my big, new, (not so) secret project

As my regular readers know, I’ve put a lot of time into my writing these past few years. The whole point of this blog was to chart my journey into this brave new world and hopefully meet some lovely people on the way – which I have!
path into a book

When I began, I wasn’t sure which direction my writing was going to take me and, in fact, it’s taken me in all sorts of different ones – I’ve written poetry, short stories and flash fiction all while working on a novel (or two). But what’s gripped me most has been writing my limericks, which I plan on having illustrated and self-publishing, and my picture books, two of which are currently out with agents.  With limited time at my disposal, they (and this blog) have been my focus.

The fact that both of these either need or benefit from illustrations means I’ve spent a lot of time looking into illustrative styles and wondering who I might like to work with. I’ve also thought a lot about what pictures could go with my stories and poems and how images could complement words. And through it all I’ve found myself saying repeatedly ‘I can see pictures in my head but I couldn’t possibly draw them myself’. It almost became a mantra – this admission of one ability alongside a simultaneous dismissal of the possibility of another.

This, despite the fact that I’ve always loved art – it was my favourite subject at school (well, that and creative writing). I took Art GCSE and, although I was guided away from it after that by the school’s careers adviser (bright kids had to study ‘proper’ A levels you see… don’t get me started!), I returned to it in my mid-twenties and did a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. I can’t think about that year without smiling – I LOVED it! I specialised in textiles and ended up setting up my own business designing and making handbags. Then other things happened, including a recession and having kids and, to cut a long story short, I no longer do anything arty at all. Bar the odd picture on this blog, all my creative energy is poured into my writing.

But then over Christmas an idea popped into my head. Why not return to visual art? Why not study illustration? I mean, imagine if I could learn to illustrate my own work?! A whole life of unbridled bliss rolled itself out in my mind – one where I could spend time gazing out of a window thinking up beautiful stories to spill over a page, and then cosy up in my rustic studio surrounded by paints and pencils to bring those stories to life with pictures. I could eat toast and marmite looking wistful with a smear of turquoise ink across my cheek, do the school run with a notepad tucked in the back of my paint-splattered jeans. My children would be surrounded by stories and art and we would all live a life of unending creativity and imagination… ahhhh…

And then I got real.

And the doubts set in.

What on earth am I thinking? I don’t have the ability, I’m setting myself up to fail, what makes me think I could possibly make a success of being an illustrator? Surely anyone else would be better at illustrating my work than I am? How can I find time to write AND draw when I can hardly find time just to write? Who am I kidding?!

I almost talked myself out of it. But not quite. Because I have this really strong feeling that if I don’t give it a go, I’ll regret it. I feel like I’ve been trying to tell myself something by (accidentally) focusing on writing that goes hand in hand with drawing. It’s like I’ve been leading myself somewhere and I’ve only just taken the blindfold off and seen what’s always been there.

I’m not deluded though – I know that regardless of how things go, my life won’t be just like the one I imagined above. I don’t have a rustic studio for a start, nor do I have much time for window gazing and anyway, any success involves knuckling down to do the hard graft rather than looking wistfully paint-splattered. But it’s good to have a dream!

Who knows if I will be any good? Who knows if I’ll even be able to illustrate anything at all? Perhaps my dream will collapse like a bad soufflé. It scares me (really quite a bit actually).

But I’m willing to give it a go. So I’ve signed up to an illustration course – a distance learning one that I can do at my own pace (within limits) which I think is the most realistic way of juggling it with my other commitments and passions (I have no intention at all of giving up writing!). It feels like the first step on a new path – a twisty, turny path I suspect, for which I haven’t got a map or a compass. But I do have a sturdy backpack with some sandwiches and a flask of hot chocolate. And I’m kind of hoping that, through this blog, some of you will be able to be my companions along the way.


I’m linking this post up with ‘The Prompt’ at Mum Turned Mom. The word this week is ‘paint’ – I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw it and thought it had to be ‘a sign’ (I don’t believe in signs but still, I needed something to make me take action rather than just continue mulling the idea over…)


Writing Bubble

37 thoughts on “my big, new, (not so) secret project

  1. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    Maddy, how exciting! I will definitely join you to share and enjoy your journey with hot chocolate and sandwiches;-). I love art and though I am not great, I really see how creativity is all entwined; writing and illustrating are not so far apart. I too am at a bit of a cross roads or changing path at least and I hope I can take some of your courage to have faith and belief in myself. Xxx
    Alice @ The Filling Glass recently posted…Rain checkMy Profile

