Wild Challenges

IMG_0951In 2013, when my mother and I wrote a children’s book for a contest, I stayed up drawing non-stop for over twenty-four hours to finish the illustrations for four of the spreads in time for the deadline. We didn’t win, but my mother sent the manuscript to a few other publishers, and at the end of last year, after a bunch of rejection letters, one of them said yes – both to the book and to me as the illustrator.

I was equally thrilled and terrified. I mean, I am not an illustrator, right? While I feel like I am just pretending every time I open my folder of sketches, a part of me revels in the wildness of being totally unprepared and doing it anyway. Stubbornly drawing and erasing and drawing and erasing for a million times until I get the lines on the paper to align with the lines in my mind.

I think of Reylia, who schedules shootings with models before she knows what to shoot. I think of Yana, who left her old life to pursue her passion without knowing whether or not it would work out. And I remember that placing yourself in a situation that is slightly too big and slightly too frightening is the best way to grow. Maybe even the only way. Like a goldfish, jumping into the sea. And I am trying to stay out there, even if I am hit by waves and thrown off course from time to time.

Last autumn, I watched my first poetry slam in Gothenburg. On my way home, I was flying up the streets, dead certain that some day I would be doing this. When I shared this insane idea with Veronica, my accountability partner who keeps me on track with my plans and dreams, she gave me a challenge: to record myself reading a poem for an event she would be organizing in Germany.

Still on an inspirational high, I accepted the challenge. Then my courage faded, and I put the project on hold for months. In February, I threw myself back into it, finishing it just before the deadline. I cringe at the rawness of it, but that challenge made me take a first step towards that wild dream of performing in front of an audience again, with no guitar or band to hide behind. Just a microphone and my words.

When the event in Germany was postponed, I decided to share the video with you, both as a challenge and because I think the world needs more imperfect things. Simple reminders that it is okay to start right where we are. It might take years of practice before we step onto the stage or make a living from our dreams, but in order to get there we have to start somewhere.

In line with the theme of this video, I will be disconnecting from the online world for a few weeks. Leaving my computer in Chiang Mai to make room for learning and creating, I am going to Khon Kaen in the East of Thailand for two weeks of volunteering, a first step towards another creative dream.

In the meantime, here is a challenge for you: Create something this week. Even if you feel like you are just pretending. Even if you would not call yourself an illustrator, or a musician, or a photographer, or a poet, or whatever you would like to be. Grab hold of a wild idea and get to work anyway. Create something and share it, no matter how far from perfect it is. Because, who knows, in all its imperfections, your work might inspire someone else to take that first tiny step towards their own dreams.