Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I've decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! This is my forth year of participating and I look forward to it every year.
For everyone, 2020 was a tough year on sooooo many levels. For me it was difficult because of major health challenges and NOT just the pandemic. Ahead is a snapshot of my year that was 2020.
I'm late with this post as I usually post it at the end of December. However, I'd been busy finishing off illustrating a picture book, My Princess Wears a Superhero Cape by Melissa Gijsbers. On the 4th of January, I woke to find I couldn't get out of bed for a couple of hours, my head was fuzzy and I felt awful. I thought it was just going to be a bad day health wise and went off with my daughter to Coles. Nausea snuck up on me and the pressure in my head built. As we were leaving, I had to sit on a bench near the door. And then promptly fainted. When I got home I realised what was happening and took myself to bed to ride it out. I knew what it was. It hit me in 2018 when I was misdiagnosed with a CFS/ME crash.
In February 2020 when I was finally starting to feel better from what I thought was a CFS Crash, I woke one morning and felt fuzzy in the head. Vertigo started and after a few days I started to faint. I felt unsteady on my feet. I still tried to continue to get the illustrations I'd been contracted for, working some days 15 minutes at a time with many hours of a break in between. And then I started fainting multiple times a day, it wasn't occasional anymore. I was crawling from the bed to the bathroom and back. My daughter had to walk beside me and catch me as I fainted several times in one trip. I couldn't walk out of the house and it wasn't safe for me to drive. This was way worse than 2018.
After a couple of months and a number of trips to ED and various doctors telling me it was it was CFS crash again, I decided to take myself to another doctor 30 minutes away. My daughter wheeled me in a wheelchair as I could barely walk. I fainted in the waiting room while sitting. It was here I was I diagnosed with Vestibular Migraines, and when I started Vestibular Rehab Therapy, my physio added Vestibular Neuritis. I was finally on the right track to get better. And of course, this was added to my ever lengthening list of other health issues.
Slowly, over 2020, I gradually improved. It was a tough year and yet I achieved a lot considering it all.
Here is my list for 2020.
1. I completed illustrating the picture book, My Princess Wears a Superhero Cape by Melissa Gijsbers, despite dealing with new chronic health issues and being very sick much of the year. I was also mentored through the thumbnails through to sketches of final artwork by Nina Rycroft which was a great experience.
2. My picture book, Raymund and the Fear Monster is being sold worldwide. I even found out that it is being sold in a gift shop in Luxembourg. How cool is that!
3. Late in the year, I launched my YouTube show, Megan Meets late in the year where I interview children's authors and illustrators.
4. I polished 3 and ½ chapters of my middle grade sci-fi novel, and a junior fiction story for the Creative Writing Awards and submitted them. I also scrapped old chapters which no longer worked, and wrote new chapters for the same middle grade sci-fi novel.
5. My illustrating has gotten better this year as I was painting most days of the week. I learned so much by doing the work.
6. Our writer’s group pivoted, and we continued to meet together once a month, many times on Zoom depending on restrictions. I continued to run the workshops for our writer’s group and all our writing got better.
7. Not writing or illustrating related, but I worked out what clothing personality styles I have, and my colours, and bought a heap of new clothes (mainly op shop) which I love and enjoy wearing.
8. I received a lot of fabulous reviews from parents whose kids love Raymund and the Fear Monster, and even started off the year with a brilliant one from Children's Book Council of Australia -- Reading Time.
9. I attended a lot of online workshops with people I couldn’t afford face-to-face. This was invaluable.
10. I had my first virtual school visit as a Books in Homes Role Model with a school I would probably never visit in real life. It was lots of fun and the student asked some great questions.
11. Schools continue to buying copies of Raymund and the Fear Monster for their Wellbeing Program, or they have been gifted a book for their school library by parents.
12. I totally overhauled my website myself and gave it a fresh now look.
13. I managed to take some brand new profile pictures myself. Yes! They are all selfies. I use a remote for my phone.
Phew! What a full year. And I haven't included everything.
You might be wondering how I'm doing now. Four weeks into this relapse of Vestibular Migraines and, according to my Vestibular Rehab Physio, I have apparently made four months worth of progress in four weeks. It's because I knew it was a relapse and I just started at the beginning of my VRT (Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy), and I'm on medication and just needed to add back a couple when I was at my worst last year. For me it's slow going as I had a bunch of interviews planned and some surprises. However, that's all on the backburner while I get better, again.
I'm nearly finished touching up my illustrations for My Princess Wears a Superhero Cape. And, as long as I don't have too many days in bed, I should have them finished and off to the publisher soon.
