Post by Kelly Haworth
Like most people, I’ve been drawing longer than I’ve been able to write. Every Christmas for years I would get an art kit from my grandfather, who had been a watercolor painter in his retirement. I still have the last kit he gave me before he passed away. The kit is mostly unused – colored pencils, watercolors, and oil pastels in a brown wooden suitcase with a clasp. I don’t remember much of what I drew with those kits. What I do remember is girls in frilly dresses or jeans with cut outs – it was the 90’s after all, and I wanted to be a clothes designer when I grew up.
In my early teens I discovered another creative venture – writing. My first story was about a girl who jumped into the book she had been reading and travelled to the 1700’s (obviously because of the fashion) to be with a family that sailed to a tropical island complete with unicorns and magical birds.
For the next ten years, art and writing were delightful hobbies of mine, at which I didn’t think I’d ever be professional, but I still had fun nonetheless. I didn’t become a fashion designer, unfortunately. Instead I worked in a science lab, where I used delicate lab equipment eight hours a day – involving fine hand motions. Within a few months of this, my hands ached so much I stopped drawing. But I could still write. Even after I was promoted to a desk job, still, I just wrote. And even published some novels!
Fast forward to 2018, when my writing career shifted – I pulled my books from their original publisher, and partnered with two other publishers to get the ball rolling again. Simultaneously, my job hit some setbacks which doubled my workload for nine months. The overtime meant my writing had to go on the back burner. By the time I could breathe at work again, I looked at what was left of my writing career – one republished novel, two novellas, and a handful of WIPs, and grimaced.
And the worst part was that I’d try to work on those WIPs and just stare at the blinking curser. Nothing was there. Which made me discouraged, which made it harder to write, etc etc etc.
Besides work on collaborative projects, I haven’t written in over a year.
In October last year, I saw a number of artists participating in an event called inktober. Do one inked sketch per day throughout the month. If I couldn’t write, and if it had been six whole years since I had moved on from the repetitive hand-motion job, maybe I could draw again? So I picked up a sketchbook and an old kit of inking pens, and gave it a try.
By October 31st I had 31 sketches and a completely reawakened sense of creativity. Though I’m not an expert by any means, I got lots of lovely comments from other artists and felt connection and passion like I hadn’t felt toward writing in years. In the few months since, I’ve done dozens of additional sketches and polished pieces, collected new art supplies, and joined the art community on twitter. I’ve been loving it. And the pressure is off – maybe because there’s no income involved.
Like most authors, I haven’t made much from my writing. I could spend hundreds of hours on one story, and sell maybe a dozen or two copies at the end of it all. That’s terribly discouraging, to be honest. In art, I could spend maybe an hour on a picture, and get a few likes, or a couple of hours, and get a few dozen – not money of course, but that little heart and the occasional nice comment sure does make me feel good, and like it’s worth it.
There’s value in having a hobby that is completely disconnected from a job. My writing had become a second job. And when it didn’t perform well, and then got stuck, my discouragement was too much to overcome. My art is purely for fun – with no expectation of making money off of it. And in that, I feel free to draw, and enjoy myself. I think of twelve year old me designing clothing whenever I put a character in an outfit I’ve invented on the spot. Or I think of my grandfather spending hours on a watercolor canvas when I try to get all the details just right.
Will I write again? Definitely. But this break to draw is going to be exactly the creative recharging I need to be able to tackle my second job again. And rediscovering this passion for art has been one of the best things that’s happened to me in years.
The next time you’re stuck on your side hustle (because let’s admit we all have them) maybe what you need is a hobby – that you can completely separate from monetary goals – to help you get the creative juices flowing again.
To view some of Kelly’s art, look for her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/kellscanvas) or find her as @kells_canvas on Instagram.