Art and Beginner's Mind

I've been making art lately. And not writing; I mean visual art. Mostly watercolor. Now, though, I have a new and improved camera, and I'm trying to do some artful photography, as well.

This might be a little surprising to many of you. I make games and stories, surely that's enough artistic expression for anyone?

Well, it is and it isn't. Here's the problem: It's increasingly difficult for me to make goofy little weekend projects like I used to without feeling some obligation to make it a commercial transaction. I can make pictures because I think they'll be fun or to experiment. I don't need to be worried about honing my craft or marketability, I don't need to worry about deadlines, I don't need to worry about whether I'm going to disappoint my publishers, backers, or audience. It's relaxing in a way that writing rarely is for me.

Though to be honest, I've haven't been a write-as-a-hobby kind of writer since middle school anyway. In 8th grade it was all ElfQuest fanfiction, but ever since then my writing has been for a grade, or a contest, or a submission.

Visual art, though...when I was a kid, and even up until college, I drew much more than I wrote. Much more. Given what I love and how I used to spend my free time, it's kind of surprising that I've never started a webcomic of any stripe.

There's another angle, too. See, I'm not actually an especially talented or skilled artist or photographer. I'm just screwing around. Do I want to get better? Yeah! But there's nothing at stake, so making something kinda terrible is fine.  

That's beginner's mind, to me, and it's priceless. A beginner is open to being wrong and doing bad work. A beginner is open to learning and growing. A beginner is ready to throw away preconceived notions and paradigms if they aren't working, starting fresh instead of patching the old one. And this experimental, stakes-lowering mindset relaxes me enough that I can take that feeling into the rest of my life, and even my paying work.

There is enormous value in giving yourself permission to do things simply because you like to do them, regardless of skill or outcome.

Anyway, if you want to follow along on my adventures in visual art, I post 'em up on Instagram from time to time. Probably I'll be posting the odd selfie and book cover there, too but mostly it's watercolor and still life photography for now. Probably none of it will be super amazing? And that is, for once, A-OK.

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