create and grow happily

Author: Kate Ashley (page 1 of 18)

to cut or not to cut?

I was cleaning up the files on my phone and saw this two-year-old Word document with several short essays on it. One of these essays are the one you will be reading below. I chose this one specifically because… well, I did just talk about having my hair cut in a recent post (which I published last February but I digress).

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What makes a great story

“For a story to be exceptional, it needs an original plot,” says a book reviewer, non-verbatim, for a book I completely forgot, but that which I will never forget as I have taken note of that same phrase in a Google Keep note.

And to which I reply, absolute poppycock.

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brush cleaning

I have this philosophy I apply with my art process.

The idea goes like this: The simple cure of an art block can either be a thorough cleaning of all your palettes and brushes, or staying away from the drawing board for a while.

What I’ve been trying to learn the past several months – the past couple years even – is knowing when to clean and when to step away. When to listen to my body and when to be stubborn.

Because sometimes when your body says “I’m tired. I don’t want to draw,” you listen to it. And other times, you don’t. Because maybe your body is tired and needs to rest, or maybe it just needs a little push.

Several days ago, I spent an entire evening cleaning my old palettes and water brushes. I probably spent more than an hour by our kitchen sink squeezing out the red watercolor stain out of one water brush. But that’s fine – time feels slow and forgiving when you’ve got nowhere to go like these past month.

I stood there silently. It’s already dry season now, where I’m from, and the nights are sweltering. I could feel a drop of sweat sliding down from my chin to my neck, the fan ventilating my brother by the dining table barely reached me.

Remembering that particular scene several days ago, that particular moment, I could liken it to cleansing your life or your head space. How much work it is. How heavy and uncomfortable you could feel while doing it. How it takes a while before the stain comes off completely (if they even do) and you return to a squeaky clean start.

Sometimes, cleaning up the messes around you is all you need to do to keep your sanity intact.

And sometimes, you are too overwhelmed to even clean them up. So much so, that all you can do is step away from them. Remove them from your view – if only for a moment.

I’ve been through both times. Heck, I’ve even been through both times at the same time.

When it comes to both my art and life and my mental well-being, I still don’t know the telltales of when to persist and when to quit.

All I could do right now is to listen, and to try.


Hello friends,

It has been a heck of a long time since I published a short pondering type of post. It’s weird to not care about readability or the SEO. I’m trying my best to ignore it hnggg.

I honestly don’t know when I would write another one of these – maybe immediately after this one or maybe four years after.

That said, I hope I too made you ponder, even for a while. And I hope you are safe and well wherever you may be.

Kate

Haircut, expectations and hope

Hello friends.

I bring to you this small update from the safety of my home. And I’m guessing – nay, hoping – that you too are reading this from the safety of yours.

As you may have caught on from the above title, I had my hair cut a couple weeks back. I had this planned since last year. I was going to have my hair cut in a long pixie… which isn’t really any different from my short hair last year. Except last year it was a super short bob and this year I have a long pixie. But I disgress.

This is kinda the style I am going for. Funnily enough, I painted this to try out the two new brushes I bought a week before my haircut appointment.

Today, while listening to anime opening songs, I thought about how far I’ve come from high school. Haircut-wise. Back then, I was too afraid to do anything with my hair outside shoulder-length layered. (Man, seriously, the only variety year after year was whether I’ll have the edge blunt cut, v-cut or u-cut. Wow.)

That said, I made a short list of stuff I have yet to do with my hair:

Screenshot of list with text: "Stuff I haven't yet done to my hair: Bleach or color; Undercut; super short pixie cut; full on bangs (impulsive mistake made in third grade does not count)"

I really want to try all of these someday, at least once.

And I guess that’s it. Me thinking wistfully, hopefully, of a future where I become a littlestudent more adventurous with my hair. It seems like a silly thing, and perhaps in the far future I’ll reread this post and think, “God, 22-year-old Kate is a drama queen.

Well, to be honest, at this moment? With all of us right in the thick of things, I have no expectations. I don’t know what will happen. From where I stand, the future is a little blurry.

