This week I have been identifying enemies of my creative self-worth. It's a lot less sinister than it sounds.
I don't wear a cape and clean the streets of scum who tell artists they're rubbish (although now I come to think of it...). No, I don't do that. I have merely identified those people for a task in The Artist's Way this week.
One enemy of my creative self-worth was Mr Doubt (I've changed his name to protect his supervillain identity). He was a teacher. I was fortunate to be taught by many good teachers, and to them I am grateful. But Mr Doubt was not one of them.
My mother and I met with Mr Doubt to discuss my A-Level options. We sat opposite him at a table in his small, cubic office.
Mr Doubt questioned my choices: English Literature, History and Art & Design. He strongly advised that I choose Mathematics. Or one of the Sciences: Chemistry, Biology or Physics. Core subjects.
I reiterated my choices: English, History and Art. I was good at them and I liked them. I hated Mathematics, for which I had no interest at all. And although I was interested in Biology, I felt indifferent to the other Sciences.
Mr Doubt accepted that I wished to study English at A-Level. And he backed down over my choice of History. But Art & Design...
"Couldn't you just do art as a hobby?" he asked.
He was leaning over the table. My Mum was sitting next to me. The windows in the room were very small and close to the ceiling.
"I could..." I replied.
There - right there - the seed of doubt was sown.
I argued the case for Art & Design, of course, and it was pushed through with support from my mother (a hero of my creative self-worth). But Mr Doubt's question stayed with me. "Couldn't you just do art as a hobby?" Under the surface. "Couldn't you just do art as a hobby?" For a long time. "Couldn't you just do art as a hobby?"
As an adult, I tried to make art my hobby. I did. I sketched during lunch hours. Doodled in greetings cards. Decorated my bicycle at Christmas with fairy lights. But it was no good. It wasn't enough.
Twenty years after Mr Doubt's fateful comment, I found the courage to believe that art is more than just a hobby to me.
I forgive Mr Doubt. It wasn't his fault that it took me so long to believe that I'm an artist. I place that blame entirely on my own shoulders. But that seed of doubt...
It didn't help.
This week I dug it out, like a splinter. Like a dark little apple pip that never germinated. And threw it away.
Nobody needs that.
Richard Pettitt, cartoonist.