This year in creativity started with my Voltron: Legendary Defender sketchathons. I wanted to follow it up with doing the couples meme from tumblr, except that this one required the input from friends and fellow fans. I also wanted to do fourteen drawings to countdown to Valentine’s Day; but after five drawings, I stopped.
Not “good enough”
I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why I stopped, but it started with a strong feeling of discontentment. I looked at my finished drawing and found it ugly, that it wasn’t “good enough”, that the people I was drawing for weren’t going to like it. I just fell quiet and decided not to pursue the meme anymore. I let my anxieties become louder and take over — as it had been doing in the past decade.
I also stopped writing. March, April, and May went by — I had a month-long staycation and started on a new job. June and July saw me transition to a home-based work arrangement. But the ideas didn’t stop coming, and I didn’t stop taking notes of things I wanted to write about for this blog.
Then singing came along in August. I had become more active in my church community, and I now find myself singing (if not leading worship) two to three times a week. Our music director remarked that I am now putting in my “ten thousand hours” — then something clicked.
The Ten Thousand Hour Rule is popular enough (to the point of it being debunked), and I’ve talked bout the 95% of work that artists have to put behind 5% of output. I don’t think ides and inspiration is a problem that I truly struggle with, but I realized that what I didn’t have was joy.
Singing and leading worship saw me in unfamiliar territory. I don’t have experience “fronting” a band in any shape or form. I’m used to disappearing in a chorale setup and finding comfort in blending in with my fellow choir members. I’m not used to hearing my own singing voice through loudspeakers. In my prayers, I told God that He’s got the wrong person, and I prayed that a more experienced worship leader’s gonna come back from leave so I can go back to being a background singer.
His answer was, “No.”
It was time to apply the lesson that God equips the called, not the other way ’round. I had to learn how to trust Him while I’m navigating unknown waters because leading worship isn’t just singing. The anxieties came at me like a barrage of 18-wheelers to the point where I was convinced that I would pass out or throw up in front of the congregation, that I would just freeze up and no sound would come out of my mouth. But God is merciful, kind, and strong; and none of my anxieties came to pass. What came to pass was a great time of worship in singing and music.
Soon enough, I learned how to be joyful in the season I’m in and in the duty that has been put in my hands. It helped a lot more that the community’s very supportive and that I have mentors who don’t quit.
Now, I couldn’t deny that drawing is my first love. Singing may have been the first thing I’ve done in terms of artistic expression, but drawing — pencil and ink, and maybe even painting — is the one that I pursued since I learned how to put pencil to paper. I believe that in addition to singing, drawing is a talent placed in my hands for a reason. So I prayed that if He wouldn’t have use for my drawing, to please, just take it away. I didn’t want the burden of anxiety or the frustration of not having a career in drawing.
My prayer was answered with, “No.”
September came, and my Mom celebrated her birthday. I wanted to do something for her and I jut remembered that she wanted “Voltron babies” ever since I drew baby Hunk. I wanted to paint calla lilies or turtles, but heck, if Mommy wanted chibis, she’s going to get chibis. I drew her five Paladins enjoying sweets — and she loved them. It was, to borrow an internet adage, a balm to my soul.
It was through these simple chibis that I got my first two commissions in over a decade. I also got reacquainted with my coloring materials (ink and pencil with Persona 5‘s Morgana, and Fullmetal Alchemist’s Riza Hawkeye; pastel pencils with some night skies, and Conté crayons with some skyscapes). I decided to ride out this momentum and do Inktober this yer.
See, I had been feeding my creative anxiety and insecurities by comparing myself to the artists I admire. I was envious over the fact that they have done more work than I have, that they might have had access to artistic training and education, and that they might have more time than I do to dedicate to their craft. My anxiety had me focus on what I didn’t have and what I couldn’t do as opposed to what I actually have and what I can actually do. What I have, in my eyes, may be little — they started off with little, too. The difference? They worked hard. They didn’t let their anxieties get to them. They were faithful — while I let nearly a decade to pass me by.
I’m not here to cry over spilled milk. I am able to tell this story now in the hopes of encouraging hopeful (not ‘frustrated”) artists like myself and to say: it’s never too late.
I celebrated my 34th birthday over a week ago, and I couldn’t be happier to have this rekindled love for drawing and singing. When singing, it feels like those nights when I was toddler: I would ask my Dad to put on a record and I’d ask my grandma to dress me up so I can sing and dance until I was tired. Drawing feels like being hunched over my study desk in grade school, drawing princess after princess, mermaid after mermaid, just because I wanted to. For Inktober, I drew all of the fanart and self-deprecating self-portraits I wanted and I went to bed satisfied. I’m looking forward to more nights like that with Sketchavember.
Anxiety can go throw itself in a fire. I won’t let it rob me more of my life, my time, and my joy. By the grace of God, I will exercise my creative authority, by singing until my voice is gone, and by drawing and writing until my hands and limbs won’t let me.