Perfection-is-m-y-enemy.

I have been in a creating frenzy.

I feel like I can’t create fast enough. I’m frustrated that my hands can’t work faster, that my wrist and neck get stiff after a couple of hours, that my eyes can’t focus for longer than I’d like, that my mental capacity screams out it needs a break. I can’t create enough, period.

I have so many ideas, overwhelmingly so.
I’m so excited about all of them and anxious to get to them all. I can’t think about anything else except for when I will have the apartment to myself so that I can sit at my desk in my favorite chair, put on the new Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop album, and draw and paint for hours on end.

When I finally do get the chance to sit down and create, I forget about everything around me.
I forget to eat and my hands start shaking.
I don’t let myself go to the bathroom, sitting in the chair with my legs crossed until it hurts so much I have to get up.
I hold onto my brush so tightly, needing to keep it as steady as possible for all the little details, the joints in my fingers start tingling, aching; I wish they’d just go numb so I can maintain my grip to keep painting.

At the end of a great painting session, I am exhausted and refreshed at the same time. I can’t wait until I can sit down to do it again.

 "Let's brew." by Sojung Lee Illustration.  I am shifting my focus away from Graphic Design to pursue Illustration. See more on my new portfolio on  Cargo Collective .

"Let's brew." by Sojung Lee Illustration. 
I am shifting my focus away from Graphic Design to pursue Illustration. See more on my new portfolio on Cargo Collective.

But then I start doubting myself.

Will I be able to do this again?
Will I have the same motivation and fervor next time?
What if it’s never this good, ever?
What will I do if my talent goes away?

It’s no longer my ideas that overwhelm me, but my fears - I’m not good enough and will never be good enough. Fear sets in and perfectionism takes over.

Perfectionism consumes me with doubt. I doubt my ability, I doubt my talent. I doubt God.
Perfectionism stops me from sharing my work.
Perfectionism prevents me from creating altogether.
Perfectionism is my worst enemy. And the standard of perfection is one I created for myself - I am my own worst enemy.

The only standard of perfection is Christ, but I make up a standard to chase after, to strive towards, to live up to. But I can never be perfect much less even live up to my standards - I set myself up for failure.

At our monthly Staff Retreat Coaching meeting with Rocky*, my husband and I were asked to write down a list of things that we want the other to know, what we love, value, and appreciate about each other. One of the things he wrote really struck me. He said,

“She is truly loved by God through the gift of her artistic abilities.”

And it hit me hard like a train coming at me full speed.
The talents and abilities He gifted me with are just one of the ways God loves me. I had been missing the point of why God had created me. He created me to create. To be a part of creation-making with Him, in His kingdom.

Little.
              Insignificant.
                                              Me. 

And here I was doubting myself, letting it stop me from doing what I was made to do, feeling sad because I wished I was a better artist (whatever that even means). I was procrastinating on creating personal work because I was afraid it’d be less than perfect. I was wishing that I was more talented, more creative. In the end, I was accusing God of giving me a talent and a creativity that wasn’t good enough. That His gifts to me weren’t good enough for me. That He wasn’t good enough for me. 

 
 

To not do anything slovenly doesn’t mean that an artist does everything perfectly. It is impossible to be perfect and I must accept that if I am to continue sharing my work and putting myself out there, if I am to survive and thrive as an artist.

The only artist that can do anything perfectly is our Creator, God the Father. I must accept that. And accept that I am never going to be perfect.

I am also slowly learning to fully accept that God is perfect and that He is enough for me.
His perfection is absolute perfection. And that should be enough for me.
Maybe it will never be enough for me as long as I am an imperfect human being living in an imperfect world. But one day, it will be enough for me and I so look forward to it.


*Rocky Garza of Staff Retreat Co. has been a tremendous help to Hoyoung and I personally and as a growing small business. We are so grateful to him and all that he does. If you don’t know about Staff Retreat Co., you need to go here and see for yourself - it will change your life!

Emily Carlton | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?

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My name is Emily Carlton and I'm an illustrator & designer based in Nashville, TN.

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I started as a child and I just never stopped. I think some children stop creating art because someone said it wasn't very good or laughed at it, but I think I just saw those comments as a challenge to be better. I wasn't the brightest student in other subjects, but I did see myself excelling in art. I have a competitive nature and I wanted to be better than everyone else at something, and that happened to be art. I continued because my family was (is!) encouraging and creating brings me a lot of joy. I can't not do it.

