Cutting through the noise and finding out how I want to approach my work and life
: on taking your life back and regaining control of your life | A TikTok experiment triggered my soul-searching | 8/24 new drawings (a haiga again!)
HopeMail #132 | Writing and drawing about musings on life’s simplest and deepest moments to brighten your inbox, twice a month on Fridays. This issue is the 8/24 new drawings for HopeMail. Counting down 16 more issues till we complete 24 new drawings in a year in October 2022. If a friend shared this with you, and you'd like to receive my next newsletter, c'mon in.
A few weeks ago, as an experiment to share my words and drawings with more people, I created (succumbed to) a TikTok account. Within minutes, I hated the content that was being fed to me.
After one day of long-pressing on videos I’m not interested in (to teach TikTok’s AI1 what I like and don’t like), and after following #arttok to filter only getting art-based content, but ended up getting videos of an artist baring half her butt to the camera while painting—I’m done.
And I got angry.
I’m angry that I am participating in what I intuitively know I dislike, but I went against it because I wanted to grow my business. I went against it because I see other people doing it, so maybe it’s ok, maybe I’m missing something, maybe I’ll give it a try.
That anger triggered a whole lot of thinking. And soul-searching.
In an intensive one year of starting and growing my art business, I am an earnest learner, a student, a startup entrepreneur, immersed in a creator economy world.
I was also caught up with the norm of what success looks like. The 1000 true fans, the 1000 subscribers and what not. I was caught up with the progress of my peers, which produces a healthy-unhealthy mix: I’m happy for them; worried for me.
So, I chased. And chased. Bedazzled from the noise of so-many-good-things that could grow my business.
I set goals. Read great articles, listened to awesome podcasts, participated in helpful online communities, forged new friendships globally, and ready-fire-aim a million strategies on my path to becoming a full-time independent creator.
The noise kept getting louder and rowdier, competing for my attention; taking my mind hostage, suggesting to me what to think, what to do, how others are doing it and maybe that’s the way I should do it too.
The assaulting video and audio overload from the never-stop-scrolling TikTok videos became symbolic of my situation. I was in the noise, taking in the noise yet at the same time—drowning. I need to get out.
But everyone is doing it. This is how it’s supposed to be.
It took starting my TikTok account and hating it to tip me off. I gotta take a big step back. Clear my mind to see things clearly.
I’m asking myself these questions:
What do you really want?
What is true to you?
How willing are you to go somewhere to make what you want to happen?
Are you ok with slower growth in exchange for not being part of platforms/games you don’t agree with? Even if it’s what most people are doing?
Ultimately—I’m asking this question that I have never asked before I started this journey of being a writer, an artist, and an entrepreneur.
How do I want to build this business (to be aligned with the life I want)?
I’m only asking it now. But the question wasn’t delayed. Because I needed the time to discover what I thought I wanted…wasn’t what I wanted. To be aware of the tension between the artist and the business person and me.
So, here are some of my answers to the questions.
I want to be quietly creating, putting my work out there for people who want to receive my work.
I love writing this newsletter, HopeMail. And I love being able to connect and relate to the people reading it.
I really dislike the noise, the clamouring for attention. Both in the receiving of it and in the contributing.
I am willing to accept potentially slower growth in my business (slower growth according to whose standards anyway?) if I choose to opt-out from some platforms, if I don’t—hustle.
And I also realised this.
That I went into this new everything within a year—drawing, business, shop, community—without giving myself enough space to freely create. And freely creating does not only constitute actively creating something. It is also in the space of nothingness, of not doing, that allows something to surface.
I feel like I needed to retreat more. Not necessarily in a “cut everything out” way. But to boldly retreat in my heart and free myself (the artist talking) from needing to market the life out of everything I create (the entrepreneur talking).
To free me from being afraid that if I stop, I would fade into oblivion, that no one would read my writings, no one would buy my artwork, that I would not earn enough income to cover what I need.
