I’ve recently started making my own stickers for the kids I see at work. Many people have told me that I should make an etsy shop and start selling them too. Would anyone be interested in buying stickers from me if I started doing this? I’d even be willing to make custom designs. I’m always looking for new drawing ideas. Here’s a little sample of some of the ones I’ve done so far:
As seasonal depression has slowly but surely sucked all of the life and motivation out of me in the last few months, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to write. An overwhelming sense of shame and mediocrity grip me as I attempt to do my daily poetry. I’m so distracted by the idea that I am not good enough, that my words are ignorant and hollow, that I can’t concentrate for long enough to create anything. Then this only reaffirms my crippling self-doubt, making it harder to come back to my laptop the next day.
Yesterday after finishing a poem that I wasn’t particularly proud of, I decided to read some of the older ones I had compiled for publishing this coming year. Even though I’ve done this in the past, I was still surprised at just how wonderful I felt these older poems were. I know I was partly moved because they reminded me of the times when I had written them, but I can’t deny that they are also excellent poems in their own right. I think anyone could enjoy them just as much as I have. The more I read, the more thick the wall of tears became against my eyelids, inevitably overflowing into hot streams down my cheeks. I wrote these. I had to keep reminding myself.
Today despite still not feeling particularly creative or inspired, the sense that I’m a failure and I’ve never written anything good nor will I ever write anything good is absent. I know that inspiration will find me again. I believe in and am proud of the things I have already created. I feel at peace inside this artistic dry spell.
Looking back at my old work was exactly what I needed. I’ve done this in the past not only with my poetry, but with my art as well. One day I was nearly in tears, wondering how I had ever believed I could draw or use my drawing tablet at all. Then I decided to pull up some of my old drawings. I was so happy looking at them. These are really good! I was delighted and surprised that I was so easily able to forget my own talent.
Sometimes the combination of mental illness, writer’s block, and exposure to so many other people’s amazing work online can leave us feeling inadequate. In these moments I try to remind myself of Lizzo’s wise words: “I am my inspiration.” We don’t need to be at the same level or have the same style of writing or drawing as other people. It can be hard to be an impartial judge of our own talent. That’s why it’s important to go back over our older work. So many times I’ve found that something I once hated or didn’t think much of has turned out to be one of my best creations when I look back. The poems I wrote as a teenager that I was embarrassed by seem simply beautiful to me now. I’ve even decided to publish them, and they’re available on Amazon if you’re interested.
I guess my point is, don’t trust your opinion of yourself or your ability when you are feeling low. The mind has a way of convincing us of things that aren’t true, especially when it comes to our perceptions of ourself. Just be patient and remind yourself through hard evidence. If your brain is telling you that you can’t write, go back and read what you’ve already written to prove it wrong. If it says you can’t draw, take the time to enjoy a personal art show of past works to silence that critical voice. Hell, sometimes this even works if I’m having a particularly bad body image day. I’ll look at somewhat recent photos I’ve taken of myself to remember that I can feel beautiful.
The only person you need to compare yourself to is your past self. Be your own inspiration. And most importantly, I want you to remember that every single thing you have created or will create is incredible and worthwhile, because it is a piece of your mind made manifest. When I look at something someone I love has drawn or written however silly it may seem to them, I love it. I love it because it came from them, and that’s all that matters. That’s what makes everything any one of us creates special and perfect. And lastly, let yourself rest sometimes. I promise your inspiration will come back soon enough.
