Keep Going, You’re Doing Great!

This is what I did today:

– I worked on a book review (of Shion Miura’s novel The Great Passage) that very few people will read.

– I finished a translation (of a page from Breath of the Wild Master Works) that very few people will read.

– I worked on the final chapter a story (of the experimental Majora’s Mask AU I’ve mentioned before) that very few people will read.

– I inked and laid base flat digital colors onto a three-panel comic (about university-level teaching) that very few people will read.

– I sent final presentation evaluation emails personalized for each of my students, which I highly doubt they will read.

– I updated my CV and departmental annual progress report to reflect all the professional work I did in April, and let’s be real – no one is ever going to read either of those documents.

Yesterday I saw someone in my professional cohort tweet about someone else in my professional cohort, saying that he is emerging as the most refreshing voice in our field. Even though I know this had absolutely nothing to do with me, the tweet hit me right in the gut. Is my own work not original or impressive enough to be commented on? Will it ever be? It can be difficult to keep doing creative, intellectual, and administrative work day after day with the understanding that it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to care or even pay attention in the first place. Not everyone can be the brightest witch of her age, after all.

This sort of existential angst can lead to depression, especially when coupled with the sort of mental exhaustion that results from doing the kind of daily work I outlined above. I’m going to have to admit that I’m not always the warmest ray of sunshine, but I try to counteract the encroachment of despair by scattering small seeds of positivity. Every day I try to leave a review on the work of an academic or small-press-published author on Goodreads, or a short comment on a small-fandom fanfic on AO3, or a glowing review of someone’s craftwork on Etsy, or a line of appreciation on someone’s post on Patreon, or enthusiastic tags on a reblog of someone’s post on Tumblr, or an encouraging comment on someone’s picture on Instagram. There are a lot of creators out there who are doing good work but don’t get enough support, and I strongly believe that we have to support one another. Knowing that maybe I was able to add a bit more fuel to someone’s fire helps me sustain my faith in the validity of creative work and creative communities.

But let me tell you a secret – when I write to someone else to encourage and support them, really I’m writing to myself. “Keep going, you’re doing great,” I might comment on the work of another writer or artist, but I’m saying it to them because that’s exactly what I need to tell myself.

So, if you’re reading this, keep going! You’re doing great!!

Ten Positive Art Exercises

(1) Find a picture of a cute frog, and give yourself ten seconds to copy it. Do another copy in thirty seconds, and then another in a minute. Repeat the process with a second frog, and then draw it with your first frog. Now they’re frog friends!

(2) Draw a piece of your favorite fruit. First draw it whole, and then draw it in slices. Now draw it as a topping on a cupcake or a parfait or a slice of pie.

(3) Draw a leaf from your favorite tree, both rightside-up and upside-down. Now draw one of the seeds, berries, cones, or fruit from this tree. Now turn the leaf and the seed into a Korok!

(4) Draw a speech bubble saying “You’re awesome,” and then draw your first anime boyfriend/girlfriend underneath that speech bubble. For an extra challenge, you can draw them in both the artist’s original style and in your own style.

(5) Draw Gozilla with huge sparkling Steven Universe eyes, and then color your drawing using a palette randomly selected from a color palette generator (like this one).

(6) Draw a video game system or control pad that brings back good memories from your childhood. Now color it with super shiny pastel shades!

(7) Design a set of three to five simple stickers that you would love to have received as a child. Please consider: dinosaurs, knights, planets, mythological creatures, fairies, and mad scientists.

(8) Draw the monster from your favorite horror movie blushing and being shy and adorable. Remember, we’ve all done crazy things to get sempai to notice us.

(9) Buddhist hand gestures used to enhance meditative practice are called mudras. Run an image search and try to draw at least two left hands and two right hands in mudra positions.

(10) Draw a piece of inorganic trash, which can be anything: a soda can, a shoe that’s falling apart, a worn-out tire, a plastic bottle, a discarded toy, an empty cereal box, and so on. Now draw fresh green plant shoots growing out of it, and add one or two flowers if you’d like. New life always emerges from the ruins of old mistakes!