My heart says this of my work and life in general—
“In a world where people are shouting for attention—won’t you be the respite in a quiet whisper?”
This has been true in my heart. A crazy dream? It scares me. Because it goes contrary to the world I know. How do I do it? What does it look like? What do I have to lose to gain?
Listen to the quietness
the absence of sound is the sound
much is to be found.
For now, *all I know is, I’m willing to shift gears: lower the numbers, extend the runway, and give my writing, drawing, and business, time to grow at a pace that affords me space. Space for me to try living that part in my heart that I’ve never dared to fully live.
* In the future, who knows? Things change. Opinions change. Directions change.
I wish I could say that after making this decision, the tension between me, the artist, and the business person vanished. But it will always be around. My responsibility is to stay connected with them, remain agile to make necessary changes; to stay true to what is true.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. ~ Galatians 6:4 The Message2
A wonderful life coach and a friend shared this Welcome Letter from George Raveling’s newsletter.3 He’s Nike’s former Director of International Basketball, a husband, a father, a friend, and a mentor to many:
The hardest battle one has to fight is to live in a world where every single day, someone is trying to make you be the person you do not want to be.
When I reflect on my eighty-year journey, a large part of my life was determined by other people's expectations, opinions, and validation. If I had to do it all over, I would be far more mindful of controlling my own destiny and taking back my life.
Our system is strategically structured to take our lives away from us. Technology has become an unbelievable vehicle to do just that without a person ever realising, that their life is being undermined and controlled.
At this current stage in my evolution, I consciously focus every day on taking my life back. You either control your life, or someone exterior of you controls your life.
Being the best you can be, starts with taking your life back.
When you take your life back, you are the "scorekeeper" of your journey. You begin to manage your time, energy and environment more earnestly and wisely becoming the artist of your canvas, the CEO of your life and the author of your story. - George Raveling
When you take your life back, it is no longer about winning and losing, right and wrong, yes and no. It becomes about self-control and the awakened pursuit towards creating the life you envision filled with intent, harmony, and purpose.
Sternly managing your time, energy and environment each day becomes a success formula for taking your life back, elevating your performance, and controlling the voices, choices, attitudes, and behaviours in your life. When you take your life back, the most important person you begin to spend time with is yourself.
There is no concrete finish line in taking your life back. The process is not simply a destination, but a transformative journey of surrendering and committing to a life of personal freedom, growth, truth, self-love, discovery, and acceptance.
There will never be a perfect time to begin taking your life back. So start where you are at this moment, deconstructing your ecosystem, to rebuild a healthier and more vibrant physical, mental, emotional and spiritual world to live and prosper in!
👩🏻🎨 8/24 new drawings for HopeMail
A new day
in her heart.
Here’s the 18 seconds video I’d taken of the morning scene which has inspired the haiga4. Yes, bird songs included. Enjoy.
That's all for now, folks. Thanks for reading and being here. Hope you've enjoyed this issue of HopeMail as much as I've enjoyed creating it. See you in my next issue on March 4th, 2022.
The HopeMail newsletter with its other projects is available free for anyone.
If you are enjoying HopeMail, consider a paid subscription with any amount you like. Or you can also say thanks, say hi, and encourage me by leaving a tip. Your subscription and tips support the production—time, costs, resources, effort—of my work. It funds my work as an independent creator to continue using my art—word and drawing to reach out and encourage people. So, thanks!
The Message is the Bible in contemporary language, translated by Eugene Peterson over a period of ten years. The late Eugene Peterson was a scholar, pastor, author, and poet who has written more than thirty books. For his work on The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Peterson received the prestigious ECPA Gold Medallion Book Award.
Content credit: Coach George Raveling. Check out more of his writings and leadership wisdom on his website.
What’s a haiga: visual poetry. Traditionally, it’s a haiku (a type of poetry of Japanese origin) with brush painting. Nowadays, it has been broadened to a haiku with imagery: a painting, a photo, a drawing, even a video.