd Grandad & the Baby Dolphin.indd

Grandad & the Baby Dolphin.indd

Oh hey. I have illustrated a children's book! It's called Grandad and the Baby Dolphin, and was written by the very talented Wendy Milner. The book will come out in November this year, and you can find out more (or pre-order a copy) here.

I am simultaneously proud and embarrassed to share these pictures with you.

Self doubt is a funny thing, isn't it. You do your very best and at some level (an important level!) you are proud of what you have done. And then on the other hand you look at your own work and then you look at what everyone else is doing and suddenly you feel like a complete fraud. Not to mention a failure.

Sound familiar? I feel like maybe crippling self-doubt is the default position of creatives. And by "creatives" I mean anyone who steps out into the public with something they have made: writers, artists, entrepreneurs, researchers... you name it. We all question ourselves, our abilities, our capacity, all the time but especially at the eleventh hour.

I have to fight my self-deprecating instincts as I share these illustrations with you. I hold myself up against the pantheon of talented, experienced illustrators in the children's book-publishing world and frankly I feel absurd.

Last week when Wendy said "We are finished!" and sent me a digital proof of the book, I vibrated with pride all evening. I kept looking through the images and reading them alongside her wonderful story and I felt as though together, we had created something really special.

That lasted for several hours, until I went to bed.

Then I closed my eyes and, immediately in my imagination, the whole world sat in a stadium, me alone and spotlit on a field way below, and everybody bellowed "WHO ARE YOU to think you could illustrate ANYTHING?" I am a writer, not an artist, and my sleepy self knew it. So did everybody else. "DERIVATIVE," the World shouted from the stands, "NAIVE." And "BORING" and "UNIMAGINATIVE" and "AMATEUR."

But do you know what? Get thee behind me, Naomi's Imagination World. I, like so many creative people before me and so many more to come, am going to own what I have made, and own it with pride. Wendy's prose is flawless. Her story is beautiful, and engaging, and entertaining, in all the right parts. I told it to my children for the first time a little while ago, holding up my paintings as I went along, and their simple response at the end was, "Again?"

And I am an illustrator. There, I will say it. I am a children's book illustrator, and I am lucky enough that my first book illustration project was for something as special as this beautifully-written tale of love and family and caring and joy.

I bet you are creative, too. Do you struggle to own it, trust it, believe in it? What should you be proud of today?

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