Almost five years ago, when I was happily discovering watercolors for the first time, a family member silently looked over my shoulder, glanced at what I was painting and asked a question I feel like anyone who have spent significant time on any hobby gets asked often:
“Why don’t you sell that?”
Back then, I was at a loss for words. Largely because it came across like a compliment. To me, it was as if they think my art is valuable enough to be sold. I forgot how I responded but I was probably stammering and being modest. Said something like: “I still have so far to go” or “I’m not there yet.”
Something that acknowledged, yes, I can make money off of this; just not now.
Implying, “Yes, I believe my art has value and people will love it and be impressed… but not now.”
Because back then I thought if this person “saw value” on my art, then surely someone else did?
It’s been a long time since and throughout those years, I’ve had a complicated relationship with my art and sharing them online. It didn’t take long and I became so focused on the numbers. Looking over my analytics on Instagram. Counting the number of likes within the first hour since posting because I read somewhere it was “important for your engagement rate.” Keeping track of the changes in the algorithm. Checking if new comments were posted. Through all that, it was my love for creating things that suffered.
I wouldn’t draw for months on end because I felt deeply unmotivated.
No one’s going to like it anyway, so what’s the point.
I’m not as good as XX artist anyway.
This looks so unpolished to be shared online.
I know, oh yes dear Reader, with all my rational Taurus rising mind, I knew these negative thoughts were harmful and irrelevant and useless to the joys of creating. That it is perfectionism talking. That it’s comparisonitis nagging at my brain. That it’s the self-doubts and low confidence. But I still felt them anyway. And with their foundation indomitably stable, it was hard not to think of things that way.
But here’s what happened recently.
I have, once again, picked up a new hobby – singing. Like genuinely watching videos on Youtube about chest voice, head voice and mixed voice, doing vocal warm ups, practicing breathing through the diaphragm… the whole works.
It’s pretty recent – as in just this summer recent – and one day whilst I was absentmindedly navigating through the high notes of “For Forever” from Dear Evan Hansen, my auntie asked me:
“Why don’t you audition for a singing competition?”
This time, I thought about it, took my time answering. Until I finally said,
“I don’t need that validation for my hobby. This is just for me.”
The very next second I howled in delightful surprise, Oh my god did I just said those BANGER lines??? Was that ME???
My auntie and I had a laugh, the atmosphere wasn’t as awkward as I’d feared and I came out of that conversation genuinely ecstatic. Because it’s true. I did not need the validation. I was doing this for me. I wanted to improve for my own self-satisfaction. And it wasn’t one of those loopy, tsundere-type situations where I’m in denial and saying all this because I want people to know I don’t care even when I secretly do.
Oh no. I truly did not give a fuck.
This past year has been incredibly stressful for so many of us. For me, personally, it just slowly yet surely dissipated all the fucks I used to give to some of the most unnecessary things. I’m tired of people saying the crappiest, most toxic comments under the thinly veiled guise of “concern.” I’m tired of people seeking validation on their opinions and manipulating others into agreeing with them. I’m tired of allowing people to cross boundaries I don’t want them to just because I’m afraid they’ll hate me. Fuck all that.*
*Well, to be honest, I’m still working on all the above. But I am completely exhausted, y’all. Thus, aforementioned sentiment still applies.
And it is so freeing. To have drawn this imaginary line onto the imaginary sand between my singing hobby and the rest of the world. Letting myself and everyone — well… really just my auntie for now — know that this hobby, this is just for me? It’s a different kind of relief.
These past few months, I’ve been working on building this same mindset with regards to my other, older hobby. Painting.
(Although it is lowkey weird to be calling my art a “hobby” when it now feels larger than that in my life. But I digress.)
I know this is a more difficult knot to untangle. Unlike my recent obsession with vocal techniques, I’ve been sharing my art online for years and have always had the desire to share them to the world. I want the world to see what I create and I want to know what it thinks. I feel like this is something many artists feel. And although, I don’t think that desire will ever fade, and that little goblin voice nagging at the back of my mind telling me to do it for the algorithm will probably be there for a while, I do want to separate my enjoyment of making art with that knee-jerk reaction to share them online immediately.
I’ve made a few pieces this summer that I haven’t shared at all online. I didn’t even share them with any of my closest friends and confidants. And I don’t want to. I’d like to keep them all to myself for now. Until I am ready to share them, not because I want the validation, not because I am seeking someone else to love them, but because I love them and I genuinely want to say, “Look, world. I did this amazing thing. You may like it or not, but I like it very very much.”