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?

17 comments

  • Petrina

    Hello neighbor,

    I cannot believe you wrote any of that. I think you are a wonderful artist, who I look up to in every way. I wish I had your talent. You not only create beautiful art, you have a wonderful way with words and write more detailed and to such lengths that I could only wish I could do.

    I can identify with every word you wrote as it could have been me you were describing.

    Pick up your arm and pat your self on the back.
    Keep up the great works.

    Cannot wait to see more.

    Happy thoughts,
    Petrina
    New York

    • Naomi Bulger

      Thank you so much Petrina. I think the likelihood that you – and others like us – could identify is why I wrote this. We are not alone! xo

  • Deb @ Bright and Precious

    Oh my goodness Naomi! These pictures are beautiful! I can’t believe there’s any doubt… because I see it SO CLEARLY. You’re amazing! And I’m so utterly proud of you. PS Just visit your local bookshop or library and check out some of the not-so-good illustrations in kids’ books these days. It will make you feel on top of the world!

  • joy

    I once got asked to do some illustrations for a educational book. Looking back I love and hate my work. I suppose some days we can be more critical than other days. I am proud of making my mark in the world, even though its a tiny splash in the talent pool of many book illustraters. You have a style thats so beautiful and free. I will definitely be purchasing this book for my baby

    • Naomi Bulger

      Oh I hope you can remain proud of your work! I think we are always our own worst critics. Thank you for your lovely support! xo

  • Kristal

    How very exciting! I am so happy for you. I think you have such talent, both as a writer and as a visual artist. One of my favorite places on the internet is your website, where I am always guaranteed to discover lovely new pieces of art that you have crafted and shared with everyone around the world. I’m sorry that you are battling the self-doubt, but I hope you will grow more comfortable in acknowledging the beauty in what you create.

  • Wendy

    Naomi – your paintings are exquisite and truly capture the heart & soul of this very personal story. I too battle the self doubt. Is it tightly written? Have I worked the illustrations properly? Am I being too sentimental? However, when I staggered out of bed this morning to find my youngest daughter reading our proof to her doll on the couch, I threw my self-doubt aside and embraced the journey. I quote …

    “I made a promise to Dad that my children would know his stories. Keeping that promise was only possible thanks to the amazing artwork of Naomi Bulger. I cannot thank you enough for your enthusiasm, patience & expert interpretation of exactly what this project needed.” You own it gorgeous lady, they’re amazing & I can’t wait to share this journey with you.

    Wend xo

    • Naomi Bulger

      Me too, dear friend! And to picture your daughter reading the story to her doll is the BEST. I will hold that in my head. xxx

  • Dawn

    Naomi I think all creatives have those awful negative voices in our heads. You and Wendy have what looks like an exceptional and very special project. I can’t wait to see for myself first hand because I just ordered one!!! Best of luck. You are amazing. No go and bitch slap that naughty negative voice! xoxox

  • Donna Cameron

    Congratulations! Your illustrations are so beautiful. Re self doubt, sadly I think the loveliest and most talented of people feel this from time to time.

  • Elisabeth

    félicitations Naomi !!
    What beautiful illustrations !!!

  • Lorraine

    ABSOLUTELY fabulous darling.

  • Kathleen in NC

    Away with thee, self doubt!! You are a wife, mother, illustrator, writer, magician, mailbox-brightener, blogger of the finest kind. I think that’s quite sufficient for any woman. Congratulations on the book!

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