I'm excited to see what this year will bring. Life is never boring. I can't work like everyone else. I have to work to the the beat of my own drum. In amongst it all, life is good.
How was your year?
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Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution!
As some of you may be aware, my daughter had to have major surgery at the end of last year (2018). As she helps me out a lot due to me having Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ Myalgic encephalomyelitis, I ended up having to help her as her health deteriorated before her surgery, and then in her recovery after her surgery. Only problem was, I needed help and didn’t yell loud enough and ended up having a CFS crash. I had to resign from my part-time job and have been unable to return. Initially, I would get out of bed, see if my daughter was okay, get food, and within twenty minutes be back in bed.
Gradually I was able to stay up for longer and longer periods of time. My daughter has recovered. I have not.
As of today 30th December 2019, I am far better than I was one year ago. However, I am not recovered from the CFS crash. However, as you read through this list, and look at the photos, there is a bigger story. I have made the most of every minute that my mind was clear, and I could be upright. I didn’t waste a second. There are still some days I spend a lot of time in bed as I just have to be horizontal. Once I start working on a project, I may only have half an hour, or it might be two. Then I have to lay down again. Some days are better than other. It’s unpredictable. The fact I got all this done, and more is amazing to me.
Here is my list for 2019.
I successfully launched my book, ‘Raymund and the Fear Monster’ with the help of my friend and illustrator, Ester de Boer.
I participated in my first book blog tour with my first book. It was fun being interviewed and not doing the interviewing. (Though I like that too). It was also exciting seeing our book with its own book trailer. I lost count how many times I watched it. It went down well at school visits too.
I had a story shortlisted in a competition and my story was traditionally published in an anthology and it was chosen to be read on radio.
My two stories, Supermoon and Fairy Dust and Freya and the Fear Monster were accepted and published in the Flip book of the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol. 2 Bump in the Night and Enchanted.
I was asked to do readings of my book at different schools and do an author Q & A.
I found someone to help me with video editing — Nat K.
I managed to do a reading of Raymund for my Youtube channel and get it up.
I caught up with some amazing authors and illustrators while they were visiting schools in the area.
By Christmas, I had three books out. Two anthologies and my own book.
I painted more this year and learned heaps.
I sold my first painting.
I had nine illustrations published in the Flip book of the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol. 2 Bump in the Night and Enchanted.
My artwork was on posters.
I received a contract as a direct result of the publisher seeing my illustrations.
I’m being mentored by Nina Rycroft through this picture book.
I went on my first holiday in years with a friend.
I became Street Library Ambassador and spearheaded the Street Library Project for my area to see many Street Libraries set up.
I'm so excited to see what 2020 will bring my way.
Fear can hold you back from so many things, but especially from following your dreams and becoming all who you were meant to be. How can you face those fears and move forward in your life?
‘I would love to write and illustrate my own picture books.’ This was something that I said to myself a number of years ago when my kids were small. I don’t know what it is but so many authors and illustrators discover/rediscover a love of picture books when they are reading them to children. Either their own children or someone else’s.
For me, I always wrote but never called myself a writer until recently. I always drew, but never progressed beyond feeling that my pictures were terrible. The thing is, they were not good, but I could not break through that ugly stage to get them to be any better. So I stagnated in both my writing and my drawing.
Four years ago I had a breakthrough with my writing. I started taking courses and investing in my passion for writing and telling stories. I still drew and painted but never seriously. It couldn't get any better than I was, and I couldn’t get past it, especially when it came to drawing people. I compared myself to others. I listened to the little voice, the critic on my shoulder, who had said I’d never be good enough; I’d never measure up so why bother?
I compared myself to others and listened to the voice, the inner critic on my shoulder, who said, 'You'll never be good enough. Why bother?'
Why bother indeed? Because, like with my writing, I couldn’t leave it alone; I had to pick up a pen and draw. I had to try to capture a moment, tell a story. It was a part of me as far back as I can remember. That feeling was always there but never acknowledged. My father, Pop and Nan were all artists.
Though I did not have much to do with my Pop, and my Nan died when I was a baby, their art was always around, inspiring me that maybe someday I could do the same. My parents separated and later divorced when I was 13. And, as my father was violent, we had to go into hiding. Though in years later I did meet up with my dad and have a small amount to do with him, it was not a lot and he no longer was doing any art. He has since passed away.
My big breakthrough with both my art and my writing (which I thought I was all good with) came when I picked up a copy of, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron at the beginning of this year. It was first published in 1992 and, as Ali Stewart has so aptly put it in her recent blog post, Three Important Insights from The Artists Way, ‘with umpteen reprints, several spinoffs, and numerous nips, tucks, and facelifts, the perennial title continues to unstick stuck creatives.’ It has certainly unstuck me.