But I do have infinite hope.

Hope that we’ll all get through this, one way or another. That one day, we will step out into the concrete, onto the green grass. Smell the fresh air and shake hands with our neighbors and hug our friends. Happily and without any fear.

But for now, friends, I hope that you are well and staying at home for the duration of this pandemic.

Take care and wash your hands,

Kate

A mishmash soup

For years, I’ve always had it drilled in my mind that every human being – nay, every living being – in this here planet is made up of a mishmash soup of so many contradicting things.

This idea started quite innocently in my angsty teenage years. That I am made up of so many contradicting things. A walking contradiction, if you may. Sassy yet shy, loud yet quiet, hopeful yet emo. (oh god, I was too emo akssksks)

But that thought really drove itself home to me when, years later in college, I watched a video essay on Hayao Miyazaki. It was about so many good Miyazaki things, but mostly it tackled on how brilliantly he instilled in his works the idea that everyone has both a good side and a bad side. I even wrote a post inspired by this same essay! If you’ve watched any of his films – particularly, Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa – you know what I mean.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realise how this Gray Area Thinking is applicable in every aspect of life.

And this is my focus for 2020. Not a word, not a goal, not even a project. (Even though I love words and I’m rebuilding my relationship with goals and I have damn too many projects.)

I want to remind myself that seemingly contradicting things can exist at the same time and that this is natural for so many things in life.

Yes, I am a hopeless romantic and love reading kilig stories. But I don’t necessarily feel that kind of romance in my life – and that’s a-okay!

Yes, I enjoy interacting on social media and sharing very personal parts of my life online. But I also enjoy my privacy and have every right to firmly establish my boundaries whenever for the sake of my own wellbeing.

Yes, I worry for our environment. But I also love to eat meat and use leather products – and I will do so in the most sustainable and practical way possible.

Yes, I will always seek self-improvement. But I also need to practice accepting myself for who I am at this very moment.

Yes, life is short and we’ll all die, one way or another. But that does not mean I will readily submit to my fated end without proactively seeking a life well lived on my own terms.

Yes, we all need to try and get out of our comfort zone in order to grow. But we also need to acknowledge the peace it brings at times when things get too overwhelming.

Yes, positivity is important. But acknowledging the negative things help too.

Yes, we are all entitled to our own opinion. But it does not need to come at the expense of others getting hurt.

Yes, we have to be mindful of how our actions affect other people. But this does not mean we need to be Mind Readers and instantly know what the other person is thinking.

Absolutes only exist in the rarest of places like in the fields of science and data programming. (I guess. I think…?)

This used to make me anxious. If I can’t know whether someone or something is good or bad, how am I supposed to choose? But with every new day, I realise the kind of freedom it offers. I no longer have to place things in neat boxes. All I need to do is imagine things – all the things – thrown in one huge cauldron. Something can be sweet while also having a hint of spiciness. One can be good but it can also be bad, and vice versa.

Paradoxical truths exist all around us. And we are all made up of mishmash soup of seemingly contradicting things. The whole lot of us. Things aren’t as black and white as one may perceive. The Gray Area is a vast, far-reaching creature. It blurs the line from either side of the spectrum.


For more reading on the paradoxes of life, check out the articles below:

Hayao Miyazaki – The Essence of Humanity*

*The video link above is a re-upload as the channel who made it, The Cinema Cartography (previously known as Channel Criswell), has deleted the original video.

Two things can be true at once – Kind over Matter

Straight and Curly Podcast Episode 128: How to Sit with Multiple Things Being True at Once

5 Paradoxes of Life You Must Embrace if You Want to be Successful

Photo by Vladislav Babienko via Unsplash

A Case Against 21st Century’s Biggest Career and Life Advice

“Follow Your Passion”

I feel like this has been the go-to advice people give to others. Like ceramic cherubs are the go-to souvenirs in weddings, and McDonald’s is the go-to place for eating greasy food. (Except in the Philippines. We kneel only for our lord and master, Jollibee.)

And I have a problem with that. (The advice, not Jollibee.)

