Lettering and fear

We took a short vacation and went to visit Tyson’s parents. It was good to take a break and do something else for a few days. Mostly we hung out and did some shopping. But being away from my computer— my charger died and I had to order a new one— and practicing my lettering was very fulfilling. Lettering gives me peace. Lettering helps me think. I don’t really know or practice many styles. I tend to lean towards calligraphy, cursive, script, and a tad of a modern look. Brushes are my favorite tool but I have thought of taking up the pointed nib again.

The truth is that I could be lettering all day, every day. I try to letter as much as I can during the day, breaks, between classes, in class, and well, every time I have a chance. If we go to a restaurant, I try to remember to letter its name and you can find me lettering it.

There are other things I would like to do or spend my time doing. I crave creative projects and deadlines to pour my heart and soul into them doing what I love to do: paint letters, draw letters, pushing letters, coloring letters, and well, just creating stuff. Sitting in a corner doing nothing is not for me, though sometimes I just need to force myself to do just that. My hands though, they want to keep moving, lettering, and guiding the brush delicately on a piece of paper giving life to each stroke.

Lettering gives me peace. Lettering helps me think.

I guess the big elephant in the room would be the question of why don’t I do just that? The short answer is that it is complicated. The tension that I feel between teaching and going on my own ebbs and flows. Throughout the years, the question has always been there but I am still not able to answer definitively. Perhaps the most obvious answer is fear. I have a good job, benefits, and it is for the most part a very flexible job. Lately, however, my wish to dedicate more and more time to my art has increased tremendously. It is in my mind often and constantly. But the uncertainty of the unknown, of what would happen, of failing—and in failing, losing it all— scares me. So, I continue to put one foot in front of the other while perhaps waiting for a choir of angels and a symphony of trumpets to show to me what to do. I know that is not going to happen though.

The other day, I saw a post or something online with the old question:

What would you do if fear was not a factor?

Or something very similar to that. Without hesitation, I said to myself, open my studio and create all day, every day, submit to shows, try to show work on any gallery that took my work, hustle for it, make cards and sell them, license my work for commercial use, get an agent to help me get commissions, etc.. I freaked out.

Here is the kicker though. Every time I approach a large project or a big review or something that will have a lasting impact on me career wise, I second guess my decision of becoming a professor. I look back and it is a steady and predictable default mode. While I crave, and yes, perhaps with more intensity these days, going on my own, I also know that part of this is triggered by the anxiety of large projects and reviews. I can’t say for sure that this tension is all due to the anxiety this school year has brought me. But I know it is a part of it. Sometime ago it was about going back to school to get a PhD. But let’s leave that one alone because it also runs close.

The truth is that I could be lettering all day, every day.

On top of this, I had a big birthday two years ago and one starts thinking about where and how to spend the next 10 or 20 years? I want to see my kids more often, not less. I want to be there for their junior high and high school stuff. I want to be there for them when they go off to college, unless they decide to pursue online education and stay home. I believe online education is really the future and the landscape of colleges and universities is going to change drastically, but that is a topic for another post. I want to be home when they call because they fail a test or had a bad critique in their art classes and the list goes on.

Where oh, where does my heart lie? I don’t know. I know of some people who have had the tenacity and discipline to make it work and succeed at it. But I fear something else that I can’t entirely control and that is my condition. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t complain. I am actually grateful because I am one of those people who would not stop until collapsing. I have learned boundaries and limits because of it. For the same reason, I am afraid of not being able to keep up a schedule, a routine, and a discipline to perform at the level that is needed to make a solo business, especially a business in art and design, succeed.

The short answer is that it is complicated.

I would like to say that these words are my thoughts, questions, and concerns. In no way or manner they reflect a plan to do this or that. I am choosing to share these thoughts because writing gives me clarity and perspective. There is something very cathartic about pressing that publish button. And then, it is out there.

I titled this post Lettering and fear but I should have really titled it Hope. Because in each anxious and fearful heart there is a hopeful yearning. It is like these two or three creatures are fighting for the kingdom in our hearts and minds. I have questions and need answers. I hope to find the answers soon because the time seems to be right for them. But I can be wrong, of course.

What are you hopeful for?

My gratitude today:

I am grateful because this week was Spring break. It has felt very good to be away even if it was for a few days.

I am grateful because we had good driving weather going and coming.

I am grateful because God is faithful and He will light up the path.

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