3 Mindset Shifts for Creative Success

Yoga instructor and all-around creative Melissa Ng shares 3 mindset shifts that transformed her illustration journey.

Choosing a creative path is not always easy. And at some level, every experience on your creative journey boils down to your interpretation of it. In fact, some say that 80% of success is down to what's going on in your head, so if you can shift your mindset, then perhaps you can turn a negative experience into a positive one.

If you're in need of a reset, a recharge, or a rethink, this interview with Melissa might just do the trick. 

Melissa took part in this year's Picture Book Illustration e-Course (PBIC Live). Across the 8-weeks and the time leading up to the course, what struck me about Melissa was her courage and her commitment to learning something completely new. With absolutely no art training Melissa joined PBIC with an open mind and a willingness to jump in and give it a go (even if it felt scary). And her results speak for themselves. Melissa's cheerful characters and playful wit bring a sense of fun and joy to her illustrations.

In this blog, Melissa not only shares the work that she produced during PBIC but she also shares with us 3 mindset shifts that may help get your thoughts straight and your creativity back on track.

  1. Self-Acceptance – Melissa talks about how yoga helped her find her truth, and how it helped her rediscover a tiny seed of an idea to illustrate children’s books. 
  2. Drop The Worry – Melissa’s biggest challenge was getting over her fear. Being totally new to illustration, she worried for two whole months before the course even began. Across the 8-weeks, even though it was difficult at first, Melissa consistently put herself (and her work) out there. And said, “it ended up being an amazing learning experience.”
  3. Be Yourself – During the course, Melissa made a point of not comparing her work with others. As soon as she realised “We were all doing it together, and it'll be okay.” she started to benefit from the momentum and comradery of the group.

I want to encourage you today to take a look at what might be holding you back. It might just be time to evaluate what's moving you forward towards your goal and what's not.

No matter where you are on your creative journey, which of these 3 mindset shifts can you relate to? 

Melissa's openness has certainly given me a much-needed creativity boost, and I hope that her story will do the same for you. 


Hi, I'm Melissa Ng, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I've moved all around the Northeast of the USA, and now currently live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my husband and 3 children.

All through childhood creating art was something that I've always loved but was never encouraged to pursue. In my family, the unspoken expectation was to study hard and become something like a doctor or a lawyer. Ultimately, I went through college and studied psychology following the route to becom a family therapist. There was always a part of me that wanted to be a part of a helping profession.

1. Self-Acceptance

After I became pregnant, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, and read picture book’s constantly to my children. My olderst is now 12, and I still remember how while reading to her as a toddler it felt like a tiny seed was planted in the back of my mind telling me that maybe I can contribute to the world by making art for kids too. Maybe illustrating children's books is something that could actually happen for me one day. 

I ignored that feeling until I started a journey toward self-discovery through yoga. Just as the pandemic started to make its way into all of our lives, I was able to complete a yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga instructor. Yoga helped me clear away the noise in my head so that I could rediscover who I really was and be honest about what I truly loved doing. All my life, I knew that creating, drawing, and painting were the ways that I found my flow –– when doing these activities, I would easily lose track of time and even lose touch with my need for hunger, thirst, and sleep!

2. Drop The Worry

"I was just terrified –– this was my dream. 

What if it doesn't work? 

What if I try and I'm a terrible failure? 

It was just so scary." 

When I signed up for your Picture Book Illustration e-Course in December (2021), I spent December and January, nervous, like really nervous leading up to it. All this time I had been the thing that was getting in the way of what I should be doing. My fear was taking me away from the art. 

This decision also came during the phase in my life where after having my third child, we as a family knew that we were done. My youngest's personality was much less clingy, and so suddenly I found that I had more mental space. I knew it was time for me to figure out what I can do for me, and the yoga training was a big step toward revealing that to me. 

And so, I found the courage and decided to do the Picture Book Illustration e-Course regardless of how unprepared I felt. I am so glad that I did because it truly ended up being an amazing learning experience. I realise and embrace the fact that I have a lot to learn and even more to refine and build, which are the very things that motivate me to keep on making progress.

