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

4 things 4 years of marriage taught me.

Today, my husband and I celebrate 4 years of marriage.

As year 4 has come to an end, I can't believe where we are now and what it took to get us here. 
In 4 short years, we've lived in 3 different homes, quit our careers to pursue new ones freelancing in the creative industry, started sharing one car, made it through a long recovery after a major surgery, owned a business together, hired our first employee, made lifelong friendships, traveled to new cities, fought a lot, fought hard for our marriage, and loved each other with all we've got. 
 

 
 

"Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun
—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun."
- Ecclesiastes 9:9

Marriage has been and continues to be the most growing and humbling experience of my life.
Here are 4 things I've learned so far.

1. I learned how to enjoy the freedom found in working through conflict.

If you asked me how I enjoyed being married 3 years ago and told me to answer honestly, I would have said I wished we were still dating. We often told other couples who were seriously dating to date for as long as possible in a joking manner. Neither of us were joking and we both knew it. And it hurt. 
Being married was rough our first year because there were hurtful accusations of one not loving the other as much, because we both wanted to have it our way, because our expectations for each other were too high. There was also the transition of starting/owning a business together halfway through our first year of marriage and spending all of our time with each other. We were a mess. We were fighting, making up, made up and happy, fighting, and it was a perpetual cycle that seemed to get more and more escalated with each conflict.


Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles,

- 1 Corinthians 7:28


Thinking back on all of the conflict, I don't regret any of it. As hard as all of that was, no other way would have made our marriage what it is today. We may have gotten married because we loved each other, but we certainly did not know how to love each other. We were forced to learn to love each other by pushing through conflict. 

2. I learned how to enjoy my time with the Lord.

My time with the Lord is sacred. My husband's time with the Lord is sacred. 
Our time together with the Lord is sacred. 

Our relationship is the healthiest when we are individually spending time with God in prayer, meditation, and His word. Without Him, it would have been easier for us to get divorced but with Him, divorce is never even an option.


Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them
will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock

- Matthew 7:24


3. I learned how to enjoy my husband and how to let him enjoy me.

This is about intimacy and not about intimacy. 
When my husband pays me a compliment like, "You look beautiful," I often dismissed it. I would either have the attitude of "He has to say that - he's married to me," or I accused him of having motives driven by his sexual desires. Both responses were unfair of me and due to my own insecurities. Learning to believe the best in my husband has helped me to enjoy him and all aspects of our marriage, from mundane tasks like budgeting to fun memories like traveling, from enjoying a meal at the dinner table to laying with each other on our bed. 


In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh,
but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 
because we are members of his body.

- Ephesians 5:28-30


4. I learned how to enjoy life. 

This may sound morbid but I often think about what would happen to the other if one of us were to die. Knowing that nothing on this earth is permanent, I sometimes can't help but consider that as a possibility. I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that our lives are fleeting and it has completely changed how I treat my husband and live my life. Knowing that I could lose Hoyoung on any given day makes me think twice about what I say, my tone of voice, and hurting him.


with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

- Ephesians 4:2


I certainly am not perfect - I make mistakes, say things I don't mean, and we still fight, but I have learned to say I'm sorry and be more forgiving. I still struggle with anxiety and get stressed out, but I am quicker to rest in the Lord, trusting that He is the good Father and in control. The freedom I have found in the Father I gained over the 4 years I've been married. I am eternally grateful.

 

I love you, Hoyoung Lee.
Thank you for being my encourager, supporter, and best friend.

 

Bella Salazar | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Isabel, but everyone calls me Bella. I'm a musician. I like to write songs about my life; I play and I sing. 

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

I started playing the violin when I was young. I loved it, but what I really wanted was to play the piano. When I was a little girl, a family that we knew was moving out of state. They had two pianos and asked if my parent’s would keep one for them. It stared at me day in and day out, begging to be touched. I couldn’t ignore it; for years, I asked my mom for piano lessons. In the 6th grade I finally started taking lessons. The first song I learned was "Mary had a Little Lamb." The middle-aged beautiful upright piano became my new best friend. I felt life come to my hands whenever I played, and I felt so much pride each time I learned a new song.

As I grew older, I started to write my feelings into songs. I banged on the piano, my emotions flowing through my veins as I hit the keys. You know the feeling you have after a good cry? Like you just lost 300 pounds off of your back? That’s what writing started to do for me. I wrote about loneliness and hurt. I wrote about boys. Aside from my faith, expressing my emotions through writing and playing music is a most freeing experience for me.

To this day I am so grateful to the family who left us that piano. My family would never have been able to afford one. In my heart, I know the Lord knew I would need it. It’s like a token of His love for me, intimately and specifically for me. Growing up as part of a large family, I needed something that was just mine . 

Music became a part of my soul. As I grew, my songs became more and more exposing. Every single part of writing is healing for my soul, my personal therapy session. My number one rule in writing songs is to be utterly and completely honest. I do my very best to leave it all at the piano. In the Lord’s goodness, I believe He knew that I would also need this release .

I could never stop playing or singing. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

I see every element of my music as a gift I don’t deserve. I was gifted a piano; I was gifted a voice to sing; and I’m grateful that I also get to use these blessings to worship Him.

 
 “Every good and perfect thing comes from above”(James 1:!7).
 

My first time on stage was singing worship, I loved every single moment of it. I loved being vulnerable while leading the body of Christ into a place of adoration for the Father. I have a tattoo that comes from a scripture in psalms that reads,

 I will praise the Lord as long as I live, I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath. 

- Psalm 146:2

I never want to live for anything other than to worship Jesus, whether that be in my actions or the literal form of musical worship. It’s who I am. A child of the King, an adorer of who He is. Some of the most intimate and profound moments I have shared with the Lord have been the two of us seated at the piano. I feel so honored He meets me in those places and grateful we get to share that.

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

In this season of my life I have so very much to be thankful for. Goodness, there is so much for me to write about because I’ve been in such crazy places these past months - I feel like I could explode with lyrics. However, I've realized that it’s in these moments that I find my limited skills make it difficult for me to write what my heart is aching to hear. I have been sitting down to play the piano more for practice than for leisure.  I’ve also started teaching myself the guitar recently. Because of the season I am in right now, I actually have the time to practice playing both instruments. That is an amazing blessing in itself. In addition to that, with my line of work I am surrounded my creatives on a weekly basis. It’s revitalizing and inspirational. I am challenged to think of myself as a creative and challenged to think like one. I love it!

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What are you working on now?

I’m working on breaking out of my creative box. I hate it when my music sounds redundant. It’s so hard not to naturally go towards what you already know. I’m trying to be open to expanding my vocal and musical creativity. My goal is always to make this song sound different from the last.

What inspires you? 

Circumstances inspire me the most. A few years ago, I was stuck in a heavy depression. I didn’t know how to explain it because I didn’t fully understand it myself. I wanted to will myself into feeling better, into feeling at all, but I couldn’t. One day, I sat at my piano and I focused on the frustration, the lack of emotional sensations and the pain that had driven me into such a place. I wrote about feeling stuck, I wrote about feeling lost and damaged. I didn’t start feeling better right then and there, but I started feeling something. I was released. I felt like I had a voice again. Time and time again, my circumstances inspire me. 

What does "being creative" mean to you?

This word “creative” frightens me mostly because I have never considered myself a creative. I love the arts (fashion, music, theatre, museums, and etc.), but being put in the same category as people that I consider to be brilliant seems absurd. Looking at the people I admire and interacting with artists that I personally know, I've realize that a creative is someone with the ability to create, someone who takes their talents and makes it into something. A creative is someone who pushes their boundaries and unveils a part of themselves we may not always see. This is what I love about creativity! The unveiling of one’s true self - it’s beautiful! This also means we all have that ability within us and I love that, too!

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

Sharing your talent is absolutely biblical. If you’re anything like me, you probably hate that and wish everyone would just forget that one time you decided to sing. However, hiding your  talents away is unfair to everyone else. It  When we are given a gift, it is right to say, "thank you for that gift," and then to share that gift. I do not say this with pride at all, but you never know if and/or when your gift can change someone else's life. For me, I hope my music can give words to the feelings someone else didn't know how to express. 

Don’t be afraid of raising your voice, your words, and your heart. Your gifts are important. 



Listen:


Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

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