Let me be clear, though. I do not completely, wholeheartedly hate this advice. I am all for going after what you love and seeking your own version of joy in life through the things you are passionate about. Whenever I come across inspiring stories of people finding success in doing things they love, I telepathically send my congratulations and throw them colorful confetti.

But I have a bone to pick with how “follow your passion” has somehow become penicillin. A cure-all advice for any career and life woes.

Not sure what you wanna do? Follow your passion.

Unhappy with your job? Follow your passion!

Wanna be successful? Follow! Your! Passion!

orange glove gesturing stop with greenery background

STOP.

 

I know this as someone who was given this same advice for many career and life struggles. Be that with my career, or with my identity as a creative, or with life as a whole. It was such a shiny new thing, this advice. So I heeded it and expended most of my energy into it.

To be fair, for a while, it worked. But that’s the thing with “follow your passion”: it only works for a while.

Why “Follow Your Passion” is A Bad Advice to Give

The more I think about it, the more I realize that “follow your passion” is a McAdvice. It’s a short-term fix for hunger, not supposed to be the sole composition of your entire diet. When I said I had a bone to pick with this McAdvice, I was lying. I have three bones to pick.

First off, it’s vague af

You know how in stories, the most clichéd answer to “Where are we going?” is “You’ll know it when we get there.”

Every single time I hear that line, I want to hURL something across the room.

It’s up there in my list of “Top 10 Clichés I Want Thanos-Snapped and Gone Forever.” And the reason why I hate that line is the same reason why I find “follow your passion” a bad advice. It’s vague as fuck.

Is it helpful? Perhaps. But can you go anywhere with this advice alone? I don’t think so.

You start thinking it’s that One Thing™

You know, as much as it’s good being told you’ve got that one thing by five good-looking boys, that’s not the case when it comes to finding and following your passion.

And “follow your passion” implies that you can only be passionate about one thing in your entire life.

People aren’t only passionate about just one thing. At least not everyone. Which is why I find it ridiculous advising others to find that one passion and follow that one passion for, like, ever.

As the popular saying goes, “Change is the only constant thing in this world.” Life itself is naturally fluid and flexible. The things we loved as kids may not be something we love now. I used to think McDonald’s burger was the superior burger but now I believe Jollibee’s have the best fast food burger. And even my burger loyalty may change in the future!

Why, then, must we limit our passions — the prime sources of inner exhilaration and excitement — to just one thing?

“Follow your passion” makes everything seem so freaking easy

There is this notion that by following your passion, the rest will just fall into place. Admittedly, that’s quite romantic but it’s also disregarding the nuances and complexities of life.

“Follow your passion” is an advice that does not consider human’s inherent changing nature.

Look, I’m not saying that, when it comes to a meaningful career and life, passion is a non-factor. Of course, it is! But it isn’t the only factor, nor is it the biggest one — at least, it isn’t the biggest factor all the time.

A happy, fulfilling life does not rely solely on finding and following a passion.

Which then leads me to ask: when trying to create a meaningful life, why must we be so laser-focused on passion?

Passion, Our Fleeting Friend

When you think about passion, you think about intensity. You think about how it’s burning into your very being, calling you to do The Thing and to do it now. And when you listen to its call, there is this sense of complete uninhibited joy. This mix of delight and accomplishment. It’s an amazing feeling.

That intensity may run incredibly long.

But it can also run incredibly short.

Passion is erratic. Like its close cousin, Inspiration, it knocks on the doors of our hearts at the most unexpected times. It likes to bring interesting goodies and playtoys, those both old and new. Passion urges us to do things and we oblige happily. Then it leaves whenever, and we are at a loss and with no clue how to finish what we’ve started.

As a creative, I’ve relied heavily on both Passion and Inspiration to forge ahead with my creative endeavours. And I can tell you that they are, in fact, not so reliable and not always available.

Will I stay friends with them? Abso-freaking-lutely. I love them to death. I enjoy their company. You know how some friends you meet once in a while and you don’t tell them your entire life story or share your insecurities? But also that doesn’t make your friendship any less precious? Passion and Inspiration are simply that kind of friends.

