By: Janet L. Schmidt
Élise Gravel is an award-winning children’s book writer and illustrator who lives and works in Montreal, Quebec in Canada. She was born in Montreal and started to draw not long after she could hold a crayon. She studied Graphic Design at the College of General and Vocational Education in Montreal. Over her career thus far, she has written and illustrated over 50 children’s books.
Élise began to think about the possibility of having Attention Deficit Order (ADHD) when her own daughter was diagnosed in 2nd grade. Although her daughter really had no problems at school and received good grades, her child did experience high anxiety with disorganization. Élise recognized some of the things she had experienced as a child in her daughter. She remembers being very talkative and at times, saying things she really didn’t mean. She often felt overwhelmed and distressed which often made it difficult for her to focus. She felt she had to work hard to prevent her from procrastinating when she had to do something she didn’t like to do or because she was bored. She went through the ADHD testing as an adult and was diagnosed with ADHD in 2017.
Sixteen years ago, Élise graduated from college and didn’t have any clients. She decided to meet with professional illustrators that told her to develop her own illustrative style because clients were more likely to hire illustrators with a well-defined style. It was then she began to work on developing her own distinctive style through inventing imaginary clients that wanted her to make posters for them. When she had about 20 posters completed and felt comfortable with her own illustrative style, she thought that the posters would make a funny children’s book. She sent a photocopy of the book to an editor. After a long wait, she received notice from the editor that they loved her posters and would print her children’s book entitled “Catalogue des Gaspilleurs”, (The Catalogue of Wasters) and as they say “the rest is history.”
Élise believes that her approach to writing and illustrating children’s books is unique because she feels quite comfortable with silliness and absurdness. She feels this helps her to be able to connect well with children through her books. For example, one of her books “The Worm” takes a look at the earthworm in a silly and off-the-wall perspective. Yet behind all that zaniness, there is learning, because the book contains real factual information about the worm.
Sometimes it can be difficult for Élise to focus on her work, especially if the editing process for a book takes too long. She decided rather than fighting the editing process, she would do the entire book in one shot – both write and illustrate it. After she feels the book is finished, she sends the book to the publisher and they can choose whether or not to accept it for publishing “as is” with no changes. This works well for her because she can move on to the next project. She does not have to abide by the rules of a traditional workplace and is her own boss. She is grateful that she has the luxury to live out of the distraction ADHD can sometimes cause to do something she worthwhile and fun.
Élise stays organized in her work and personal life by making lists and doing the things that motivate her least first so that the fun creative tasks are last. She says she uses a kind of a self-reward system. When she is able to accomplish those things she likes least to do, she rewards herself with something she enjoys whether it’s a treat or something fun to do. She relies on her high creativity to help her generate unique and original ideas. Her inclination to be impulsive aids her in not overthinking her work nor does she have time to doubt her abilities. She discovered that this type of work allows her to have a flexible schedule, achieve a real connection to her audience, feel she is doing something useful, be her own boss, experience the freedom of expression and have fun!
Élise feels the biggest challenge is her own perception of rejection. She feels apprehension when she thinks about being hurt, rejected or having people angry with her. She has a little voice inside that warns her not to put controversial things out there in public. But another part of her realizes that if she didn’t post her opinion on controversial subjects, some people may not have a voice at all. She works on her self-discipline and uses meditation. Élise believes that meditation is a good way to relax, review the day and realize that you can afford to be more patient with yourself. She believes that setting priorities is everything. Otherwise, it would get very overwhelming quickly for her. She makes an effort to keep things simple including her schedule in order to keep her stress at a minimum.
Élise shared some tips for persons diagnosed with ADHD that may want to become an entrepreneur. She suggests that you surround yourself with like-minded people. Share ideas and encourage each other. These people can be a source of support to you when you find yourself having difficulty with a project or situation. She encourages you to accept that some things may be too difficult for you to do and that you delegate those tasks. Trust and be kind to yourself.
You can see Elise Gravel’s wonderful work by clicking the link below.