I walked the halls of my high school thinking if I could only sing like so-and-so. I’m deaf in one ear and partially in the other, but that didn’t stop me from taking voice lessons and spending a decade of my life pursuing music in various forms. On a very good day, I could hit about 3/4 of the notes on key. It was never going to be my best medium but that didn’t stop this girl from trying.
I eventually realized I was more of a frustrated poet than songwriter. So I dove headlong into every poetry reading and writing scene I could find. I have always loved words and words have music in them if you really listen. Rhythm and cadence and pitch and tone. Words are music when properly penned. And they didn’t require me lugging a 5 octave keyboard with me.
Then in the least likely place of all, I discovered the art that lights my soul on fire. Watercolor and lettering… drawing, painting and submerging my world in liquid color that bleeds beyond the edges and blends days and stories together into something greater than they could be alone.
It was only after 18 rounds of the cerebral strain of malaria and other tropical disease decimated my health and sent me back here to the USA that I really began to explore artistically. It is hard to believe that this started five years ago. Five long devastating, beautiful, incredible years I wouldn’t trade for anything nor would I wish them on anyone. Beauty really can come from ashes, even the ashes of burned up dreams. My story is living proof.
Like everyone who ever starts out to learn anything, we all start somewhere. Usually we start by emulating styles and techniques of work and experts we like. And then after a season of exploration, we take what we have learned and start remixing it into something new. Something ours. Something more than form and technique. Something that has who we are mixed into the creative act itself.
It is so, SO easy friend to look at where I am or where someone else is and judge the quality and value of your creative beginning by someone else’s creative middle or end. I know I’ve done it. Some days I catch myself still tripping over that mindset, usually while scrolling Instagram. I know you know what I’m talking about.
You see, many of us (probably most of us even) live in a culture steeped more than ever in comparison. Especially in our online creative worlds. But our worth does not rise or fall based on who we paint like, sound like, write like. Our value is not measured by our follower counts. Our success is not determined by how well we master the method that is the latest craze or trail blaze the newest trend.
Because there really is MORE than enough to go around, we can celebrate one another’s success without any fear that it threatens our own.
The bravest thing any of us can ever do is go on the journey to become who we uniquely are. To embrace our story, to share our one-of-a-kind voice and to celebrate raw authenticity in the face of a culture that still bows before polished images.
In our creative communities, we desperately need to cultivate a culture of celebration, not celebrity.
Comparison is compromise that becomes a box that confines, limits and stifles.
True community can only happen when we each are free to embrace the gift of being completely ourselves. True unity cannot be found outside of a celebration of diversity and uniqueness. Unity does not mean uniformity in appearance and action.
And community and celebration are central to us finding and living out of our wholly, unique creative voice.
A little example… I am getting ready to kick off the first ever Letters & Petals in Jacksonville, FL this Thursday Sept 6, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how what I create now looks worlds apart from what I was first starting out. Worlds apart.
This was what I created in 2014 when the artistic part of my journey was just getting started:
There are aspects of this piece that work and I loved making it. I was creating! But it really wasn’t fully me. And I knew it. It was a hodgepodge of styles I tried out on the way to finding my own. And that was OK. I can see some of who I’ve become peeking out around the edges, but it took about 2-3 years of really playing and growing and failing and trying and discarding to nail my creative process. To find my creative voice. Which is always growing and changing with me… creativity is a living dynamic journey, not a static destination. It isn’t about arriving, it is about the journey where we are always arriving but never fully arrived.
Here’s what that first attempt grew into 4+ years later, when I lettered that quote again yesterday:
Out of 7.4 billion people on planet earth, there is only one me. And there is only one you. We need you. Your voice. Your perspective. Your story. Your style. YOU are a gift.
You beloved are you. Period. And the bravest, most dangerous thing you will ever do is dare to become exactly who you are meant to be.
And I for one am cheering you on every step of the way.
Ladies, have you joined the Own Your Awesome Challenge yet? The workbooks will go out Tuesday AM (Amended because I forgot about Labor Day Sept 3). And Jacksonville friends- Who want to learn watercolor lettering and florals with me?!?! You have until Wednesday at 3 PM and then the doors close for this class, unless it fills up sooner! Check it out here.