Who I am and why I write

Even though I’ve written 24 books, I still feel insecure when I get a new project. I pace around the house saying, “I’ll NEVER be able to do this!” I eat too many M&M’s. I do loads of laundry to procrastinate.

My studio is not some glamorous thing. I draw and paint at the kitchen table. I use childrens’ paint boxes, watercolor pads that I buy at Michaels and cheap brushes. I find that expensive art supplies make my hands shake–also they make something starchy and formal creep into my paintings. I consider myself a doodler rather than an artist. I’ve never taken an art class.

I write “picture books for grown-ups” (as my mother used to call them). What I try to do always is say what I mean—simply and clearly. But simplicity is hard. I want to be positive about life, but I don’t ever want to sound sentimental or clichéd. I want to say things fresh. I believe in this Ray Bradbury quotation: “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

I write to make sense of the world and make sense of myself. I look for happiness everywhere. That’s probably because I’ve struggled with depression my whole life. I write because I need to write. I need to affirm things. I need to find the moments of grace in life and capture them so that I can appreciate them. I write as a kind of prayer.

I do what I love for a living. My father used to tell me, “You can do anything.” For some fateful reason, I believed him (thank you, Dad). Maurice Sendak says, “Live your life, live your life, live your life.” I think there’s nothing more profound than that. People come to me all the time with their dreams. How can they make them come true? All I can tell them is what I always tell myself: “Do what you love, do it stubbornly, keep on when nobody gets you or believes in you, keep learning and growing, expect it to be hard, but expect it, also, to be the finest thing you could ever choose to do with your life. “

I believe that we are all in this life together, all in the same boat. I’ve found that when I write about my own personal journey, it sometimes strikes chords with other people. I’m endlessly grateful for that. It makes me feel less alone. Plus, it allows me to write “picture books” for a living. And what could be better than that?