So rather than “follow your passion”, what can you do to lead a meaningful life?

Follow your curiosity.

Way back in 2017, I first heard these three words from Elizabeth Gilbert. It felt like a personal breakthrough. Here was my door out of this passion, be all end all mindset that I’ve been stuck in for a long time. And boy, it was freeing.

Passion is fleeting and finite; curiosity is everywhere. It works as a subtle nudge your way. I love how Robert J.K. Lee describes it:

Curiosity moves in ways that could be described as gentle, contemplative, unusual and even pensive. As an elemental metaphor, Curiosity acts like water. It is shapeless, but it interacts with you in different ways. […] Curiosity invites you to cast attention and notice something that you hadn’t before.

– Robert J.K. Lee, “5 things I’ve learnt about being friends with Curiosity and Passion

My Curiosity Journey

When I think of that one thing that Curiosity gently guided me towards, watercolor comes to mind.

I was scrolling through Instagram one time. Back then, I was new to the platform and didn’t know what it was for. But it recommended one video of someone demonstrating how to paint loose floral illustrations using watercolor.

And I was entranced. Like seriously. I felt like I was three years old again and I just watched Teletubbies for the very first time.

It was a whole new kind of magic. The way the paints flow to where water is, the way two colors interacted with each other. The way these tiny puddles of color turned into petals and then magically, a flower.

I was hooked.

Looking back, I could have simply stayed hooked and kept on watching. But already Curiosity was there, gently tapped on my shoulder and whispered,

What is that?

The first few months, I bought everything cheap from the department store office supplies. My first ever paints and brushes and papers were the ones you used in middle school, but I was too damn excited to try to even care. I tried painting flowers and leaves. I tried to do flat wash. (Because holy shit, you can make something close to solid from such a fragile-looking pigment??? 2016 Kate ain’t ready for gouache.)

And you know what? I SUCKED.

My flowers looked like rotting plants. When I tried painting a galaxy the first time, it was like a zombie wasn’t feeling well and it vomited brains. Everything I painted was godawful. There were definitely times when I wanted to give up and go back to my black and white ink art. But every time, I’d feel Curiosity lightly tapping behind me.

Hmm… what if I mix these two colors…

What would it look like if I sketched a person first?

I wonder what would happen if I use both inks and watercolor…

Curiosity, Our Guiding Friend

In retrospect, many of the things I’m now passionate about were born out of curiosity. I didn’t even realize it but at some point, Curiosity had already handed me over to Passion. Because that’s what Curiosity does.

Sometimes.

I really want to stress this out. When I say follow your curiosity, I’m not saying it will eventually guide you to your passion or even your purpose. Following your curiosity may lead you to your passion. But sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s okay. That is not the point of all this.

Perhaps you’d feel excitement and delight. Maybe you’d even feel that complete and utter joy when the curious things become passion things. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’d lose the interest before it could become something grand.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

The moment you lose interest, let it go. Keep only the memories andand the learnings. Carry on following your curiosity. See where it leads you this time around. What adventure, or non-adventure, it has in store. Experience the moment fully and treasure what lessons it gives.

Isn’t that, in and of itself, what meaningful life is all about?

Photos from Gary Bendig and Alexander Ramsey

These 9 Webtoon comics all own my heart and soul

As I mentioned before, I spent my months-long slump (which is calling it lightly, to be honest) reading manga and Webtoon comics and watching anime. These are things I had to set aside for most of my university life to prioritize studies.

Now I get to re-indulge myself in all things animu and mango, and get back in touch with my inner otaku. Looking at all the various art styles also inspired me to get back into drawing.

And as you might have noticed, since um… March, I’m in a blog writing slump. I mean, I did have This One Draft™ I’ve been writing for weeks months. But it’s kiiinda heavy and maaaybe a tiny bit controversial.

So is this me deliberately postponing having to deal with said heavy draft?

Well… yes.

Anyways, if you’re new to Webtoon or want to take a looksie, here are a few good ones I’ve been reading since I got into Webtoon comics this past year.