The blank page is a practice
of reaching deep within
to see what lies in the shadows
behind your heart, suspended
on the other side of silence
Some days you'll find it flooded
a pressure valve in need of release
other days a smooth wall with no seams
a concrete caste that's settled over everything
impenetrable, cold, and cruel cocoon
Some days writing is as easy
as stepping into the stream
of liquid emotion flowing freely
tracing the contours and shadows
of an aching that appears in living color
Some days it takes a chisel
to search for cracks in thick cement
an uncomfortable effort to uncover
the clumsy, crude impressions
of a crippled and cringing unconscious
Unprompted outpourings of an overflowing heart
contrasted with a stiffness that contracts the soul
unable to predict which familiar state awaits me
as I sit down dutifully to endure
whoever I am today
I am an artist afraid to practice because each effort must be a masterpiece inspiration extinguished under the weight of violent, consistent self-criticism Repulsed by the bitter taste of trail and error searching for a sure formula for success unable to reconcile the necessity of an amateur's imperfect products I marvel at the innocence the way a child creates with an open heart with no concern for mastery or exceptionalism content with whatever comes Surprising their own curiosity the natural progression of true talent disguised in the simple joy of creation itself satisfied to make anything at all
Imperfection paralyses all endeavors the subtle ache of not enough clipped wing of creativity The hovering eye of criticism haunts each heavy pen mark lips pucker with impatience Who am I to exert my existence in the form of further manifestation polluting the world with more mediocrity Embarrassed at the thought of presuming myself to be a great artist through blundering attempts at self-expression When really I'm just letting out slow exhales of tangled thoughts in an attempt to postpone an implosion
Self-help books, new age rituals, skill building, knowledge gathering, psychoanalysis, deep introspection. These things have stood as guiding pillars in my life. I ended up majoring in psychology, not because I had any idea of how to turn that into a career, but because it utterly fascinated me. I couldn’t get enough of the things I was learning in my classes. I never had to study. My brain naturally absorbed and integrated every scrap of knowledge I was given in those four years of riveting education.
The pursuit of knowledge never needed to have a higher purpose for me. It was an end in and of itself. I LOVE learning, especially about the mind, my own mind more specifically. I am truly blessed with this passion for academia. Learning is a hobby that can never get old. There are a limitless amount of things to study. Learning something new never fails to light me up inside and send me into that blissful flow state. The rest of the world falls away as I become engrossed in new knowledge and sharing that knowledge with anyone and everyone who will listen.
Society has a way of twisting my intentions though. I get bogged down with the motivations of humanity as a collective, or at least what the media portrays as our motivations. Everything we do as a species seems to be directed at some ultimate end goal, whether that be a physical reward like wealth or simply becoming “better” in one way or another. We lose the moment in our fixation on the ending. Sometimes I have to stop myself and ask, “Wait, why am I doing this again?” Any answer besides “I enjoy doing it” fills me with a dreaded sense of obligation, yet just doing something for pleasure can overwhelm me with existential doubt. “What’s the point then?” As if any point besides pleasure and happiness could make an activity matter more.
When I get too caught up in focusing on outcomes or “bettering myself” through my personal pursuits, I eventually get burnt out and want to give up on everything. It really wears you down mentally to spend every day trying to reach some self-growth goal, implying who and where you are right now isn’t good enough. I never seem to reach whatever goal I’m aiming at, not that I’d be any happier if I did, because what then? No, the real purpose is found in the experiences themselves, in the very act of growing.
For example, when I began my daily practice of drawing during the pandemic, my intention was clear. I like to draw. It makes me happy. It helps me connect with my inner child and reminds me of those carefree days of doodling in my school notebooks or sketching manga with my best friend. That was it. Pure and simple. And it did bring me so much joy. Without trying to, I saw myself getting better and better. I didn’t care how my art stood up against the art of others, or what I was going to “do” with all these images. I found innocent satisfaction in the miracle of the mind and body’s ability to improve at anything that you choose to practice.
After such a long time doing this, however, I began to forget what the purpose was. Instead of wanting to draw everyday, instead of it being a time of rest and relaxation, it became a duty, just another chore, something I had to do. I started getting stressed about not somehow making money off of my work. I got jealous and disheartened rather than inspired by the work of others. I was distraught and frustrated at my lack of progress. I felt stagnant and full of self-criticism and self-doubt.
I am writing all of this down as a reminder of the remedy, if and when this cycle should unravel again. The first thing I need to allow myself to do is TAKE A BREAK. Not drawing for a few days, a few weeks, even a few months, does not mean I will never draw again. It just means I need a break to give myself the space to want to draw again. Forcing myself to do it under some assumption I have to keep practicing to get better makes no sense when the point isn’t to get better, it’s to have fun. Getting better is just part of that fun, but is meaningless on its own.