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

It's messy! Knowing God gave me a gift and not knowing exactly how to use it for His glory is something I'm still learning about and working through. In the past, I've not been a proponent of art and faith mixing, particularly in today's Christian culture as history and personal experience has showed me the combination hasn't been very beneficial. A lot of Christian art I see is cheesy, distracting, inaccurate, or just plain bad.

I used to be a designer for a church for about 3 years, and I got a lot of fulfillment out of using my gifts and talents to help people worship, learn, and hear the gospel. More recently, I began doing sketchnotes and graphic recording for clients. (Sketchnoting is documenting a lecture, experience, process, etc. using written words and images to create a more engaging and memorable visual record.)  I really enjoy the medium and want to get better at it, and one way I do that is by sketchnoting the sermons I hear on Sundays. It's been a really neat way for me to use my gifts and share the message when I post images of my notes. I've had quite a few people tell me they love looking through when they miss a Sunday or that they like the visual aid. I love being able to capture information and bring life to it visually to help share the gospel.

 Sketchnote by Emily Carlton

Sketchnote by Emily Carlton

While I still have some design and illustration clients that are churches, missions organizations, and non-profits, I have come to the believe that you don't have to work at a church or use your gifts for the church in order to glorify God with your gifts. I think simply using them pleases Him.

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?

I'm thankful that I live in a creative environment. Nashville has been a place of tremendous growth, encouragement, and support. I especially love the opportunity to be around other great creative people at WELD. I'm so thankful that I get to create art for a living, and that my personality, passions, and desires are being fulfilled with my career.

What are you working on now? 

I'm working on a few things right now - I am learning how to do hand-lettering and I'm also spending more time improving my drawing skills. I have a lot of room for growth and want to be the best artist I can! One of my new year's resolutions is to draw every day; I've been posting many of the results on Instagram to share, even if I'm not proud of it. We all have to start somewhere!

What inspires you?

I'm inspired by a lot of things that are hard to recall after the fact. I love being outside - it clears my head and renews my sense of wonder. I love talking with other people about what they're passionate about - being around someone who is excited and driven inspires me to be the same way. And, as silly as it might sound, I'm inspired by cartoonists! I love how they tie in art, humor, and story in a tiny space.  

What does "being creative" mean to you?

I think creativity is problem-solving. "Being creative" means being someone who solves problems in ways that haven't been solved before. "Being creative" means seeking new things, learning, and innovating.

Was there an artist in your creative field you admired when you were young that inspired you to become an artist? Why?

I love Gary Larson, cartoonist for the famous 1-panel comic The Far Side. I loved that he was a talented artist. Moreover, I admired how he could make you think and laugh in a single panel. It takes a lot of wit to be able to do that, and it's something I aspire to be able to do myself. I loved the fact that an adult was drawing for a living and I wanted to do make that happen for myself, too.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

Right now I'm in the middle of Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, Creative, Inc. by Joy Deangdeelert Cho, Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldridge, and Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine. Faith and creativity are colliding in my reading list!

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Work hard. Put in the hours and take the time to become an expert at what you do. I think if you are serious about your craft, people will take you seriously. Not that they shouldn't already, but I think there's a new level of respect people have for you when they see that you are dedicated.

 
 "I like this quote because it reminds me that life is not always going to be easy, but that the trials I face are preparing me to be a better person. I have a purpose, and smooth sailing rarely happens when you're living out that purpose." - Emily Carlton

"I like this quote because it reminds me that life is not always going to be easy, but that the trials I face are preparing me to be a better person. I have a purpose, and smooth sailing rarely happens when you're living out that purpose."
- Emily Carlton

 

How does being a woman of faith inform/influence your art-making?

I don't know that it does - not consciously, anyway. I don't create art that is controversial or vulgar, but I think that's more personal taste than anything having to do with me being a woman and being a Christian.

Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.

I'd keep my normal morning routine of waking up early and writing. After that, I'd make breakfast tacos and read for a few hours. Then I'd go hiking or kayaking, and come home to clean up and make a delicious dinner for myself and some friends. I'd spend the later evening drawing & watching a movie, and then I'd go to bed early.