Lore Olympus

Banner with text, "Romance, Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe."

Premise: A modern retelling of the Rape of Persephone and other Greek mythology stories we all know and love. (Partly because our English/Literature class made us read ‘em and partly because of Rick Riordan sksksksks)

I was a bit hesitant to read this, to be honest. My experience with Greek mythology retellings and adaptations, other than Uncle Rick’s, is that they make it too dramatic, too action-packed and the characters too one-dimensional. (Yes, I’m talking about all the live action movies that came out between 2010 and 2015 *cough*)

Learning about the Olympians and the Greek heroes through an objective lens in school already gave me a disconnect with the stories and the characters. I don’t want that kind of feeling when I’m watching/reading it for entertainment as well.

But this comic—

Boi.

Not only is it more relatable as it’s set in a contemporary setting, but the characters have more depth to them. It’s like the creator, Rachel Smythe, had a template to follow then added her own magical details into it. Ultimately, she made something incredibly unique and precious.

( And 80% of the series’ preciousness is Persephone, let’s be real here.)

And the art is sooo good too. Kinda like the Greek illustrations you see in ancient pots in museums? But in gorgeous technicolor.

Trigger warning, though: Since this is mostly based on The Rape of Persephone (and a modern retelling at that), this series has illustrated sexual abuse and actual rape in it. Also, toxic relationships.

You can read Lore Olympus on Webtoon here.

Gourmet Hound

Banner with text, "Drama. Gourmet Hound by Leehama."

Premise: Girl with a heightened sense of taste and smell realized her favorite restaurant’s dishes tastes differently which can only mean they changed staff. This leads to her mission of finding the chef whose cooking she’s loved for years.

Anything that has to do with food is an immediate yes for me. But I didn’t start Gourmet Hound the first time I saw it since it was on a hiatus. And if you’re a regular manga reader like myself, you know hiatuses (hiati?) are the devil especially when you’re following an ongoing series.

But then it returned to its regular posting, and I started reading it and—chokes.

To say that it’s all about food is both accurate and inaccurate.

The characters are so well-developed. No matter how small a role they may have, Leehama certainly put just as much thought into the side characters as she did with the mains. And that says a lot about her dedication on the series. Not only that, all the characters have food-related names. And I mean all the characters – even the very cute dog who has the most important role of them all. (If you’ve read the series or you’re at least twenty chapters in, you know what I’m talking about.)

Best of all, the cast is diverse. And I mean, it has a Filipino in the main cast. Do y’all know how much I SCREAMED when I realized Graham is Filipino???(Hint: I got scolded for being a disturbance to the neighbors. As usual.)

Join me as I cry and get hungry while reading this!

Crumbs

Banner with text, "Romance, Crumbs by Whitherling."

Premise: In a bakery where you can buy baked goodies like “love” and “confidence”, a certain witch-in-training with a certain unique power is a regular and she always buys the same thing: “romance.”

Another food-related series, although this one is relatively new. Crumbs is all sorts of soft and fluffy. Even the art style is soft and fluffy.

So far in the series, there isn’t a huge overall story arc revealed. Maybe because this is more character-oriented than plot-oriented. (But y’all won’t see me complainin’.) You can tell from the get-go that the characters have gone through some shit, though.

Overall, it’s a story about finding your worth and following your heart. And it’s just so so cute uwu-ma-heart.

You can read Crumbs on Webtoon.

Castle Swimmer

Banner with text, "Fantasy, Castle Swimmer by Wendy Lian Martin."

Premise: Under the sea, a Beacon of prophecies and a prince of a crumbling kingdom meets. The Beacon is the guiding light that will supposedly bring a prosperous future to all. The prince is tasked to kill said Beacon for his own people’s future.

This series is so gay and so soft, I’m cRYING.

The prince, Siren, is precious and must be protected. (Like seriously, he must be protected.) And the Beacon is the cutest, shiniest sea creature ever, Tamatoa would weep green (shiny) tears of envy.