I first heard Valerie Khoo on the podcast, So You Want to be a Writer, talk about the book, The Artists Way at the beginning of the year. Next thing she was going on ‘artist dates, learning the mysterious rope art formally known as macramé, Japanese Book Binding, and going to musicals. This opened a new world to her, and she seemed so much happier. Then, I read a blog post that mentioned The Artists Way, and the same week walked into a second-hand store, and there, in a stack of books lay The Artists Way. Its spine was highlighted to me and my gaze immediately drawn to it. Curious about the fuss, and figuring God had his hand in this somehow, I took it home and began my journey of healing, acceptance, and discovering a sense of play.
So, what was it that unstuck me and helped me overcome my fears? A lot of hard work and commitment for the full 12 weeks of The Artists Way program, and committed to stretching and challenging myself ever since, that’s what. Each week of The Artists Way program, especially at the beginning, you have to work through questions and activities to find what is keeping you stuck. I was amazed how the very act of WRITING an experience down and seeing it black and white could unblock something within. Do it! It will amaze, shock, and surprise you.
For me, it was a combination of having my classmates laugh at my stories. I was a shy kid with very poor self-esteem. Looking back now I can see that my stories were funny. At high school, I would write stories straight out of left field and have a totally different take on the assignment. This also caused my classmates to burst into laughter and for me to wish I could just sink into the floor and disappear.
My art was different. I had one great art teacher for three terms in year eight. But, the rest of the time my art teachers were interested in Abstract Art which I hated. I wanted to learn to draw and paint nature, people, and animals. As I said at the beginning, I couldn’t get past the ‘yuk’ stage. I didn’t know how.
About five years ago I got hold of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This was my first breakthrough. Going through the exercises and then trying to draw later I was amazed at the difference. As you can see below, there is a remarkable distinction between the two drawings.
However, I still stagnated — until this year and The Artists Way.
In The Artists Way there is a section of affirmations. One spoke to me and has made one of the biggest impacts. I can nurture my artist. Up to this point, because I felt my artwork was no good, I didn’t need to invest time and/or money on courses or good materials. Oh. My. Goodness. The change that happened when I gave myself permission to invest in good quality paints, paint brushes, paper, liners, as well as online courses was incredible.
So, what did I do after The Artists Way?
I drew. I painted. I continued to take myself on Artists Dates. I spoke with illustrators like Giuseppe Poli and Katrin Dreiling and picked their brains. You can read what they told me here and here. With Giuseppe’s encouragement, I joined the 52 Week Facebook Illustration Challenge and started putting up my work online, not just in that group but everywhere on my social media pages.
My illustrations aren’t great. But, the very act of having to come up with a new piece every week is a wonderful discipline. These were my Artist Dates as well as going to the art store for art supplies. And I can see the improvement already. I often sit in amazement of what I just completed. I also signed up with Skillshare and started taking Nina Rycroft’s illustration courses, as well as any other courses that I felt could help me learn how to use the different mediums.
For me, putting up my art on public display is about conquering my fear of not being good enough and feeling afraid of never measuring up. I have changed my thinking. I no longer compare myself to my friend Ester, who is an amazing artist, and an incredible illustrator. Nor do I compare me to anyone else. I am me. I look at the world differently to anyone else. I am discovering my own style. And, most of all, I am having fun. I experiment all the time. I now compare myself to myself and how far I have come in such a short time.
And do you know what has surprised me the most? This release, this freedom I have found in my art has found its way into my writing. I play with words. I have fun with them. I have fun in my stories. I especially noticed this in the Sci-fi/fantasy novel I just finished. I had an absolutely thrilling time writing the last part of my novel. Each time I sat down I felt exhilarated.
As for my art, I have signed up to take Nina Rycroft’s illustration Masterclass e-course. And my friend Ester is taking it with me. We’ll be doing it together. How cool is that?
So, what about you? What can you do to become all that you can be and start understanding your fears, overcome those that hold your back?
Valerie Khoo is now getting commissions for her rope art AND her artworks. Katrin Dreiling has just had her first book come out. It’s written by Michelle Worthington and illustrated by her. It's called, The World's Worst Pirate.
As for me, people are liking my illustrations and watching my journey. One day, I will realise my dream and write and illustrate my own picture book.
You can find out more about Julia Cameron and her book: The Artists Way
Betty Edwards has a website. Find out more here and read her book and do the exercises. It’s amazing.
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