Yesterday I came across something I got really excited about: This awesome cartoonist, Stephen McCranie. More specifically, I got really excited about his comic essays here that show a lot of the difficulties, frustrations, revelations, joys, and disappointments, and generally all the mental states involved in being a creative person. Really, I think they would be applicable to anyone, even if they don’t consider themselves a creative person, but anyway. I immediately connected with this essay, Brick by Brick, and felt as if he was bringing to the page all sorts of things I’d thought and felt before during the creative process. I kept thinking, “Me, too! Me, too! That’s so true!”
Then I practically screamed when I saw this essay entitled “You Are Not Your Art.” Senior project was a long time ago, so I don’t expect you all to remember, but I vividly remember writing my last illustrated journal that year, that very same realization slowly dawning on me like it was the very first sunrise I’d ever seen. For a second, when I saw the title of his essay, I glimpsed it again. Here’s my original journal:
First of all, I’m definitely investing in a copy of McCranie’s book. It’s genius. Transparent, helpful, honest genius. First of all, I was excited.
Secondly, I was convicted.
Because guess what? That realization I was so overjoyed to have senior year?
Yeah, that’s right. I forgot it.
Last year, when I was teaching art, working incredibly long hours to write my own curriculum and spending more time feeling like a school janitor than an artist, all I wanted to do was create. As much as I loved teaching and spending all day with kids, I longed for the time to be able to invest in myself, too, and explore and create the way I was teaching my students to.
When we first moved to Texas, and I wasn’t teaching or writing lesson plans or cleaning up overflowed toilets and tempera paint and piles of little shoes, I suddenly realized the incredible freedom I had. I could draw every day if I wanted to! My part-time job working at a shop downtown was just that- part-time, and even better, I left it at the shop when I went home!
So even though things were busy and there was a ton to do from figuring out all the different paperwork to unpacking boxes to helping Ethan prepare for the school year and finding the grocery store, I felt like I could breathe again creatively. I started to try to be at least a little more in touch with everyone through my blog and even created a Facebook page, which was huge because I still don’t really get Facebook very well. I was excited that I was trying and that, after awhile, people noticed and I could share my excitement with others.
And then the idea for the etsy shop and the art show became realities, and I was overcome first by how blessed I was, then by how much there was to do. Slowly the blessing part faded into the background, and it became more and more about the to-do lists and making my work look good and what people said about it and whether that Facebook page was getting any views.
It’s not that I’ve become entirely focused on making money with this shop. I mean, yes, I’d love to sell some things and not have all this inventory in boxes that I don’t know what to do with, and pay off my student loans. But it hasn’t been as much about money. It’s been worse than that, really.
It’s been about my self worth. I can’t really say it any better or even as well as Stephen McCranie does in his essay, but, the gist is that over the past month or so, my joy has come less and less from creating, and the incredible gift from God that is, and more and more from how you have responded to what I have created, and that response has dictated, in my confused mind, how I see myself. I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis, I’ve confused my art with who I am again, and I’ve put myself at the center of a story that isn’t about me at all.
I don’t want to be like this.
Is this really me?
How did I let that happen?
I do want to create, to draw, to tell stories, and to give the glory to God with them. I want to share how I see Him in the world around me, how I hear even the rocks crying out in those little moments that are gone before you even fully realize they’ve come. I want to do all that humbly, honestly. “I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, and what I hate, I do.”
Maybe this will change how you see my posts from now on for awhile. Maybe you’ll be seeing each one wondering if I’m posting it because I want to share or because I want to construct a certain self-image so my perfectionism is satisfied. I know I will be wondering that sometimes, too.
I’m still going to launch the etsy shop. But from here on out, I’m trying to keep things in better perspective. And I think perhaps I ought to go back to where I was senior year, when I started those journals. Perhaps I’ll do some more of them. It was a very good thing for me, to examine myself and ask hard questions and sort through things, and I don’t think I’ll ever be done with that.