Looking back, I feel like I wasted a lot of nerves being worried. 

Nina, you did such a great job making me feel very comfortable being at the start of my journey and that only good things can come from doing the course. Especially for beginners. 

ABOVE: Melissa's storyboard for the course manuscript "Florence Fox Goes To School" by Ben Whittacker-Cook.

During The Picture Book Illustration e-Course

Oh my gosh, I loved PBIC! Picturebook illustration was something that I’d never done before and never really put serious thought into pursuing. It felt like an adventure and it felt like I was spreading my wings!

There's so much that I learned, and that's only the picture book part of it. From building my skill set to finding the right materials, so much of it was completely new to me. I tried to be as sponge-like as possible so that I could absorb everything. Eventually, I was like, "Thumbnails! Dummy books! Bleed! The difference between hot press and cold press paper! How the illustrations say more than words to tell the story! I know what all this stuff is!" I felt really proud of my progress and I felt proud of what was happening.

ABOVE: Melissa's dummy book.

During PBIC, there was so much going on every week and I felt like I was able to dive down deep into the whole process in a relatively short amount of time. The weeks felt like they were going by quickly and though I wished I could have devoted full uninterrupted days (or weeks even!) to doing as much as I could, it was great having the opportunity to move on to the next thing, and to be given more to work with and learn about! It was just awesome. 

I tried to do at least an hour every day. There were times when my husband would say, "I'll just take the kids." and I had two to three hours fly by in an instant, but those times didn't happen often enough. 

It was really sad for me when the course came to an end because it kept me accountable for eight weeks, and kept pushing me to create something for other people to see. This forward momentum that you talked about is real.

3. Be Yourself 

During PBIC, I felt safe putting myself out there. I really took to heart what you said about not comparing your work with others because everybody is at a different point in their journey. And so I tried really hard not to compare, especially with knowing how new I was at all of it. I tried to just focus on my own goals, but at the same time, I really enjoyed seeing what other people shared and being really impressed with all the different ideas and all the different interpretations of the story. 

Every time I posted my work in the online community it was terrifying. But, over time I grew to become excited about receiving all of the positive and useful feedback, It also helped that people were so open about expressing the shared vulnerability that I'm sure we all felt to some degree. And so I thought, "Okay. We were all doing it together, and it'll be okay."

ABOVE LEFT: Nina's feedback. ABOVE RIGHTt: Melissa's colour sample.


I was really impressed with the amount of feedback you're able to give so quickly. I loved how you did it digitally and the way you redrew some of the images that people had posted. I remember thinking, "Wow, those tiny adjustments make such a difference." Seeing everyone else’s feedback had an effect on how I saw things too. It opened my mind to new possibilities.

Weekly Interviews

I would find myself telling my kids and my husband, and this person and that person about the interviews, they were really inspiring. And because many of the illustrators you interviewed talked about not having a traditional background in art – many of them were self-taught – it made me feel like I can do it too. It cemented the fact that if you really want it, just keep trying and it will happen. That was something that hit home for me.

Since PBIC, What Has Changed?

I'm really proud that I am still painting – my dining table is still a mess and covered in watercolors. My kids and my husband have always been really supportive of me, but I feel like they all respect my time even more now. If I'm drawing something, they're like, okay, maybe I'll not interrupt Mum and I'll ask daddy instead. 

It's like they are on board with me and that's been really, really nice. My three-year-old she'll come over quietly and see me drawing or painting, and she'll just sit beside me and join me. She's had many versions of her own Florence Fox character as well. I would say that Florence Fox is a household name now.

What's Next?

I’ll be working on my portfolio. That word just kept popping up throughout the eight weeks. I would love to be a full-time picture book illustrator and yoga instructor. That would be amazing.

You're amazing. Nina, you're such a wonderful teacher. You are everything that a beginner artist needs in their life. Taking part in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course has been such a wonderful experience and I can't thank you enough for being who you are and for really caring so much about seeing our journey develop, grow and continue.

Interested in the next Picture Book Illustration e-Course? 
>> Join the waiting list for PBIC Live, 2023 <<

or to find out more about PBIC Self-Paced >>> click here <<<

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