LIZZIE’S TOP TIPS FOR THE CREATIVE LIFE: You can’t edit a blank page and not everything will be great, but there will be something good in everything. The first one is as basic as it seems. If you want to be a writer- write. If you really want to get that novel out into the world, you actually have to write it. It’s not going to appear on its own one day, it’s work and you can edit once it’s all out otherwise you’ll never get the book written. You’ll just wish you were a writer.
The second one is something I have learned in my 15 years of writing. Not everything you write or paint will be great. In fact some will be lousy. But the good news is that there will be something usable in that work – a new technique, perhaps an awesome paragraph that can be the beginning of something new. Or even just the idea and its development. Not everything you do HAS to be great. It’s OK to write a shitty poem, just because you feel like it. Have fun. Learn and share your vision.
Lizzie Midgley is an author and publisher based in Western Australia. With a background in education and special needs teaching and assisting, Lizzie has followed her passions for literacy and development and creative writing, carving a place for herself on families’ bookshelves and in the independent author sector.
Her first book launch, held for My secret dinosaur in May 2014 was an exciting foray into the world of book tours and selling her book in person. Her second picture book, the long awaited Garden Gnome was published in March this year, followed quickly after by Bug and Boots in July.
Lizzie hopes her enthusiasm for writing and reading ignites a love of book sharing in families, and a passion for creative writing within children and adults alike. ‘To write is a gift; but the magic comes from being read.’ ~ Lizzie
What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? I love my life, I’m so blessed in so many ways. Other than the obvious things like working with books, libraries and families, I think for me the best part is seeing something turn from a slip of an idea into a physical object, either a book with my own words and or illustrations, or making a painting from tubes of paint and a canvas. There is something very satisfying about creating every day.
—the worst? This is a hard question. I think that living a grateful life is important especially when your work depends so much on the goodwill of others to actively purchase your work. For me – and probably our family – the worst part of living a busy modern artistic life is the time demands. I find that with being a full-time, stay at home Mum, some days it’s quite late before I get a chance to work on any of my ‘creative endeavours’.
I do think that Dear Husband would say the worst thing is never knowing what kind of day I’m going to have. Some days I’m an impeccable housewife and the house is spotless and there is an amazing meal ready. Other days when I’m possessed by the muses the house looks like a bomb’s gone off, and I have no idea what time it is. He takes it all with good humour of course, which is one of the many reasons I adore him.
How do you approach a creative project? Usually with notes and post its. Everything comes from an idea. The more time I invest into creative work the more creative ideas I come up with. Sometimes I have to write it down just so I can come back to it at a later date. From the initial ideas, I take notes and story board. I do any research that needs to be done, then work on putting it together. Quite often I have multiple projects on the go at once, which means I have to keep a tidy work space so I don’t lose anything important. Some days that’s easier than others.
After that, it sees my editor, and a reader or critic. I make any changes we agree need to be made and it goes off for publishing.
Or if it’s a painting, I’ll take some photos for reference, and sketch the idea out on paper. Once I’m happy with the design I’ll sketch onto canvas or parchment depending on the media and get to work. Most of my paintings take between three and nine hours to complete from the second sketching stage.
What are you working on at the moment? Quite a few things, it’s all systems go here at the moment. I have a few workshops for beginner writers that I’m hosting at the Kwinana Library, and we will have my book launch for Bug and Boots here in January (so that’s in the planning stages). I also have my year-long project #enrichmylife2015 which I work on continually every month, plus the large end of year culmination event – which is a mixed media exhibition in December. I’m working on four paintings for that at the moment, the written pieces are finished.
Then I have six picture books in varying stages of development, one almost ready for publishing in the next month or two. Of course then there is the first of my novella trilogy that is being edited with the publishing date set for March 2016, and I’ve taken on two authors’ manuscripts for publishing under my label in the next six months too.
None of that includes the regular parent helper days at school with Mr Boo, or the birthdays and the like that everyone has. Thank goodness for diaries and planners.
Do you think of yourself more as an artist or writer? Oh! That’s funny, I was asked what I do for work at a party recently and I automatically cAme out with, ‘I’m a stay at home mum’. At which point my mother inserted that I was an author and artist which prompted a long discussion and hopefully (fingers crossed) some work with local schools.
