Courtney Watkins wants you and your kids to—in the words of Nike—just do it!
The author, artist, TV personality and mom of one, who has worked with such companies as Disney, The Jim Henson Company ("The Possibility Shop") and CBS, is celebrating her newest creative endeavor, her book "Dream It! Draw It! Think It! Do It!"
In her book, she motivates kids and parents to color, brainstorm and even describe how colors make you feel. Tingly? That's definitely red.
We caught up with Watkins over email, where she told us what inspired her book, how she's instilling confidence in her daughter and what she won't do (because it gives her butterflies).
What inspired you to create your new book, "Dream It! Draw It! Think It! Do It!"?
The creative adventures I had as a kid—with my big brother, parents, neighborhood kids, friends—this is what inspires all of my work. It was a great childhood, so it's my wish (compulsion?) to share ideas on how to stir up some key ingredients.
What do you hope kids and their parents will learn from creating/writing in your new book?
There's big power in playing, brainstorming, imagining, supposing, musing, wondering—solo or in good company. All of it can lead to wowza results. And families doing this kind of creative play together will bolster their communication and bond. Fun is a very sticky glue connecting participants.
Lots of the pages in "Dream It! Draw It! Think It! Do It!" can inspire conversations during dinner. The result: Family members will see each other in a new light—not just the kid with the messy room or the parent doing the homework hustle. And that overworked mobile device? It can get a well-deserved break!
Fun is a very sticky glue connecting participants.
You have worked in different mediums: print, video, digital. How have you been able to transition so seamlessly between them? Do you have a favorite?
Regarding the various mediums as a new gadget, tool or toy—it’s kinda fun to discover how to use each one to roll out a new idea. My very favorite is writing and illustrating books, followed by live experiences, whether “in the field” with kids exploring outdoors or on the set with "The Possibility Shop" or on the fly with "Thinking UP!"
Describe the moment you first felt successful.
When I learned to tie my shoes before my older brother! I can still feel that burst of WOW!
And when my first book was published. Even as a kid, I had such reverence for books, so to then be in the mix as a real author and illustrator—I was gobsmacked with delight to be in that club!
As a successful female creator, what are some ways that you want to teach your daughter about "girl power"?
Early on, I would say to my daughter, “You are strong, brave and quite capable!” One day, a friendly neighbor called out to the then-3-year-old, “Careful!” as she saw my girl “tightrope walking” along a low garden wall. My daughter paused, checked her balance and called back, “It’s OK! I’m strong, brave and capable!” WOW! I thought, the kid is listening! So, seeing how this message sunk in early—my husband and I have continued to add to it so our daughter will continue to know, embrace and celebrate her “girl power”!
Has there been anything about building your career that has surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
People’s reactions—kids' or parents'—are great rocket fuel to keep me go-go-going!
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own creative career?
Avoid fluorescent lighting—it hums, crackles and can be really annoying when you’re trying to think!
Early on, I would say to my daughter, “You are strong, brave and quite capable!”
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and an entrepreneur to keep everything in balance?
Well, if everyone had a Jeff Robinson, it would make the balance conundrum much easier. Jeff (aka my husband) is an extraordinary support and fierce creative in his own right! This is how my balance is kept: an extraordinary partner. Oh, and I found some extra valuable time by washing my hair only once a week.
What would you say are the most important skills/experiences that have helped you get to where you are today?
A sense of humor, sheer tenacity, bravery (even if faked), a majorly insistent muse and a desire to have a work schedule that suits my daughter’s.
What's a challenge in your career that you were able to overcome—one that perhaps helped you succeed at a later time or at something else?
I was asked if I wanted to sing the theme song to "The Possibility Shop." Noooooooo! I always contended that the reason I was tall was to stand in the back row of any chorus and mouth, “Carrots and peas, peas and carrots” to fake singing. Just the thought of singing out loud in front of anyone gave me major butterflies. But on this occasion, I thought I’ve created every single other aspect of this show so, I should do this, too. And taking a cue from what I encourage kids to do, I told myself, “Scoot out on that branch and try it!” And I did. And sure I sound a bit warbly, a bit like an earnest spring bird … but I did it!
And that is something I recall when I find myself in any other "Noooooo!" situations: “Scoot out on that branch!”