Until you become it

Hello! I’m back from my unintended extended break from blogging. I feel a little wobbly and self-conscious right now because not only have I not been blogging, I’ve not been writing.

What I have been doing is illustrating. I often think of drawing as my second language, writing being my first. My degree is in writing, and up until this past year, it’s where I’ve spent most of my time and energy. But opportunity knocked and over the past several months, I’ve been learning my second language through utter immersion.

I think most of you know that I’m illustrating two coloring books for HCI Books, one themed around recovery and the other around women and happiness. Here’s a sneak peek at the potential covers:



The schedule has been crazy tight, and I’ve been working pretty much seven days a week for the past three months. It’s a new experience for me, not just drawing ALL THE TIME, but also working with an editor, two other artists (responsible for coloring and layout), and two best-selling authors. Unlike my first coloring book, Art Out Loud, which was very much a solo effort, this time around I’m part of a team, learning about illustration, publication and collaboration all at the same time. It’s been fun, exhausting, frustrating, and enormously rewarding.

And here’s what I want to say about it all. When I was approached by HCI, my first (and second and third) thought was that they’d made a mistake. They didn’t want me, they wanted a *real* illustrator who’d been doing it for a while, not someone who’d only recently discovered she could draw. That’s not what I said though. Throughout our talks and the negotiation of my contracts, I pretended to be a seasoned professional. Ever since, through all the sketching, inking, emailing, revising, and all my trips back to the literal drawing board, I’ve continued, diligently, to play the part (even as I secretly waited for them to realize their mistake).

Then, a few days ago, I watched for the first time Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You are.” It’s great, and you should watch it if you haven’t already, but for the purposes of this post the most important advice she gives is this:

Fake it until you become it.

I love that. “Fake it until you make it” has always sounded a little sleazy to me (though I believe it’s absolutely possible to do). What I like about “fake it until you become it” is the implication that there will come a time when faking it is no longer necessary. In her TED talk, Cuddy points out many studies that have shown this works. My favorites are the ones that have demonstrated how smiling – even fake smiling – improves your mood. Somehow in the act of faking happiness we, in fact, become happier.

I think it works with all kinds of things, and I don’t know about you, but faking my way into becoming seems like the most exciting way to get where I want to be. For the past couple of years, in the absence of actual illustration experience, I’ve been faking confidence and expertise all over the place, and it’s resulted in commissions and contracts I never dreamed I’d get.

I faked being a working artist until I became it.

You should join me. What will you start faking in 2016?


p.s. To celebrate the soon-to-be-released coloring books, here’s a free, downloadable page from Inkspirations For Women. Enjoy!