You know, I’m still only new to this career path, so I’m still struggling with the ‘am I worthy’ questions. I have to stop myself from thinking about it too hard or I get a little anxious.
In reality I don’t think of myself as either, I think of myself as Lizzie. I’m always looking for more things to learn and to share what I have learned with other people. Each of the things I spend the majority of my life doing make up the person I identify as – mother, wife, artist, writer, public speaker, educator, student. I’m also passionate about ‘people rights’ and living with chronic disease.
If I had to choose one of those options though I’d say a writer, mostly because I’m really new at the art stuff. I only started exploring the artistic world in March, which isn’t long at all. I am happy to say I’m learning along the way and having a great time, but there will always be something to learn about both writing and art, so I am not sure when you can define yourself as either.
Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? Oh definitely! Most of which is intrinsic, my own inner monologue and doubts. I find I’m very good at accepting my work for myself, but can’t seem to grasp that other people find enjoyment from my various works too. (Most of my projected confidence is fake ).
I find it challenging to push my own branding – as a small publisher it’s a little counter productive, and as I said in the last question, I think that there is always room for learning in both areas. Especially because of my age. I think that being in my late 20s and early 30s is challenging in both worlds because there are many people who have been doing these things for years, and are sometimes closed minded to new ideas and methods.
I’m also a terrible typist, which means there are SO many typos in my manuscripts, which drive my editor crazy.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Accepting rejection. In the beginning I spent years sending manuscripts and author bios to traditional publishers, and I was continually told that I wasn’t ‘mainstream, commercial or marketable enough.’ Which was hard for me to hear, especially as a late teen/early adult. (Egos are so fragile)
After failing health and motherhood put me in the position of having more time available to work from home, I decided I was going to tick something off my bucket list and publish my own book anyway. I figured if I failed, at least I tried and can be proud of the effort instead of waiting for someone else to say I was good enough.
Even now, I have three picture books out and I still find it difficult to push the sales, because there is this little part of me which is afraid I’ll be rejected and found out to be a phony. ( I’m not phony, if anything I’m a little too real for most people, which makes them uncomfortable.)
What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator? Reading? I’d most likely be working in special needs classrooms. Maybe part time as our family is still young and my health wouldn’t really cope with a full-time job. Oh the joys of chronic disease. But definitely in a school.
I’m glad I am though. I wouldn’t like to think that one day I would wake up and realise I’ve lived the same day over for 75 years and not really experienced life or accomplished my dreams.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? Invest in a good desktop computer. I do most of my writing work in notebooks or on my iPad, but for publishing, my big clunky laptop is slow and difficult to use. I really need to upgrade and set up a publishing work space. Somewhere quiet with lots of desk space and light.
Also I’d remember to say yes to more opportunities. In the early days I was very shy and found it difficult to attend promotions and do networking events. I still do, but the nervous butterflies are a reassuring sign now that I’m doing something that while it makes me uncomfortable in the short term, will be promising in the future.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author/illustrator? It’s OK to like your work, and to have favourites. And some days it’s just not going to work. Instead of stressing and making yourself sick, unplug and reconnect with the people in your life. Days away from work are good for you.
Also, if someone had told me not everyone would be as honest and genuine as I believed them to be, that would have saved me a great deal of heartache and tears at 2am. It’s all a learning journey though, and I’m grateful for every experience as I have learnt to trust my gut instinct about people’s motives.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Reflecting on the last few years, I’d have to say that the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, you can’t spoil a baby with love and never give up on a bad day are the best pieces of advice Ive been given.
Most importantly that last one, ‘never give up on a bad day’. It was spoken in a tear-filled conversation about sleep deprivation and breastfeeding, but I find it really applies to everything – in my life anyway.
On the days where I’m just not finding the art groove, or my words seem contrived and angst filled, I put everything down, move away and come back to it later. I found that if I don’t give up while filled with strong emotions, when I come back and look at the problem, I don’t need to give up after all. I think the essence of it is that if I don’t give up on a bad day- because eventually it will end – I won’t want to give up on the good days.
by Lizzie Midgley
On a sunny day take a walk with the adorable Bug, who evades his arch nemesis Boots – well not really an arch nemesis but an adventure all the same. Follow Bug as he goes about his day followed by Boots. Almost an adventure in your own garden, your family will be enchanted by this picture book with its hand-drawn illustrations and charming characters.