102. ⛰️ fearing the plateau ⛰️
thinking about brush pen magic
Hello, and happy Monday.
I spent a lot of this weekend drawing and then writing and then drawing again. I’ve always wanted to be “good” at drawing, but never thought I was. This feeling would always hinder me—every time I put a line down on paper I would think, “I’ve already messed up, why keep going?” Recently, I stumbled on a YouTube video of an artist (Danny Gregory) who only started drawing in his late 30s, and the perfectionist tendencies within me calmed down.
This idea of growth in a safe space really resonated with me. And I think Danny’s relaxed voice made me feel reassured and at peace.
Today’s letter comes at you from one of the baby revelations I had while I was drawing and journaling. I think that a lot of it applies not just to my academic writing practice, but also some of the things I do for fun, like rock climbing and drawing.
✏️ Still processing.
On a whim, I recently read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist in the span of one morning. It was just what I needed at the time—something accessibly inspirational. A lot of the points he made regarding creativity and work felt like they had a low barrier to entry. One of the points that resonated with me the most was the idea that we need to “feel like we’re making something with our bodies, not just our heads.” His call to action—bringing you body into your work—made me recall the embodiment meditation for writing that I facilitated a couple weeks ago. More than that, though, I realized that I needed to spend more time on the physical page than at my screen.
I watched a YouTube video of Kleon’s where he talks about the value of a brush pen in his daily journaling practice. During the video, he mentions that working with the brush pen allows him to slow down his writing, which then prompts more thinking and ideas to come. (He attributes this practice to Lynda Berry, who I also love. 💗) So, I decided to get myself one of these little brush pens to experiment a little with the act of writing slowly on the page.
And wowowowowow, did I have an interesting little doodling session. I started by writing “brush pen shenanigans” and drew things around me—lamps, outlets, extension cords, tables—and then I flipped a page and wrote this:
If you can’t read my handwriting, this is what I wrote:
I am scared to try* because of the fear that I won’t progress. *learn from your mistakes—the key to progress is learning from your previous effort in order to understand how to make your next effort a little better.
Rather than being scared that something I do is “bad,” I am scared that if I do it “badly” over and over again, it won’t get any better—that I’ll be stuck on a plateau that’s very low to the ground, perhaps even the “ground” itself.
I don’t think I’ve ever realized the specificity of my fear, let alone admitted it to myself.
Naming this fear has already allowed me to begin to recognize it when it crops up while I’m writing, rock climbing, or drawing. I remind myself that progress isn’t linear (a phrase that is very much a part of productivity culture speak), but the sentiment feels a little different now. It feels like I know why I’m saying it to myself now.
🌀 Still consuming.
Wanted to share the above if you happen to be reading today and you happen to live in the Boston area!! Also, I recently learned about the Boston Figurative Art Center in Somerville! LMK if you wanna go one day! 💗
If you read anything in its entirety this week, it should be this piece: “I think it’s possible that for many, considering the shape of your life and then living it with vigor is so difficult because it cannot be externally validated. Unlike education and work, it offers no socially obvious meritocratic path. The moments where, like sourdough, it proves, are largely invisible…And there is no one who can tell you that you did it right. But this is not the condition of life under capitalism, this is life itself. And it is a sad irony that though the fear of life may be produced by class imperatives within capitalism, the impulse to restrict it to a problem of capitalism is itself part of the same fearful rejection of the task of living.” From Clare Coffey, one of the most thought-provoking pieces I’ve read in a while.
“the one thing I am certain about in these terrible times is that we also need a broad-based feminist movement that doesn’t treat abortion as an isolated issue. The right to abortion can’t be separated from other rights, those things that make the procedure necessary for so many people who might want a child (or another child) but can’t afford it; can’t have a child with an abusive partner, or any of the other reasons that make it impossible for people to continue a pregnancy.” Such important points made in this piece from Laura Briggs.
“Self care,” for me, has turned into something of a word that doesn’t mean anything. (Social media really has the power to dilute words, I’ve found.) Recently, though, I found a psychologist online that breaks down the six domains of self-care and why each element is important to integrate into one’s days or weeks. This approach feels much more concrete to me!
📖 Book club corner.
August’s book club pick is At the Center of All Beauty by Fenton Johnson! I’m so excited, and a big thank you to Devin for choosing this month’s books and facilitating our meeting at the end of the month! You can purchase the book here and find meeting details below.
Here’s the event info:
Date & Time: Tuesday, August 30 @ 5PM PST/8PM EST
Suggested Donation (for those able to donate): $3-10 through Paypal or Venmo (@idyalz) (A note that 100% of donations will go to Devin!)
If you are interested in facilitating a book club and have been to more than two book club meetings, feel free to reach out to me!
You can learn more about the tiny driver book club here!
🐶 A pup-date.
Big Girl looks like a squinty baby in this photo and I love it so much:
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!