Saturday, September 3, 2011

Own it! (My favorite post ever.)

Here's something you might not know about me. Years ago, after graduating from college, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I applied, and was accepted to, a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program and spent two and a half years immersed in the sciences. Biology, Chemistry, Physics. I even took a few math courses like Calculus and Statistics.

(I then realized I was going down this road not because it made be happy, but because I thought it would please certain other people. I finished my courses, but I never applied to medical school. Still, I'm grateful for the experience and would not trade it for anything in the world. Another story for another time!)

In one of my Physics classes, I happened to mention a hilarious Chemistry-related pun I'd come up with. Instead of laughing, one of my classmates scoffed and said he was surprised I'd admit to something like that in public. As if I'd said something scandalous and obscene!

Well. After 25 years of feeling embarrassed when I was called out for being a dork, I did something different. Now, on the outside, I remained calm. I rolled my eyes and ignored that dude. Inside, though? I got angry.

What a world! I thought. Where I was supposed to be ashamed of making puns. Of liking science. Of being me! This started me on a long -- and ongoing -- road to dumping the shame and claiming my quirks. In short, taking the most interesting things about me and owning them.

This is what I want for each and every one of you! That you realize that many of the things you believe are wrong about you are the rightest things ever because they're what make you awesome. That you own them and never, ever reject them.

Not only is this an important general life lesson, but it's one you can carry over into your creative work. Being an artist means doing what you do with a certain amount of skill, but also doing things in new and different ways. If your work is infused with your quirks, your awesomeness, it can't help but be original.

Also, in accepting the things that make you tick, you'll accept the things that make your work yours. No more I shouldn't write about this or I shouldn't paint like this or maybe I should concentrate on making my work more like so-and-so's. Trust me, it will be a freeing experience!

So here's my mantra: whatever makes you stand out? Own it.

  • If you're sensitive and cry during movies, own it! 
 It doesn't make you frail or weak. I know plenty of sensitive people who are strong because they're in touch with, but not controlled by, their emotions. Don't let others discount your perspective on the world, because you know what? It's just a little deeper. The world needs more depth.

  • If you have more interests than you know what to do with at times, and you're always picking up new things, own it! 
You're not a flake. You're not a scatterbrain. You do not, for the love of all that is sparkly, have problems with commitment. You're a fascinating, multi-talented person. Some would call you a Generalist instead of a Specialist. Some would call you a Scanner or a Renaissance Soul. I would call you fantastic.

Instead of "settling down" and choosing one thing to do with you life, try combining your interests. Writing with art, music with painting. Or work your interests in rotations. Devote one day, week, month, to one interest, and when you've tackled your big project or learned what you need to, switch to another. Keep feeding your curious, amazing brain! The rewards will be numerous.

  • If you write in a genre that isn't considered "serious literature," if you work with artistic materials that aren't considered "high end," if you'd rather cartoon than sketch fruit in bowls, own it! 
Traditional and accepted things are quite often wonderful, but what you do is no less so. If it pushes boundaries and delights you and helps you connect with people who wouldn't ordinarily read books or appreciate art or wear jewelry, you have to do it and continue to do it your way. It's your calling. Also, keep in mind that many famous artists faced some of the criticisms you face now.
(Some of my favorite materials to work with. They make their way into my projects again and again! I have no intention of changing this.)

Own being weird. Own your unruly curly hair and learn to encourage the curl. Own your love for sequins and stuffed animals and novelty socks and Sweet Valley Twins books. When you do, you'll be freer in your work and in your life, and you'll learn to feel compassion for anyone who thinks you should go back into hiding.

Because here's a great big secret! The people who insult you the most are definitely hiding some huge secrets of their own. They may just need some patience and encouragement to own their inner awesome.

(From my collection of Halloween socks. I wear them year round and buy more every year.)

So how about you? Which quirks are you willing to own? Which quirks are you still a little embarrassed about?

Thanks for stopping by, thanks for sharing, and have a sequintastic day!


  1. This post rocks!! I usually say I am scartterbrained with ADD but I like fantastic much better!

    LOVE the socks :)

  2. Aww, thank you! I'm glad you liked it. :)

    I bet fantastic is a better fit.

    You can get the socks at Kohl's in October. I'm totally getting more this year. Even if I have to save my spare change until then.

  3. Great advice, I did exactly the same - I studied drama rather than art (at my school you had ONE creative outlet only) and stupidly took it all the way to degree split with history - both of which I like but are not what I've become. Now all I do is art, all self taught and not particularly talent-ful. Thanks for you comment on my blog and an insight into your different hats. Fab post, looking forward to more :)

  4. Hi there! I'm so glad you came to visit. :)

    One of my favorite quotes ever, and one that played in the very back of my mind every time I opted out of studying to play with polymer clay or cook, is:

    "The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life."

    I think so many of us start out doing what we think we "should" do, and not what we want to do. Luckily, plenty of us smarten up later in life!

    I'm so impressed that you're self-taught. I truly think your work rocks.

  5. Love this post! Thanks, Sarah, for reminding me to own all my quirks and celebrate today!

  6. Thanks, Kate! I'm glad this post served as a reminder. Because believe me, you're fabulous, and you should definitely celebrate it!!!


  7. Wow, what a great post! I came over from BeadingGem's post on your travel boxes, and had to read this one. Thank you so much for such great insights. My beadwork is my hobby right now, but I hope for it to bring in some income sometime in the future (so I can buy more beads!) Reading things like this post are definitely an encouragement towards that future.

  8. Thanks, Shirley! :)

    You're very welcome, and I'm so excited that you're planning to earn some income on your work in the future! Once I get started on Etsy and selling my work face-to-face, I'll definitely post some more tips in that area.


  9. Hi! I found you via Emma A Little Bit of Everything - but how come you knew I had curly hair? And can't decide what to do because I'm interested in so many different things??!

    1. Hi, Iz!

      There's a book I recommend. It's called Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher, and it's helped me a lot!

      What are some of your interests?

  10. Such a great article (rather than a post) about the creative souls in each person. It really rocks, touched some parts of me too. Thanks a lot.

  11. Lovely post! One of my likers on facebook shared it with me and now I'm sharing it on my timeline so all my other likers can see it. Love supporting my creative comrades and I think our quirks are wonderful and make us unique!


Comments are like chocolate chip cookies for my blog! They're always appreciated. <3