At time of writing, I’m wary of the heavy drama of the recent updates. But I like to believe that this is just one arc among many many more arcs. And I just hope they’d be together by the end of this. Goddammit, Siren’s mom.

(Final edit notes: The first season is done, I am both happy and unsatisfied dammit!!! Read on to find out what I mean *wink wink*.)

Boyfriend of the Dead

Banner with text, "Comedy, Boyfriend of the Dead by Ushio"

Premise: A tourist gets interrupted on her date and shopping when everyone around her, including her pathetic now-ex-boyfriend, turned into zombies. Having no choice but to protect herself, she wields an axe and meets a zombie on the way. A zombie who can, somehow, communicate with her.

The humor in this series is god-tier. It’s also another series with food heavily integrated into its story. (Yes, most of the comics I’m reading are food-related. And no, the food in this particular series are not human brains.)

The canon OTP is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. This is a pair that’s arguably legendary by now. Like, you’d place them alongside SSS-rank canon OTPs like Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase. At least I would.

(Final edit notes: I’m pretty sure there have been some serious development in the past couple months’ updates but, in preparing for the holidays, I haven’t caught up to them yet hehe. But you can start reading it here.)

My Deepest Secret

Banner with text, "Drama, My Deepest Secret by Hanza Art."

Premise: A sweet girl with a tragic past + a very handsome, very kind and very caring boyfriend. One of them is clueless. Both are keeping a secret from each other.

I’m not really into stories with yandere characters in them. I mean, the closest one I could think of is that one character in Tsurezure Children and that was mainly for comedic purposes.

The yandere here is definitely not for comedic purposes.

This is a thriller series and you get that feeling just from the first chapter itself. But, surprisingly, it’s also super soft and fluffy??? Which is why I’m reevaluating my morality a bit every time I’m reading an update.

Trigger warning: there are chapters that hint at past instances of domestic violence and abuse, and some chapters can get bloody.

Let’s reevaluate our morality together! Read it on Webtoon.

Choco Latte

Banner with text, "Romance, Choco Latte by Ann."

Premise: Proving that love needs no words, this is a story about a girl who met a guy who works at a café, serving beautifully made lattes… and who turns out to be her schoolmate.

While the story is not the first of its kind, I absolutely enjoy reading Choco Latte. So far, it has every single trope you’ll find in a shoujo manga.

  • Girl meets boy
  • Adorably protective father
  • Lowkey mischievous little brother
  • School setting
  • Potential love rival (although female MC does not yet realize she likes male MC – but we KNOW she does)
  • Rooftop moments
  • LOTS OF MISUNDERSTANDINGS

It’s fun. Even the art style is reminiscent of late 2000s to early 2010s shoujo manga art styles so it’s super cute.

What makes Choco Latte different, though, is that there is no dialogue at all. The most they use words is when two characters are texting each other. I think this adds to how adorable the story is. And if you love reading shoujo manga such as myself, you don’t need them dialogue at all. Either way, I love it!

Read it here.

Cursed Princess Club

Banner with text, "Comedy, Cursed Princess Club by LambCat"

Premise: A beloved princess of the Pastel Kingdom is the living proof that not all princesses have it all. She stumbles across the Cursed Princess Club and her life will never be the same.

Another series with god-tier humor.

I love everything about this series. I love the small details on each character, like how the prettiest child of the Pastel King is his son – and his daughters are okay with that fact.

This story plays around with the idea, “Do not judge a book by its cover” oh-so-often. And I promise you, you’d be surprise at what you think you know about the characters here. To me, that’s what makes it so FUN to read. You never know what to expect!

Read now on Webtoon. (For a much-needed dose of laughter.)

Your Letter

Banner with text, "Drama, Your Letter by Hyeon A Cho."

Premise: Middle school girl embarks on a magical scavenger hunt when she starts finding a mysterious trail of letters all over her new school.

This.

This is the series that started it all.

Well… technically, I started reading Webtoon comics because of Shen Comix and Cheese in the Trap (which was not to my taste so I never bothered to finish it.) But this is the series that first got me hooked.

If I may describe this series, it’s like a story with an Owl City vibe. All whimsical and wholesome but not afraid to talk about dark, important things we go through life.