I cannot live without...

 a sketchbook.



Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com

Kelsi Klembara | Portraits of an Artist

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What is your name and what do you do? 

My name is Kelsi Klembara and I am a writer and photographer. I wear a lot of hats, but I love writing profile/feature type pieces and writing/shooting internationally when possible. 

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I’ve always loved to write. I used to type up short stories on my family’s very first computer, print them out, and draw photos to go along with them. I remember one specifically that had to do with a lonely Spanish bull. I also read a lot when I was young, so I think I’ve always been fascinated with stories of different people and places. I also love to learn and really enjoying sharing what I learn with others. In high school, I started taking photography classes and fell in love with telling stories through imagery. 

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more writing than photography. I’ve wrestled for years on trying to decide if I should give up either writing or photography in order to focus on just one thing. Last year I finally decided it was important to just do what was put in front of me well instead of worrying about what I wasn’t doing. I still struggle a lot feeling that I’m missing out on something, but this approach has helped me not only enjoy whatever is in front of me more. I also realized that what I really enjoy is using my gifts well and working hard. If that’s my focus, comparisons and anxiety are quicker to fade away. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you? 

In my given fields, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to express thoughts, ideas and truths that hopefully make faith more tangible for people. Oftentimes, I think this can happen by just doing a good job at what is put in front of me.  I can rest easy knowing my job is only to use the gifts I’ve been given while trusting the Holy Spirit to work through a story, a photograph or a blog post to point people to truths about our God and our Savior.

I also think Christians, and especially Christian women, can become paralyzed by the idea that their work isn’t good enough for God because it’s not daring enough, creative enough, etc. I certainly know this is how I used to feel, but it’s such a ridiculous notion! I really believe that living out faith is a whole lot less about what we do, and a whole lot more about what Jesus has done. It’s a freeing thought to think that my creativity and my talents were not only given to me by a great and loving Creator (and therefore they already are good!), but that because of Jesus, the ways I use or don’t use them has absolutely no effect on my relationship with God. Realizing this allows me to take bigger risks and try new things because I’m not worried that I’m making a wrong decision, and when I mess up along the way, I am still as loved and cared for by God as I was before.  This is a message I’m really passionate about right now and really want to encourage other woman artists and believers in. 

     "Reminds me that faith, and my sufficiency in this world, is not based on what I do – it’s a gift from God."    -  Kelsi Klembara

 

"Reminds me that faith, and my sufficiency in this world, is not based on what I do – it’s a gift from God."
- Kelsi Klembara

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work? 

I will be honest with you that as I write this, I am in a season full of doubt and insecurity in my work. It’s been a slow start to the year and I have to daily fight off thoughts about not being able to make it and about not knowing what I’m doing. 

But I’m getting to a point where I can also be thankful for this time. I think it’s a time to reflect on what I want to go after, and a time where I’m having to choose to work hard despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot to work on. I also know that this time will pass – every year I’ve been a freelancer, there have been slow months and busy months, and I think much of this work is finding the courage to keep creating even when you don’t have anyone else to create for. I‘m thankful for that challenge and for the people around me right now who are encouraging me to do that. 

What are you working on now?

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Doug (my husband and I) are in the beginning stages of a passion project we’re basing off stories of people who work on Jefferson Boulevard located in Oak Cliff (located in South Dallas). We live in Oak Cliff and are fascinated by it’s history, and Jefferson used to be the heart of the community. There’s a lot of revitalization going on right now, and so Jefferson is a mix of upcoming business and Spanish-speaking restaurants and shops. We feel like this is a unique moment to capture the stories of all of these people. We also want to use this project to spark conversations about what it means to develop an area thoughtfully and respectfully. These stories can be found at http://www.jeffersonblvd.co/

What inspires you? 

I’m most inspired by quality and thoughtfulness. I may not even like a product or the topic of something I read, but if it’s clear the creator’s goal is to finish whatever they are making to the best of their ability, it inspires me want to do the same with what I do. I also love traveling and thinking through how people in different places interact - I love imagining the lives of people and places I have little context for. 

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

This writer’s work inspires me.
- I am in the middle of House of Cards and consequentially very concerned about the future of our country. 

Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.

