Updated: Sep 25, 2020
I recently embarked on a trip to Darwin, Northern Territory. The week spent up north was a glorious flurry of crocodile cruises, dusty red roads, op shop treasures, secrets shared with new and old friends, damper over the fire, emerald coloured waterholes and the vast beauty of the outback.
Just before I left for Darwin I had finished editing the Poetry and Arts book I have been working on for over a year, “There Will Be Beauty From These Ashes” (you can read more about it here) The past few months I have spent cocooned in libraries (I have an unending and wholesome love for libraries) meticulously pouring over every little detail. Painstakingly wondering, should the font be 8pr or 9pt? Mohawk or eco recycled paper stock? What thickness should the paper be, 250gsm or 275gsm? Going back and forth between the sizing of margin borders. There are SO many minute things to tend to when designing a book. I do have a fond appreciation when things are done with a degree of excellence and where possible, is of the highest quality. I know that I can sometimes tread a very fine line between meticulous and obsessive. I am ever learning when to surrender and embrace the beauty of imperfection. When I returned from Darwin, a hard proof copy of Lola was ready for me to pick up. Now, if you have any experience in printing then you know how important it is get a proof (flat sheets of the artwork bound) so you’re able to change anything if necessary before confirming the final print run. I can’t recommend enough how extremely helpful it is to do. It was surreal to say the least, to see Lola leap out of my computer screen and suddenly into the third dimensional realm. Though she was not yet in the final stages of being bound, here I was holding what was once just a thought in my minds eye, in my hands. IN MY HANDS. The added emphasis is because I can’t articulate into words just how dreamlike that moment was. I was accompanied to the printers by one of my dear friends Cherie, who I will mention here as she has been a saving grace in many ways, especially pertaining to the editing of this book. Her design skills (in which she is INCREDIBLY gifted in) helped enormously with finalising all the bits and bobs of finalising the editing process, as well as the support of others (you know who you are and I love you!) If you have been following my journey for a time, then you would know that I have been working on this book for over a year. (!!!) Because Lola is a personal project, I have had ample opportunity to take careful consideration and time with creating. (It has been almost FOUR years since the last, this being the fourth issue!) It is one thing to create just your own work, although when you are incorporating other artists work within your own creation, that is a whole other kettle of fish I tell ya! I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and it has truly been an honour to create a platform for other artists and their work to be featured. There are quite a few artists featured in this issue, as it is also happens to be with the previous ones, who have never shared their work publicly. Being witness to the excitement and gratitude on people's faces when I have asked if they would like to be included, has been entirely worth all the blood, sweat and tears that has been gone into the creation of this book. To be able to encourage others in their gifting is an incredible honour and that which is at the heart of Lola Z. The next step is when to launch (I am dreaming of doing an event, but given the current climate, it is proving difficult) and working on creating marketing, photos of the book etc. The hardest part of the journey has come to an end. It’s strange and quite surreal, as it has been held so close to my heart and now soon to be thrust into the hands of strangers and beloved ones. Also, navigating how intertwined the process of grieving my father and this book is, is not something I have shied away from but as you can imagine, there have been many sleepless nights and anxious days.
I want to segue further into the struggles I have faced particularly with creativity that I have sought to overcome and still traversing through, in hopes that you may be encouraged and enlightened. Everyday, we are inundated with a plethora of projects being released, art being shared in various forms across the five hundred and eighty five thousand social media platforms that exist and counting. More often than not, quality is forsaken for quantity. There can be underlying pressure for an innumerable amount of reasons to have to meet deadlines etc. I will admit, I have undoubtedly felt the pressure of feeling as though I had to release this book earlier. I have fought the comparison to others who have released their art and the innate need of wanting to be validated by what I have produced. We live in a value based upon works, society. A culture that is built upon distinguishing identity by what we do, how much we can achieve, accumulating a storehouse of successes and accolades. It is a tottering and shaky kingdom we have built, the fire of this year has revealed this more so than ever I believe. As I have mentioned, comparison to others and the pressure I have solely placed upon myself attributed to being influenced by the culture we live in, has been an uphill battle. Throughout the years that I have pursued the arts in varying degrees, something that I have learnt throughout all the failures and successes that I believe to be so INVALUABLE and incredibly helpful is; understanding the WHY behind why you create. What are the beliefs you maintain that inform the outworking of your creativity rather than, the creation in and of itself. I desire to create work that is infused with meaning, hope-filled and ecclesiastic in nature. When I was younger and pursuing the arts, I sought to find meaning in the work of my hands and therefore identity which I eventually found was futile and devoid of any true meaning. I was grasping at a mirage, as the lyrics of a Killers song, 'Imploding The Mirage' write so poignantly and poetically; (THIS WHOLE ALBUM IS IMBUED WITH GLORY)
“I wasn't lost in the collage,
I was imploding the mirage,
I was spellbound by the show,
The matchless power of the glow,
I was bound by golden shackles, Getting by,
She tripped the breaker,
blew the fuse
Doesn't need no pair of shoes
Her wings have come
And she's ready for the sky”
Everything I sought to create may have been well intentioned, though within my own soul I hungered to be deemed worthy and thought it could only ever found in the work of my hands. I compared myself to others frequently and because I couldn’t distance who I was apart from what I did, they were chaotically infused and any critical assertion of my work was felt deeply and extremely personally. Like a hamster on a wheel, I was stuck in an invisible race trying to outrun others who I deemed to 'better' work than I ever could. Nothing I ever achieved was good enough. I was my own worst critic, to the point that I eventually stopped pursuing projects as I eventually burnt myself out. There were deeper wounds underlying that needed to be tended to. I didn’t take the time to look inward instead of outward. I was dedicated to producing things, that was for sure, but I never considered the motive behind what I did. What if we started with ourselves first? What if we asked ourselves all the ruthlessly critical questions, the moral questions, the ethical questions? Creativity matters because of the why, not the what; the sentiment, not the acquisition. So, I began the journey of asking and wrestling with this critical question of asking myself, why? What has personally helped to break through the facade of the mirage I was living in and to come to an understanding of why when it comes to creativity, is that of my faith which I returned to almost four and half years ago. I uphold the Christian worldview of being created in the image of Creator God, so therefore it is innate within my very being to create. I see creativity as an invitation into divine partnership, co-labouring with the One who breathed out the stars into existence and formed us from the dust of the earth, to reveal to all creation— the awe inspiring beauty and truth of His love and goodness in innumerable and diverse artistic ways. It is not less of me and more of God, or less of God and more of me, it is ALL of me and ALL of God— a profound mystery.
Remind yourself continually; you are not a sum total of what you do nor how much you are able to achieve. Your truest identity is found in the abounding freedom of knowing you are worthy and valued before you put your hand to any single thing. Have you ever looked upon a child and found your heart swelling up with love, without them having done a single thing, just their mere existence brings you joy. This is how we are seen in the eyes of the One who created us. May you find rest for your soul in this eternal truth. May you find the courage and grace to ask yourself the critical question of why.
"If you could see through the banner of the sun
Into eternity's eyes
Like a vision reaching down to you
Would you turn away?
What if it knew you by your name?
What kind of words would cut
Through the clutter of the whirlwind of these days?
I tried going against my own soul's warning
But in the end, something just didn't feel right
Oh I tried running from the memory and the mourning
But the penalty kept on pouring
And now I think I know why
'Cause when I hit the ground
It made a messed up sound
And it kept on rattling through my days
And cutting up my nights
Like a goddamned knife
And it got me thinking, no matter how far
I just wanted to get back to where you are”
An excerpt from ‘My Own Soul's Warning’ by The Killers
Artwork by Thomas Blackshear