You Matter. Your Art Matters. Take Care of You.

A couple months ago, a young girl came up to me and handed me a business card that said only, “You matter.”

I’d never met her before, and I haven’t seen her since, but I appreciated the reminder. Today, I’m here to remind you that, even if you feel like the world is ending, your art matters – and you matter. Consider this your virtual “You matter” card.

For many of us creatives, the weeks since the election have been emotionally devastating, and it can be hard to find the motivation and concentration to create. Maybe you’re even questioning what the point is of your creative project. With the way the world’s going, why bother?

But making art isn’t frivolous; it’s more important than ever to share the stories that only you can tell, because we all need to learn about people who are different than ourselves. As creatives, we can share our unique experiences and perspectives. Your voice matters. By creating, you’re showing the world that you know that. You won’t be silenced. You’ll speak up for people like yourself, and for people who aren’t like you.

It’s a brave thing you do, and vital.

You matter, and that means you need to take care of yourself, mind and body. As we head into the new year, practice self-care that will allow you to continue making your art: tend to your spirit, and be kind to your body.

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My Creative Bucket List: Art to Make Before I Die

A lot of people have lists of things they’d like to do before they die; I have a list of things I’d like to make.

As part of my annual review process in 2016, for personal accountability that I’m actually working towards my creative goals, I’m publishing my creative bucket list with status updates. I understand that the final step of getting a novel published or selling a short story is out of my control — but I can write the best novel or short story I’m capable of to improve my odds. I’ll update this post in the future, at least annually. (Last updated December 2017.)

My creative bucket list includes writing and illustration, my current creative foci. In my day job as a graphic designer, I need to ship my work regularly. Many of my creative goals involve shipping projects, not just completing them. To me, sharing the work is an essential aspect of completing it.

What’s on your creative bucket list?

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Overambitious: Recovering from Creative Burnout

just-beI’ve overextended myself, wrung myself dry of creative energy. Not ideas, mind you, I have plenty of those – but my ability to execute them is at capacity.

I’ve disdained comfort and safety. “I’m not the type of person who watches TV every night,” I tell myself. “I make things.” I’m constantly pushing my own boundaries, instantly jumping to the next project when I master the last one. Learn one recipe, time for a new one. I feel the need to be constantly growing by experiencing new things. Every year I make an ambitious set of goals in all aspects of my life. I care about everything; I have opinions about everything. No decisions are easy or simple.

I’m happy to be passionate about life, but sometimes it’s just exhausting.

I don’t want to be average. I want to leave a mark on the world, even if just among my family and friends. I aspire to more.

I want to do more, accomplish more, read more, learn more, create more.

But I need to just be more.

I think it’s time to let myself be comfortable for a while.

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Legacy through Effort

Those who do and make yearn to leave some mark on the world, some legacy of our hard work. Yet in our desire for success, we might be held back from our full potential by fears of irrelevance or failure.

You may feel that so many innovations are happening, so much art is being created, so many worthy causes are asking for help, that it’s impossible to stand out. Don’t succumb. The world is drowning in content, yet the demand for more never ceases. If what you make is good and the right audience sees it, they will remember it and share it with other people.

Legacy need not be the success of our efforts, but can celebrate the efforts themselves. Though Susan B. Anthony never saw her goal of woman’s suffrage achieved, we still credit her lifetime of work for the cause. Though Giordano Bruno was executed, we honor his resolve and dedication to reason, his refusal to bow to the censorship of the church. Leonardo da Vinci is celebrated for his inventions of flying machines and other inventions that were never constructed or functional for being ahead of his time; we recognize his vision and curiosity. What matters is not that we succeed, but that we try.

Legacy is not easy, should not be easy. The challenge is what earns notice. If anyone could do your work, what makes it special?

The hard problems are the most rewarding – the challenge increases the value. Don’t reject projects just because they’ll be challenging – but at the same time don’t set yourself up for certain failure – choose projects that are a reach but attainable, that will push your abilities.

Through our efforts – not the results of those efforts – we build a legacy among those who react to our work.

Personal Bests: Pride without Need for Recognition

My very first day of pole vaulting…and I didn’t get much better from here! (Though I did hold the pole at the tape :D)

I competed in track and field in high school, an unmemorable athlete. I pole vaulted, practicing just enough to clear opening height half the time, and stuttered through hurdles with laughable form. I might earn the team a point a meet.

But, senior year, I found my event: 400 meters. One lap around a track. A quarter mile. You need endurance; the race requires a near sprint for a full minute or more.

I pushed myself through repeat 200’s. I improved. Sometimes I wasn’t the slowest leg on our 400m relay team. And our relay team was good.

County finals rolled around and I thought, “This will be my last 400m ever.” I ran faster than I ever had before. My legs were numb as I rounded the final curve. I couldn’t believe my legs were still responding to commands. I matched the girl beside me. I couldn’t hear the Incomprehensibly to me, I qualified for county finals. I never imagined that I could be one of the nine fastest 400m runners in the county. But my hard work was rewarded with a Personal Record (PR)…and another race?!

I didn’t place in the county finals (unless you count last), but I surpassed my own expectations of my ability. I was a runner of no note, except to myself. I still remember my PR, nine years later, without looking it up. I remember how hard I worked for it. It’s a landmark on my personal map of achievements.

In my writing, I have no notions or visions of being immortalized as the next Thoreau or Abbey; I hope to inspire thought, appreciation, and creation in others while honing my craft. I want to create to the best of my own abilities, to create something that I am proud of.

In your work, or if you race non-competitively, aim to achieve the most you can, yourself. Set the bar against your own PR, not the world record. Don’t get caught up in trying to be the best; enjoy the competition with yourself as you push for your best. But leave yourself open to new goals and achievements – you just might surprise yourself.