A couple of weeks ago, my 24-year-old niece (whom I adore) asked me if I would doodle her a tattoo. She told me what she wanted: a crescent moon and hanging from its top, her horoscope sign, which is Gemini. She gave me no specifications about style or size, didn’t mention if it would be in color, didn’t tell me where she planned to put it when she got it done. And I didn’t ask. I just said yes.
When I told Chad about it later, enormously honored that she’d asked me, he jokingly said, “No pressure. It’s just something she’ll wear on her skin FOREVER.” I admit that gave me pause, but only for a few seconds. I knew that if she hated what I drew, she didn’t have to use it, but honestly it was more than just that reassuring truth that propelled me forward.
Lately, I’ve been living a life full of YES.
In this YES space, I’ve created custom holiday cards and love doodles, painted a glass full of flowers, a juggler of hearts, an art piece to welcome a baby girl into a gathering of goddesses (such a lovely alternative to a christening). I’ve created illustrations for an online class and a couple of children’s t-shirts, and I’ve sketched up some pretty fun monsters for a friend who, in her very rare spare time, is working on a children’s book.
And, the truth is, I was plagued with self-doubt on every single project. In the best cases, I wasn’t sure I could do what was being requested. In the worst cases, I was positive I couldn’t. Still, if the proposal pulled me, if I felt that whispery yes inside me, I said it. What I lacked in confidence I made up for with enthusiasm, hope, and unmitigated gratitude. Some projects were easier than I imagined they’d be; others pushed me up against the hard (but ultimately expandable) edges of my abilities.
All of them made me a better artist.
In January of this year, I was part of a conversation on Twitter in which people were choosing their “one word,” the word they would live by in 2014. One of my closest friends chose the word “yes,” and as soon as I read that, I knew it was my word too. All my life, I’ve let fear hold me back – fear of not being smart, savvy, talented, experienced, educated, popular, cool, badass, or resilient enough… fear of failure. This year I’ve been attacking that demon head on by saying yes in spite of him, and it’s working. The more things I say yes to, the less fear has a hold of me, which is not to say I don’t get scared anymore. I do all the time, but I run ahead anyway, however clumsily. I figure at least I’ll make fear have to work to stay up with me.
I’m sharing because I think it really may be just this simple: to get unstuck, say YES. Not to everything (we are limited by that pesky 24 hours in a day), but to the things that stir and excite you… and I’m not just talking about art here.
I’d love to hear what you’re saying yes to… or what you would say yes to, if you believed what I’m saying was true. (Which you should. I’m very trustworthy.)
p.s. Here’s the doodle for my niece’s tattoo because I knew, secretly, you wanted to see. : )