Creative Fingerprints

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Some people believe in fate. Others in coincidences. I believe in God-incidences.

I’ve written before about how I died and came back to life, and how when I came back, I questioned everything of who I was before the burnout. I’ve also shared how God gave creativity back to me delightfully and unexpectedly through a series of specifically timed opportunities.

I recognize the same divine fingerprints again, the pattern of multiple unsolicited creative jobs coming in a short period.

Shortly after I began the Writer’s Challenge, I am quiet enough to recognize the inner voice of my scary dream calling out. Then I declare it out loud, almost accidentally: I am a calligrapher

Five days later, an old friend commissions me for a calligraphy piece. Two days after that, I receive an email from a total stranger. “Can you do calligraphy for me?” Umm, yeah! But how did you get my email contact? And did someone tell you about my declaration? It turns out he was sent by an old classmate who advertised her graphic design services on Craigslist. Calligraphy was beyond her scope.

I battle my usual fear. What if I can’t translate their vision into reality? What if my style isn’t what they’re looking for? (This is a heightened concern especially when it’s a friend who comes straight to me without shopping around to see if other styles suit their vision better.) I fear the day when I fail to deliver a client’s vision.

Of course it is an irrational fear. Both have generously showered me with their positive feedback. Oh, the flood of relief that comes when they like a sketched concept in the first pass! I’m excited to buy new supplies as my old paints dried up with the last creative drought.

So I saw another fingerprint today, while taking a break after starting this blog last night. Today I receive an automated email from Behance, an online community of creative professionals. Apparently last year I began setting up an account for an online portfolio in my last creative spurt, but I didn’t finish. Thus the email prompt to resume the account and showcase my work online.

Browsing others’ portfolios triggers a whole host of other insecurities. It’s one thing for my friends and family to say I’m talented, but it’s another fear to share my work with a professional community who can recognize the difference between beginner’s skill and a well-formed craft. Their work, and this Writer’s Challenge, has given me a sober view of my need to practice and hone my ability. But they have also inspired me to do just that and cultivate what I’ve been given. 

While I do that, I’ll keep my eyes and heart tuned for the next fingerprint. Because divine fingerprints, and the One whose hands they belong to, give me courage to face my fears.

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I am a Calligrapher

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Apparently Picasso said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Or as  the wise King Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

One of the reasons I prefer calligraphy over drawing is that drawing is not my forte. When my handwriting is on what I call “good behaviour,” accentuated by a smooth pen with the perfect point, a sheet of thick paper, on a just-right surface, I can write something and it can look artistic or beautiful without me doing much else to it.

I may not have been born with stunning supermodel looks, but I was given great penmanship. Some of my artist friends think in images a lot, but for me, I love the forms of the letters themselves. I like to play with how letters fit together in a word, or in a phrase in a given space.

There’s a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that I love about the pen nib gliding across a physical page. During a defining time of transition and decision making a few years ago, I switched my journaling from paper to electronic, because I type faster than I can write. The thoughts were flowing too fast for me to journal old school with pen and paper. But after the transition passed, I went back to my beloved pen and paper.

When I’m working on a piece for someone who wants some elements of drawing included with the words, I usually have a freakout internally. I fight the usual barrage of doubts, “What if I can’t draw the style they’re looking for? What if I can’t draw the item in a way that is intelligible and recognizable?”

But then, I am saved by the act of stealing. I google to find what other illustrators have done. And then I copy it in the most simple style that I can. For example, I’m working on a piece that is to include a golden retriever. How in the world do I draw it so that it looks like a dog and not some abstract art or worse, a butchered animal? Fortunately, as a calligrapher, the words are the main focus, not the images. (To be clear, the act of thievery today in the image above is a stolen quote, not a stolen image.)

Oh my! Did you catch that? I almost missed it myself… That’s the first time I’ve ever called myself that! It totally just slipped out on its own. Looks like we’re back to a Day 1 declarationI am a calligrapher. 

I Declare I’m A…

There’s something of a pattern of reluctance towards putting any “labels” on myself…. I don’t call myself a runner (even though I’ve run ridiculous distances). And I certainly don’t call myself a writer (even though I have this on-again-off-again blog). Somehow I am more comfortable with calling myself a “person who runs” or a “person who writes.” 

This slight technical difference in words makes me feel less defined by the action, or less committed to the image of the label. Somehow I’ve managed to concoct some specific view of what I think a good writer should be. I don’t write like ___, whose authentic and transparent voice I admire. I’m not sarcastic and smart in my writing like ____. I won’t get you rolling on the floor laughing like ____. I’m not even a grammar geek or grammar nazi. My vocabulary feels too simple. I’m not a strong reader, so how could I be a good writer? I mean, who goes and gets a Bachelors in Communication, deliberately avoiding taking a single English class? 

To declare I am a writer feels like too much accountability to let anyone outside my own head hear it. In the world of my head, I am safe and content to simply dream up ideas, but never really act on them. I remember talking with some close friends about some ideas I was excited to explore. Several months later, I ran into one of them shopping at a craft show. As we caught up, she asked, “So, how’s it going with getting _____ going?” Oops, did I share that idea out loud? Can I take it back?

Recently I was doing an online quiz where you had to choose the best word out of each set of four words that best describes you. There was a defining parameter – to choose your answer based on what you were like as a child. It actually tripped me up a little because in a lot of ways I have changed. But I think what they were getting at was the idea that we are often our most natural selves in childhood, with the least inhibitions and piles of fears or hurt that inevitably accumulate as we grow into adults navigating our way through life in the world. 

It got me thinking about the intense, unfiltered, fearless little girl I used to be. This writing challenge reminded me that I used to create illustrated story books  when I was about 8. I wrote a simple story line, and I even drew some pictures (though I still claim I can’t draw to save my life now). 

What happened to her? I think it’s time to respond to the divine whisper I heard in my heart not long ago to write more. I think it’s time to call her out again.
Hey, World! I declare I am a writer.  
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This post is my effort in taking up Jeff Goin’s Day 1 of Great Habits of Writers Challenge