The second step after a reasonable break, is to try something new. I cannot express the joy I have rediscovered through this step. Trying something new is a great way to shake myself out of stagnation in anything, but especially art. Not only do I have to focus more, it breaks me free from my strict expectations. Whatever I create doesn’t have to be the best thing I’ve done. It doesn’t have to top yesterday. I feel mentally accepting of the fact that I won’t be incredible at what I’m doing. It’s the first time I’ve even tried! When I do something new or in a different way than usual, I escape the fear of failure, while also opening up the possibility of surprising myself with success.
I think most of us end up running our lives entirely on autopilot. Then we wonder why we are so unhappy. I’ve come to realize, without changing anything externally, I can completely shift my experience of daily life by just shifting and/or re-centering myself on my intention. Sure, I enjoy doing things that largely fall under the umbrella of “self-improvement,” but that doesn’t mean I do them because I’m not good enough, or because happiness lies at some personal perfection finish line. I like getting better, not because I’m “better” at the end, but because it’s fun to play with that edge of your own ability. It’s exciting to see what I’m able to do whether that be mentally or physically.
So, future Rachel, if you’re reading this, don’t forget! Whether in art or anything else you choose to do, happiness and purpose are not to be found in results. The joy and the meaning are inside the very moments of creation, of learning. You don’t have to know the ending. All you have to do is follow the feeling. The feeling of curiosity, of playfulness, or even the feeling of laziness when you need a rest from it all. No final product matters if you have to be consistently miserable to get there.
Artifacts of bright laughter fingers tracing patterns in thick layers of dust Joy shackled to a clock love and freedom rations doled out in small doses light dancing unwitnessed in the sharp art of crystal shards hidden behind thick walls the hard geode of conscience endless eclipse, sun over moon arresting the rhythm of the tide absence of sound that suffocates sinking below the weight of still water last sparking static of stagnant energy the sweet perfume of slow death sickening spirals of fragrant fog escape open pores in the earth unsustainable pressure crushes my pearl into powder
There is a man in Italy with a body made black by tiny tattooed x's a permanent reminder of the burden he shares the shameful knowledge of a horrific truth hidden in plain sight the blood staining the hands of humanity is impossible to measure 6 million bodies burned in German gas chambers shaken to our very core by the unimaginable cruelty every two and a half hours that same death toll is met again with silence and disinterest the clinking of silverware on ceramic those 40,000 tiny x's represent a body count the sentient lives lost each second to humanity's greedy palate to grotesque notions of tradition the earth groans under the weight of our atrocities as they continue unimpeded, growing every day 40,000 slaughtered every second 40,000 tiny markings of ink crowding one body a silent protest, a sadly inadequate attempt to atone for the immense pressure of suffering that is impossible to conceive that chokes the lungs of the world with the thick, black smoke of karma with the unreal irony of the word "humane" do not dare ask God for mercy we don't know the meaning
I am so pleased to announce that my positive affirmation coloring book I’ve been working on for over a year now is finally available for purchase on Amazon. I was inspired to make this through my time at a Child Advocacy Center. There are so many children that are put in unimaginably awful situations every day. Through this book and my art, I hope to offer them a small place of refuge from the often dark realities of their everyday lives.
This book was made particularly for children and teens that have experienced trauma, but it would be great for people of any age. I hope that private individuals, as well as therapists, social workers, and schools will find a benefit in having a resource like this.
Please check it out and let me know what you think. I would love to get feedback, and if you happen to purchase one, please leave me a review! It would mean so very much to me.
I'd love to know how others write do they have a plan before they put pen to paper or place their fingers on the keys do they know where they're going as they embark upon this daily journey For me writing is a chance encounter with my secretive inner self I never know what she has to say until I sit down to listen the conversation begins in silence shyly unraveling in slow motion Revelations of private wisdom glimmering behind the veil of the person I pretend to be that funny feeling of never knowing what's inside my own mind until I give it space to surface The stifling self-criticism that bars the door to my still, secluded, subconscious sanctuary tells me a masterpiece must have a plan fills me with fear of wasting time translating an underwhelming message that doesn't matter But conversations do not have blueprints you can't predict which will change you or save you suddenly from yourself it's always worth it to take the risk even if it's just for the pleasure of having someone to talk to So I faithfully open the door each morning hoping that the artist within arrives to tell me something beautiful even though some days she stands me up she is a busy woman after all with lots of better things to do