Mining for Heart: “Silence Your Inner Critic with the ‘So What?'” by Danielle Dufayet

We’re back! Welcome to 2023! What happens when your “so what?” or “heart” of your story is also the obstacle to writing it? “Drawing a blank” is agonizing to artists of all kinds and of all ages. Here Danielle Dufayet shares her latest book and how she battled her inner critic. 

Danielle is offering a GIVEAWAY! Just leave a comment at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of BENFORD DRAWS A BLANK.

Silence Your Inner Critic with the “So What?”benford_cover

By Danielle Dufayet

My fourth picture book, Benford Draws a Blank (Capstone Publishing, 2023) is so near and dear to my heart for many reasons.  Both my parents were professional artists, so I dedicated this to my mother, Suzanne Sable. I am a fine art artist, so this is based on my personal experience, but it took me a long time to quiet my inner critic long enough to start on my art journey. My “So What” was clear from the start to writing this book: Stop trying to paint the perfect painting! Let loose and have fun and see where the painting takes you. This sort of reflects my philosophy in general for a happy life; go with the flow, allow mistakes, enjoy the ride, work towards a wonderful ending.

Abstract art is a bit of a mystery, so I wanted to introduce this concept to children. Abstract art is a genre where you must really trust and let go, not an easy task for humans in general, let alone ones that have a tendency for perfectionism, like me. In general, children don’t self-monitor too much when they’re very young, but soon, that inner critical voice starts to emerge, and it can turn into a regular narrative that stops you from being creative.

The idea for Benford Draws a Blank came when I was about to start a painting after not having painted for a while. I felt so stuck. I didn’t know what to paint. Do I even remember how to paint? For days and weeks, I stared at that blank canvas…and that’s when the idea struck. We all, at some time or another, go blank when we want to be creative.

I wanted this book to be funny and I wanted the canvas to have a life of its own. Inspired by Aaron Reynolds’, Creepy Carrots, I envisioned the canvas following Benford around because that’s how it felt to me – kind of funny and kind of creepy! My canvas was always in the back of my mind, begging to be painted on.

Screenshot 2023-01-05 at 10.01.49 AM

But my paralysis went deeper than that. My mother, Suzanne Sable, was an amazing artist who could do anything in any genre -exquisitely! She was my idol and I never thought I could ever be as good an artist as her, but why would I? She was classically trained in Paris, France, I was not. Yet, for many years, I delayed my art career because I was full of self-doubt. A waste of time, in retrospect. Fortunately, she instilled self-discipline in me that has kept me determined to succeed and ready to revise as many times as it takes to get it right – with my books and with my paintings.

My goal with Benford Draws a Blank is to inspire the reader to let go of self-doubt and just have fun.  I decided on my main character’s name: Benford (My son’ name is Ben, and someone once called him Benford as a cute nickname) and I filed it away in my brain’s database because I knew someday, I would use it. Benford is original and it has a sort of regal sound to it, so I thought it was fitting for someone not wanting to make any mistakes. I also knew Benford had to have a muse (his dog, Van Gogh) and an uninterested cat for juxtaposition.

My “So What” was clear: Art is supposed to be joyful and when you’re not worried about the end result so much (especially in abstract art) you can get in the “zone” where your inner critic is silenced. That’s when the magic happens. In the end, Benford’s heart tells him something is missing from the painting and is finally inspired by his muse, Van Gogh, which makes the painting “just right”. I felt it came full circle with a sweet, yet subtle ending. The illustrator did an amazing job!

Screenshot 2023-01-05 at 10.02.05 AM

It’s one thing to write a cute little story that kids will like, but it’s another when the story has a strong take-away that is meaningful to the author. The reader will pick up on that, I think, and care more about the story and the character. Art is a topic that I absolutely love and that’s what compelled me to write this story. I hope my love for art, especially abstract art, will inspire others to love it too. When you write with passion and purpose, you’re always mining for heart!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of BENFORD DRAWS A BLANK. (Continental US addresses only, please. Winner announced 1/13/23.)

You can visit Danielle here:

28 thoughts on “Mining for Heart: “Silence Your Inner Critic with the ‘So What?'” by Danielle Dufayet

  1. I’m not sure why, but the name Benford inspires me. The full title makes me want to know Benford’s problem. “So What” does indeed help to fill in the blank! Thanks! I look forward to enjoying your masterpiece.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this I didn’t concept that you created about your inner critic because I have the same problem with my art and other things in my life so this is a book I definitely would be just to myself to remind myself to let go of my inner critic. I can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a charming PB. I love that cover and the story. I am not an artist, but certainly understand a “blank page” as a journalist/writer. Sometimes the openings are the hardest, when you don’t know where to start. Nothing like deadline pressure.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah, the shadow of an amazing parent looms large. I love the quote “Art is supposed to be joyful when you’re not worried about the end result so much…” A lesson I need to be reminded of as I sit down to write. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Danielle, I’m so happy to hear about your new book! You know how much I’ve loved the the inspiration in your previous books! I’m going to order this from my library and if they don’t have it, I’ll ask them to purchase it.
    Blank pages can be scary.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Laura! Yes, staring at a blank anything can be a bit intimidating, but I like to think of it as a collaboration. The “blank” is yearning to be filled with your unique expression. It truly is! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This book would have been helpful when I was a child. Hopefully, it gets in the hands of many children. Congratulations on another book!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for sharing this wonderful backstory. As a fellow artist, I can totally relate to Benford and the canvas that follows him begging to be painted upon. Can’t wait to own a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

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