The circle of doubt

A year or two ago I had an idea, which isn’t all that unusual, I have far too many ideas at times. Anyway, this idea kept surfacing and I pondered and played around with it, not actually doing much in reality though. Then, other ideas and projects came and pushed this one aside and well into the back of my mind, whilst I liked the idea it was complicated, needed quite a bit of research and even more skill to achieve what I wanted. Then, a few weeks ago I returned to, why shouldn’t I give it a go….

So, I dug out my notes, made more notes, printed those notes, bound the notes, and started planning the first of a series of illustrations. Now, sometimes illustrations just work without much effort, and other times like with this one it can be a struggle. I spent far too many hours getting a smooth wash laid down for the sky, then the background wash for the foreground went wrong, after which I discovered the wash was far too dark for me to sketch the landscape details onto for me to paint over. It was, to put it bluntly, an absolute pain from taping the watercolour board down to adding my signature onto it at the end. However, when I looked at the finished piece I was reasonably happy with it – which is unusual as normally I dislike an illustration shortly after finishing it 😉

Then, when the paint was dry, it had been digitised and tweaked, cropped, colours balanced, I thought about the next step of the process. I’ve heard of runners hitting the wall, despite training and training for weeks, months, years they reach a point in a race where they can’t bring themselves to take another step. This wall however is a wall of doubt, and it’s nothing to do with energy levels or exhaustion, it’s a wall of self doubt, and perhaps a touch of imposter syndrome thrown in for good measure – hey why not, if you’re going to doubt yourself you may as well feel like an imposter at the same time. They say that many artists have doubts about their work and its worth, not the financial worth, that’s another matter entirely, after years of wielding a paintbrush I still feel a fraud claiming the ‘artist’ title. So it’s perhaps only natural that I have doubts about my work and its worth. This brings about a problem when I consider the next step of the process with this project, finding someone willing to publish it. Their are some publishers who would be ideal for it, but they don’t take unsolicited submissions or proposals – when you read some of their websites you get the impression that if you did send unsolicited proposals the response would be at least a public flogging 😉 The alternative and perhaps normal route would be to find an agent willing to push the idea forward, this of course is almost as difficult as finding a publisher willing to take the idea on, it would also require finding an agent who understood the project and had the right contacts with the right publisher to take it forward.

This is when the circle of doubt takes over, questions start to circle in your mind, and you doubt whether the idea is any good after all, whether anyone else would be interested in it, whether you are up to completing it, and of course whether it wouldn’t be easier to hide in a corner for a while rocking gently. It’s easy to doubt yourself, well it is for me when I consider there are countless artists and illustrators out there with more talent and ability than me, so is it, in reality even worth my time pushing the idea around various agents waiting for the inevitable rejection letter.

So, I pause and walk away from the whole idea for a while, real life has a way of filling the minutes, hours days far too quickly at times. Then the idea resurfaces, perhaps someone would be interested and fire up Google and search for agents, filter out the ones who only take certain types of work, the ones who confuse me with terminology designed to baffle 99% of the population, the ones who had a website designed by someone with wax crayons…. All of this filtering of course is just a way of hiding that doubt that in the end no one will want to consider the project anyway, and the circle of doubt hits again. It’s quite easy to say “just do it and be damned”, it’s not so easy to do at times though.

I could of course just post the project online and hope, hope that someone in the publishers sees it and thinks “hey, lets make this into a book,” but then the self doubt takes over. Wouldn’t it be more likely I think that they’d say, “hey, that’s worth doing, let’s get another illustrator to do that for us” and I’d be sitting in six months time looking at a listing on Amazon wondering how they got the idea published 😉 Perhaps tomorrow I’ll bite the bullet and try twisting the arm of an agent or two, okay, maybe next week would be better. I googled imposter syndrome a while ago, the fear that you’ll be exposed as a fraud, if you think about it by not contacting an agent I don’t run the risk of being exposed as a fraud and therefore can’t claim imposter syndrome – it’s always good to look for a little positive in every situation 🙂 Perhaps I should think like Vroomfondel…

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