Recharging and relaxing for me usually involves a lot of alone time at home. Cooking a big meal is also something that recharges me – I love trying a new recipe and sharing it with others.

Complete this sentence: "I cannot live without ..."

Podcasts – I feel like they’re listening to stories is currently one of my main pieces of inspiration. 
Below are some of my favorites: 

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, but know that whether you succeed or you fail, your identity and salvation is secure only in Jesus. 
Don’t be afraid to ask! Pitch ideas, send cold emails, find someone to brainstorm with. The worst thing that’s going to happen is the answer no.  


 Portrait by Doug Klembara

Portrait by Doug Klembara

Where to find Kelsi:

Website

Read:

- Glass Optical - Matt Bull
Glass Optical - Pastrana
Sister Maria
Medium

Social Media: @kelsiklembara

- Instagram
Twitter


Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com

The Reluctant Missionary | A guest post by Miah Oren

Over the last 15 months, I've had the privilege of being a part of Miah Oren's writing + publishing process for her book, The Reluctant Missionary. I had the honor of reading her first drafts, designed her book cover, graphics for her book launch (see graphics below), and updated her website. Today, she talks about how she stumbled upon writing a book about her time as a missionary overseas. Enjoy!


I wrote my first book because of Twitter.

It all started in 2013. I had been setting up my photography business largely from my church coffee shop. One day in May, Paul, a friend there, suggested that I try WELD, a coworking space near downtown. “There are many great photographers there,” he said. “I think you’d really enjoy it.”

On my first day working there, I nervously rang the doorbell. For several weeks I had been reading about it online and was quite intimidated by all the successful freelancers there when I had almost no experience.  Sojung answered the door. I had been expecting someone else, and I fumbled for what to say. “Hi, I’m here for a day pass. It’s my first day.” I spoke in a rush. “Oh hi! It’s my first day too!” Sojung smiled and invited me in. I sat next to her and Hoyoung, her husband, that day, and for many days after that.

For years I had prayed for a photography mentor, someone who would tell me what I needed to work on and help me launch my business. But lately, after repeated inquiries in Dallas, I had given up my search. Hoyoung became my mentor, giving advice, sending me videos, critiquing my work, and letting me tag along to his shoots. When I felt defeated and had given up on asking for help, he inserted himself as my coach, bringing both instruction and encouragement and enabling me to be a confident wedding photographer. Meeting and sitting next to Sojung that day was a miracle.

That summer I had been online looking at other photographers’ websites. As a new professional photographer, I was still considering different photography specialities. Since I had lived overseas in several different countries and enjoyed the two weeks I spent in Africa photographing for a nonprofit, I was considering humanitarian photography. I found a photographer who had photographed for a nonprofit overseas. Her twitter account was connected to her website, and I noticed that she had tweeted that day that she had bought a ticket to Idea Camp.

I had never heard of Idea Camp, so I looked it up. The description sounded very vague, something about discussing ideas about human care during a two-day conference. 

But it was in Austin, where my brother lived. And that day was the last day to buy a cheaper, pre-sale ticket. Why not, I thought. If I don’t like it, I can always hang out with my brother.

So in September I found myself driving down to Austin, straight from WELD during a fierce thunderstorm. I made it all the way without stopping because I didn’t want to get soaked getting out of the car.

 Photogaph by Miah Oren

Photogaph by Miah Oren

The first day of the conference was awkward. Everyone seemed to know each other. I sat by myself, wearing my name tag, and feeling small. I walked to lunch by myself in the rain and wished I had come with friends there too. Reluctantly, I returned for the second day.

And finally I knew why I had come when one of the speakers got up and spoke about the importance of caring for caregivers, especially missionaries overseas. 

At that time, I had been home after serving as a missionary for seven years. During that time, I had been depressed for 2 years, unemployed for a year and a half, and desperately wished I had never gone overseas at all since compared to my peers, my life seemed hopelessly off-track. My friends from college had great jobs and were getting married and having kids, while I felt like I was starting over.

As I listened to people sharing the importance of caring for missionaries, it was like a friendly hand reaching in to touch the deepest place in my heart.

I’ve never felt as alone as I did overseas. I had no visitors and few friends, and I pushed even those away because I was insecure and depressed. I was on two different teams, and one of the key problems during both years was lack of support from my organization’s leadership. They weren’t honest with us about what was going on at our schools, which left us to piece together clues from rumors and gossip. One of our supervisors didn’t even believe my team leader when she told him how much we were struggling.