There are only ten chapters. Ten delicious, emotions-filled chapters but it ended satisfyingly and cleanly. The art is super super beautiful and the characters are all my children. Even the old witch who lives in the school’s greenhouse.

Read this heart-fluttery series on Webtoon now.


I’ve read more series, albeit more sporadically, but MS Word is telling me I’ve almost hit 1.5k words so I’m leaving it at that. Tell me, though: have you read any Webtoon comics? What are some of your faves? I’m always open for new recs!

All banner images are from Webtoon and owned by the respective creators. Featured image by Etienne Boulanger via Unsplash.

Trying Out Bullet Journaling (for the third time)

Way back in the middle of July, I decided to try out bullet journaling again (for the third time) and that I’d start in August. But then August came around and I was just too occupied with wrapping things up in my previous job that I did not have the time to set it all up.

Well, now that I’m basically jobless for two weeks, I’ve decided to finally set it up – this time, in preparation for September – so yay!

Before that, a bit of history between me and bullet journaling

The first time I heard about bullet journaling, I thought it was interesting. The idea of a systematic way to organize your life (or certain parts of your life) and add in a touch of your own creativity to it? Brilliant. Million dollar concept. Where do I sign up.Then, the idea that it’s all personalized, and therefore you must completely make the entire thing yourself, sank in.

This is too much work, I thought and gave up.

I think I only managed to make a monthly calendar that first time. I didn’t even get to use it. The subsequent times I attempted bullet journaling, I had a similar pattern. A vicious cycle, if you must.

My life (as usual) was in utter chaos > desperate for a semblance of order > thinks bullet journaling is the solution > finds it laborious > gives up.

The reason I decided to try out bullet journaling again isn’t really that different from the first two times I tried it out. A part of my life needs tidying up Marie Kondo-style and bullet journals are still very much a huge thing. I enjoy seeing people share their journal spreads online like Myrthe with her aesthetically pleasing Instagram page, and Lauren with her fun blog posts on all things bullet journals. These rekindled the teeny tiny interest that I had for bullet journaling. And as they say, three times the charm, so I decided to give it a third try.

Trying out bullet journaling for the third time

I thought I’d be more intentional this time around and so I did a bit of research (aka watched bullet journal videos on Youtube). One key thing that I learned from them bullet journal masters is that no one started out with Pinterest-worthy spreads. And you might notice, this is me relearning the whole “nobody started out perfect” thing all over again. An especially great tip I got from AmandaRachLee is to know your purpose for starting out a bullet journal. In my case, it’s to KonMari the heck out of my creative life.

Which is why I only have four spreads on my September bullet journal: a cover, the monthly calendar (+ goals for the month), art habit tracker, and a special “books/mangas/anime I watched/read” spread.

My September bullet journal

 

Picture of bullet journal cover page with a pen lineart illustration of alstroemeria flowers

The cover is, essentially, um… useless. I only made it because I’m using an old journal already half-filled with sketches and doodles. (I am not buying a new journal for this.) And also, it’s for funsies! I like the botanical lineart I got going and it’s also the general theme for the rest of the spreads.

A closeup shot of the floral lineart

Monthly Calendar

The monthly calendar is there to help me remember commitments I pre-booked mostly. I find that the older I get, the more my memory is becoming that of a goldfish. (And I’m only in my early twenties *llama cries*)

I also have a box underneath where I listed my goals for the month. I wrote down some personal stuff I do not wish to share at the moment so you’ll just have to settle on my prettily painted hands. But yes, one of my goals is to finish reading ONE BOOK. As you can see, my bar for progress right now is so low. But that’s okay – progress is progress. <3

A section covered by my hands

Art Habit Tracker

The art habit tracker is really the main spread, I guess. I’ll be using it to track how many times I drew during the month and which of my many art ideas became an illustration on that month. I have tons of spaces left which I’ll probably fill in with additional stuff, if I so deem fit. But other than that, it’s really just me building and tracking my art habit.