  2. Emily Organ

    Go you! This made me smile as I remember being hauled into the head of year’s office when I was in my third year at secondary school and he was despairing I was deciding to do art GCSE instead of something more ‘academic’. I did it anyway because I loved to draw. And my dad wouldn’t let me go to art school – instead it had to be ‘proper university’ (fat lot of use that was). How lovely to pick up your art again, it’s a great idea and it goes hand in hand with your writing. There are some really good children’s author / illustrators out there (my children love Sue Hendra’s books) – I’m certain you can do well at it. It’s a lot of work – but what isn’t?
    Emily Organ recently posted…So you want to write a book?My Profile

  3. AmyLovestoSew

    Oh yes, fabulous idea, you must go for it! Your description of your idea life made me smile, I almost shouted ‘no!’ at the computer when you said the doubts started creeping in. Those pesky self-doubts, why do we always have them? you are not alone, I get that all the time. So believe it: you can have the rustic barn and the school-run with a notepad, the toast and marmite (lush!) – I’m willing you on just reading this. Good luck with the course (how exciting) Will drop your blog into my reader so I can keep up to date with how its going. Wishing you all the best with your dreams x

  4. Sophie Lovett

    Ah this is so exciting!! It makes so much sense, I think, to illustrate your own work if you can – for so many reasons. It’s a scary leap though – huge kudos to you for taking it! It makes me so mad how many people I know (myself included) were steered away from creative paths because it didn’t fit with ‘the system’. It makes me even more determined not to send Arthur down that road… Or at least to let him know that whatever anyone else says it’s listening to himself that’s most important. Good luck with your new adventure – I look forward to hearing lots more about it! xx
    Sophie Lovett recently posted…Bringing order to the chaosMy Profile

  5. Sara | mumturnedmom

    Oh, I am so excited to read this (and pleased that The Prompt gave you a nudge!). It makes perfect sense to me, and I can’t wait to see where this takes you. I did art all through school (alongside maths and physics) even though it was frowned on a little; I refused to give it up. Although, I did end up doing an engineering degree rather than going to Art College! I often wonder what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t opted for ‘safety’. I will definitely be your companion for this journey xx Thanks so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x
    Sara | mumturnedmom recently posted…The Prompt: Week 99My Profile

  6. Me, You and Magoo

    I loved drawing from a young age & studied art at school. I got an A at GCSE & then had the misfortune of being taught A Level Art by a miserable teacher who basically encouraged me to drop A Level Art for something more ‘academic’. I rediscovered my creative side in my late twenties. After amassing a huge amount of vintage fabric, like you, I also started to make bags & homewares to sell online & at craft fairs. Like you, the recession & two postage cost hikes by Royal Mail pretty much killed my business off. I have also poured my creativity into writing my blog & I’ve harboured a dream of writing children’s books for many years. I look forward to seeing your progress with your illustration course. I think it’s so important to keep in touch with your creativity. I have every faith you’ll make it work! #ThePrompt
    Me, You and Magoo recently posted…UK Handmade Magazine: Winter IssueMy Profile

  7. BloggerMummyLauren

    This sounds so exciting, I can’t wait to see some of your illustrations come to life.
    I think sometimes we are our own worst enemy, we hold ourselves back so much through fear, which generally leads to regrets in the future. I’m glad you have managed to push past those feeling of self doubt and just go for it!
    I look forward to reading all about your next creative adventure!

  8. Becky Cowley

    This is exciting and scary and exciting all at the same time! What a great idea, I think you would certainly regret it if you don’t give it a go and who better to get the idea out of your head but you. No one else shares your inspiration.
    I told my daughter recently ‘be brave, even if it makes your tummy wobble, that’s what makes life exciting.’ And I’m saying the same thing to you too xx
    Becky Cowley recently posted…TreatMy Profile

  9. Katrien

    I’ve just discovered your blog via Sarah McIntyre’s ShapeChallenge. I started sketching a few months ago and I would love to take an on-line course. Someone recommended SketchBookSkool for on-line art lessons. What course have you signed up to?

  10. Nicole (The Brightness Of These Days)

    I love this post! I’m another Art GCSE-er that went on to do “proper” subjects – English and languages in my case so subjects I still enjoyed but I was very sad to leave Art behind and increasingly find myself doodling and drawing. This is such a great idea. I’m adding the illustration course on to the to do list for when my boys start school and clearly my life will slip into the carefree, paint splattered idyll you describe above! Nicole x
    Nicole (The Brightness Of These Days) recently posted…#findingadventures – January Travel & Adventure Round-upMy Profile


Leave a Reply to Maddy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge