Stickers for Sale?

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:

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Be Your Own Inspiration

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.

Looking Inside

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

Amateur

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

Stifling Myself

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

Personal Growth from a New Perspective

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.

Character 3

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

40,000

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’ve Published My First Coloring Book!

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.

The Artist

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