I was originally going to write something different for today, but as my blog is a space for me to write and process and share, I’m going where my thoughts are taking me. This may or may not end up on the blog, so if it has — HI! I write an essay every day, and have been working on a monster of one that will probably be turned into a short e-book (I haven’t done one of those in a long time!) as it is full of references, quotes, thoughts, and even sketches.
So I’ll write on something else.
Something interesting happened to me last week. And I’m pretty sure only one or two people know the entire story, so the event is personal, private, even, except for those messages exchanged between me and someone else. It was eye opening and really hit me.
What I say matters to you.
Allow me to explain. I have a personal Facebook account where I don’t add very many people because I want to keep it as a safe place — one where I chat with my family and friends from college or back home in Chicago. I’m more open and, well, a huge drama queen once a month, and often write about my fears or insecurities because those people who can read my updates there are people I feel safe with. I did this separation of personal and professional on purpose so as to present a certain face to the world. Yes, I’m open about many things (just look at all I revealed during my 30 days of daily vlogging!), and my health struggles have begun to be highlighted here on the blog. But I try, as many others in my position do, to stay on-topic, encouraging, and positive when online.
I think part of what happened is that I’m me. I see myself through my own eyes, and track progress and such as it happens. I really did fall into this profession, if it can be called that (as I pay my bills and live off the money I make here, I guess I can!), so each thing I accomplish is often a surprise. I don’t have a chart of things I need to accomplish, nor do I believe that once you’re published, you become a “real” artist. I am incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful relationship with Christen and the rest of the gals over at Stampington, and am so grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me to share my thoughts and artwork with the world.
Because that’s what I love doing most of all: sharing. I get hyper when someone chats with me about art. I gush and encourage those floundering and doubting themselves. I say, “If I can become an artist with no schooling or training or out-of-the-box talent, then anyone can!” I want you all to succeed. I want you all to discover yourselves and become happy with and proud of your art and journals. I want to hold your hand when you begin to doubt yourself. My life is so much better than it was six years ago when I first picked up a pen to try drawing, and I know my entire world view has improved to one of joy and love from a place of deep, dark depression over my various physical issues.
And because of all this, I still feel like the same me. When I get emails from you saying I’ve inspired you, or helped you, or touched you, I sometimes have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’ve touched so many lives. From my little closet. From this corner of a room. How is it that I can reach so far? I’m nobody famous, or have an art degree, or have even shown any of my paintings anywhere but my apartment walls. I don’t teach sold-out classes or have tons of followers.
Okay, maybe the last is true.
But when did this happen? I don’t pay attention to stats or followers as a way to stay somewhat sane, but I will admit I’ve noticed a jump. I was sitting at dinner on Saturday night and was fiddling with my profile on Twitter and showed my phone to my younger brother and said, “I have 1,100 followers on Twitter! How did that happen? I’m not interesting!”
“Maybe you are,” he replied.
Maybe I am.
All of this is backstory to what I learned last week, which was that what I say matters. I think we all measure our success against those artists we admire, thinking that when we make it big, we’ll have all the things they do, go the places they do, have books and articles and shows. I do this. And what I’ve learned, now, is that you do, too.
Now here’s the heart of it, and I’m glad I didn’t spend all that much time on my make-up today, because I’m inevitably going to cry.
If you had walked up to me six years ago and told me I’d be writing articles and designing my own stamp line and working with the very people I admired oh-so-much, I’d have laughed in your face. I’ve come a long way, darling, but I still feel small, at times, and no one can see themselves from a distance. And to think there are people out there just getting started with art or journaling, that feel tiny and untalented, that want to try but don’t have faith just yet, that see my videos or read my articles or see my blog and find themselves picking up a pen or scissors and paint because of what I’ve shared —
I wish you could see me right now.
I really do, crying mess and all.
Because every one of you have touched me. Every email. Note. Comment. You have all blessed me and I am finally seeing myself from the outside. I am seeing that my words can lift you up. Can help you through a bad day. Can give you faith in yourself and your art.
And I see, now, that when I post something negative, something I think won’t matter much because I’m me, and compared to giants, I’m just a little thing, can also affect you. This is what I learned this week. That me doubting myself makes you doubt yourself because I’ve become so much more than a girl with a journal in a little studio. I don’t want that. I don’t want you to be anything but encouraged. I want to be honest about my creative life, but I needed to see I am reaching people, now, am being noticed and seen, and a sense of responsibility comes along with that.
And you all make it all brilliantly wonderful and fun to come to work every day.