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By Emily Asaro

I’ve always dreamed of illustrating children’s’ books since I was little, but I didn’t quite know how to get there. After college, I was lucky enough to secure an animation production job. I love my job, but it isn’t an art job. Being surrounded by so many talented artists, it was very easy to feel self-conscious about my own work. I found myself coming home tired and creating less art. All too often I was asking myself, “Am I a real artist? Am I good enough?”

I decided to make a change. I found ways to escape the “day job mentality” and find the healthy balance of work-life and art-life. With that, I focused on my goals and got the creativity flowing. Last year, I worked up the courage to join the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, started attending events, and submitting for contests. I found an encouraging community within SCBWI and I’m excited to continue to learn.

Here are some tips that helped me reinvigorate my creative energy and maintain a healthy job/creativity balance.

1) Draw Every Day (And have fun!)

Carve thirty minutes out of your day to draw for yourself. Don’t worry about if it’s a masterpiece or if someone else will like it. YOU may not even like it. What matters is that you are making something. Once I started drawing routinely again, my creative brain resurrected. The pressure of being “good enough” fizzled and drawing became my favorite way to wind down.

Prompt Sources:

Sketch Dailies


Illustration Friday

2) Schedule Art Sessions (And invite a buddy!)

Schedule an hour a few times a week for uninterrupted, dedicated work-time. Be mindful to focus on creating and nothing else. Having a buddy always helps with accountability. Using my lunch breaks helps make time for art. For example, my crew holds a “Watercolor Wednesday” where anyone can come paint on their lunch hour.

3) Surround Yourself with Inspiration!

My workspace is covered with artwork I admire. I unashamedly have an entire bookcase of children’s books. When I get discouraged, I take them out and soak in what I love about them. I often visit my local bookstore to study the latest trends on the shelves and find new illustrators to learn about. Inspiration is out there. Visit art galleries. Expose yourself to new styles and storytelling.

Here are two sites I love to visit:

Picture Book Bloggers

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

4) Develop Mantras

Write down phrases that embody your potential and break through your creative block. Live and breathe by them. A few favorites include: “Dare. Dream. Do.” (Walt Disney) or Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” (Salvador Dali). I also have an image of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go framed above my drawing table.

5) Adventure Awaits! Put Yourself Out There.

Don’t be afraid to show your work. Post online. Join a critique group. Enter contests, portfolio reviews, and attend conferences. Feedback is good, especially from a community you admire and respect. It builds confidence and motivation to keep moving forward. Also, be verbal about your passions, you never know what doors could open. A lunch conversation with my producers turned into a book pitch and an amazing experience.



Emily Asaro’s passion for picture books started at a very young age. She’s been doodling stories ever since she could hold a paintbrush. Emily is a Production Manager in Animation by day and an aspiring illustrator by night; working toward her dream job in children’s publishing. She currently resides in Glendale, California with her mischievous Boston Terrier, Minnifred Sanderson. Emily’s work can be found at: emilyasarodoodles.tumblr.com


All images provided by Emily Asaro