As I drove home the next day, I thought over the suggestions we had discussed. They included organizing short-term mission trips not to take pictures holding children, but to sit with hurting missionaries and minister by listening, cooking, and watching TV together. I agreed with them that a lot of training, time, and money go to waste because when missionaries aren’t cared for, many of them leave the field after only a few years. The hardest part is committing to go and leaving all of your friends and family behind. But if living overseas isn’t sustainable, sometimes because of depression and isolation, you have to come home.

After Idea Camp, filled with positive thoughts about the conference, I followed everyone who posted with the Idea Camp hashtag on Twitter.

Six months later, I had recently been let go from my part-time job at church. Without a stable source of income, I felt God nudging me to trust him with my career. A week later, I ran into Hoyoung and Sojung at church during a Christmas event. Outside by the fire, over a cup of hot chocolate, I told them what had happened. They responded with sympathy and compassion, telling me to let them know if I even needed anything.

 
 

In January I was determined to make a new start to 2014. I wanted to leave that frustrating job behind and make a new start. The first week of January, Hoyoung and Sojung invited me out to breakfast down the street from WELD. They shared that they were also looking for a new start that year, setting new goals and reevaluating their priorities. They had recently heard a speaker, Megan Gilger, challenge business owners to reveal more of themselves in their business as a way to attract more of the right clients instead of the ones who wouldn’t be a good fit. Sojung and Hoyoung challenged me to write and blog more about that year in search of clients who would be attracted not only to my work, but also to working with me.

“Write more” was already my New Year’s Resolution that year. I just had a feeling that it would be important. Around that time I noticed someone posting about a writing class on my Twitter feed. There was a deal where if you purchased a spiritual practices class for Lent in addition to a 10-week writing class, you got both of them for the price of one. That week I kept thinking about the class, and eventually I signed up. 

The Lent class was first, and I immediately connected with my classmates. I never knew that it was possible to make close friends on the internet. We quickly became vulnerable with each other in a way that was rare with my “real life” friends. Most of us continued on to the writing class, led by Elora Nicole, who had originally posted about the writing. Though I didn’t know her, I finally figured out that I had started following her from Idea Camp.

During the writing class, another student write about her struggled in living abroad as a missionary. They sounded familiar, and I wrote her a message on Facebook, telling her a little about my experience. She said she was encouraged, knowing that I’d had a similar experience and it turned out all right. So I told her I’d write her more in an email.

It turned out I had a lot to say in that email. Soon I was writing several pages a day in drafts. As the project expanded, I thought, I’ll just write all this down for posterity. I don’t have a great memory of some parts of my time overseas, and it will be nice to have a more complete record in case I forget anything later.

 
 

By August, I had almost 300 pages of notes and journals that I’d combined into a long narrative of everything that happened overseas. It wasn’t in chronological order and was still a very disjointed, incomplete account because I didn’t have a through-line - something that made it a cohesive story.

On a whim, I attended an online class one weekend about self-publishing. I happened to be out of town that weekend, and I liked chatting with the other women and hearing about their projects, so I signed up. Elora said that you could spend a year finding an agent, then another year writing book proposals, and then if you signed with a publisher, you wouldn’t have creative control. But if you went with indie publishing, you are on your own schedule and you have final say on things like title, book cover, and content.

About halfway through the 8 hour course, it occurred to me that I’d almost written a book. I could publish this.

No, I don’t want to do that, I thought. No one will read it. But it just seemed like the logical thing to do. I didn’t know anyone else that was sharing stories like this about missions, and I wanted the narrative out there.

A year and a half and 22 drafts later, I’m preparing to publish next month. In general, I’m not a super disciplined person. There’s not much in my life that would suggest I was capable of writing and editing a project involving 23 drafts over two years.

But I did, thanks to a few key friends —  and Twitter.


Miah is the author of The Reluctant Missionary, a memoir about the two years she spent overseas teaching English.

She writes about learning to let go of perfectionism and embracing God’s plan for her life. She lives in Dallas where she dreams of someday having another cat.

Connect with Miah online at www.miahoren.com.


Graphics for The Reluctant Missionary by Sojung Lee.