Monday, September 2, 2019

The self-defining tale

Read Time: 3.5 minutes

Our personal stories are our source of power as creative professionals.

I’ve drawn and told stories for as long as I can remember. When I was little I knew that I’d have to make my way in the world with my talent. But how? I had no idea.

Reflect on it for a minute: How did you find your way to think and talk about who you are? How did you find the story that launched you as a professional? As a creative? How did you first discover your self-defining tale?

Here’s my story.

As a child I thought that I’d be an artist. I’d always gotten lots of affirmation for my art and struggled with everything else. But the thrill of selling my first watercolor wore off quickly when I realized that the adults’ I knew with art skills had little or no power in the real world. That clairity came to me as I exited middle school.

I needed something else. Something more powerful. Watercolors, no matter how much pleasure I derived from creating them, would not give me the money and other resources I needed to gain entry to the adult world.

Then I walked into the room where I found the answer.

Have you ever had a question you were afraid to ask? I certainly did.

My question was central to who I was and deep within me, but unspoken. It was solely a feeling at that point – a query so fearful it had to remain internal. I was intimately familiar with the emotions the question evoked, but I couldn’t transfer it into words… perhaps, for fear the answer was beyond my reach.

What path would lead me to my story? I now know that I was searching for a tale. A tale that would guide me to my own power in the world. A tale I could follow. A tale that would skirt the barriers the adult world presented at every turn. A tale that would lead to personal recognition, money and the kind of success that provides the rewards and trappings of modern life.

When I walked into that room, the walls presented the answer.

Turns out the story I needed was not mine alone. I knew innately that I wanted to be a part of the world’s story, and all the things that define the people of the world. And there it was, in the form of the work on the walls of my high school art classroom. Art in the service of consumption. Ads. Illustrations. Lettering. Design. And in the air, the sounds of jazz filling the large room. I’d found the tale I could follow. All I needed to do was fold my ability to draw into the realm of advertising and design, and I’d be on my way to escape from childhood and entry into a world where I could acquire and wield some power.

With my discovery that day, I not only had the answer to my question of how; I also possessed the ability to put into words a story that would become my own tale. A tale that would come to define me. A tale I could follow and evolve as I gained confidence.

I followed that tale for most of my life. And it was very good for me.

Now I’m defining and creating a new tale.

I first wrote this post as a Mentor Mornings subject for our session 10 to noon on September 7th aboard De Anza III.

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