 

A closeup look of a black and white plant lineart in my bullet journal page

What I’m Reading & Watching

Finally, there’s the books/manga/anime page that’s a more self-indulgent section. I’ve been reading tons of manga and Webtoon comics lately and just having a physical place where I list brief thoughts on them would be great.

Picture of my bullet journal's books, manga and anime page and a quote on the next page, "Show up even when no one applauds you for it."

Also, I love the quote on the next page because I know I will have moments where I’ll be lazy and won’t want to check in on my journal.

Overall, some people may find this too simple but I’m good with that. I don’t want to overwhelm myself (again) so a simple bullet journal for this month is good enough for me.

Do you have a bullet journal? How long have you been doing it? In what other ways do you KonMari your life?

Pin image for post with blog post's title, Trying out bullet journaling (for the third time)

 

Improvement & Impatience: 3 years, 2 art works, 1 Kate

Art improvement does not happen overnight.

We know this. I know this. You know this. That old man sitting at a nearby park probably doesn’t care about art improvement but, still, even he knows this.

And yet.

It is the one of The Most Frustrating Thing Ever. Why couldn’t I just be good at the things I like to do in an instant? Like, why do learning curves even have to exist?? Why can’t I just become the next Einstein or the next Picasso or the next Marie Curie tomorrow???

You’re probably not as dramatically ambitious as yours truly, but I bet you’ve been frustrated and impatient before, right?

The Case of Improvement for Artists (hint: iz torture)

I love progress. And if you’re a self-improvement junkie like myself, obviously, one of your biggest goals in life is to consistently be a better version of yourself. But progress is slow and tedious and it kills me. (Well, not really literally. But you know what I mean.) Creative progress, especially, is a specific kind of torture for me.

See, I’ve always been an impatient person. But I’m more so an impatient creator. When it comes to my art and my writing, I want to hurry, hurry, hurry.

Hurry up and improve on your anatomy, Kate.

Hurry up and draw good noses, Kate.

Hurry up and write engaging stories, Kate.

Hurry up and create awesome content, Kate.

Hurry up, Kate.

I keep on pushing myself to hurry hurry hurry. That I need to keep moving forward. That I need to get better. And the thing is, in art, you don’t really see you’re improving. So I become even more greedy. I become more and more frustrated, and more and more impatient of myself.

Sometimes, to a point where I’m mentally scolding myself for not seemingly getting better.

We are our harshest critic already. But with myself and to myself, I am unforgiving. I never tolerated even an ounce of imperfection. It’s sad. Because we are also our most frequent company.

Can you imagine being in the company of someone so critical of you?

That drive for art improvement became toxic. I made it toxic, and it backfired. And so, in an attempt to gently remind myself that um Kate? You HAVE improved tho, I did the #DrawThisAgain art meme. It’s where you try to draw an old art and see the differences and changes.

Two pictures of two girls both with short turquoise hair, the half up styled in  a mini bun. She is wearing a purple galaxy turtleneck. A white text above on a plum rectangle says, "2016 vs 2019." Image linked to related Instagram post.

I chose a really old work, one I did in 2016. Back when I still a complete watercolor noob and just starting out. I loved it — I still do. But recreating it with all the creative arsenal I picked up for three years, it was amazing.

And once I was done and took a step back, I thought to myself, “If 2016 watercolor noob Kate could only see me now…” I mean, I know she would never see the me now. That’s just how it is.

Who you are, right this second, will never get to see how much you’ll improve in the future.

But who you are, right this second, is also the only one who can look back to where you’ve come from and see how far you’ve come.

I now take comfort in having this truth. I’m probably going to tuck myself into it forever. Because, man, it’s far far better than the rusty old thoughts of “Not Being Enough.”

In business and management, looking at historical data is a sensible way of self-evaluation. But looking back is also a gift. A gentle reminder to your all-too-focused self, a small shift in perspective. That you are doing just fine.

So here I am, doing exactly that.

I first published this post on my Patreon page but I added a few words and wrote additional thoughts. You may see the original post, in its infancy, here.

Featured image by Yura Fresh via Unsplash