Why The Tattoo?

I got a tattoo of a deer today.

Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.

I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.

But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?

I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.

Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.

So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.

Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.

Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.

“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.

It made my heart soar.

So, why the tattoo?

I guess there’s several facets to that answer.

- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.

- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.

- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.

- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.

If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.

That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.

Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.

Eating Ice Cream Every Day

My travel buddy Hannah of The Eat Team and I just finished a five-day road trip across New Zealand’s north island.  We had an epic adventure, climbed mountains, showered in a rainbow waterfall, visited the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton village at The Shire, ate a ton of junk food, read literary trash fiction, got drunk, played cards, laughed, and generally did absolutely nothing productive.

As part of our ongoing travels for The Eat Team, we’re calling, interviewing, writing, planning, photographing, and running around like madmen working hard and playing hard on a daily basis.

But on our little road trip, we didn’t do a single interview for The Eat Team.  We didn’t send a single email.  We left our phones off for days on end. And we indulged in procrastination and nothingness to the highest degree.

It’s not like doing stuff for The Eat Team is a hassle and to be honest it doesn’t much feel like work at all– it’s exactly what we would want to be doing even without a project like this.  (That’s the point of a dream right?)  It’s just that, no matter what you do, you can’t do it day in and day out without pause.  Even though ice cream one of my favorite things in the world, I wouldn’t want to eat it 30 days in a row.

The week leading up to the road trip left both of us feeling a bit uneasy–we were in Auckland with at least 15 incredibly talented folks ready and willing to meet us.  We had a backlog of over thirty articles and interviews already conducted and just waiting to be written, edited, and posted.  We had a place to stay for the next two nights and absolutely no plan after that.  We desperately wanted a break from the nonstop action and jam-packed schedule, but we were consumed by FOMO.  We got a golden opportunity to take a roadtrip, but we didn’t want to let those people down who were waiting to hear back from us, especially those who we already had scheduled meetings with.

What did we do?

We decided to let go.  We acknowledged the fact that no matter how much we tried to do and see, there was absolutely no way we’d ever see and do it all.  So we let go of it all.  We got in touch with the people we were meant to meet, apologized for canceling, and packed our bags.

Today is the first day that Hannah and I have gotten back into “working” on The Eat Team, scheduling, planning, writing, photographing, and tackling the daily steps of bringing our bigger dream into reality.

We spent the entire day in our pajamas behind our computer screens, emailing and facebooking and twittering and preparing and planning and the beauty is this: although the thought of this last week would have overwhelmed us, it did not. because we took a big fat indulgent break last week, today felt like just as much fun as showering in a waterfall by the sea.

It was refreshing.  I feel totally inspired again and ready to take on anything.  I think that’s the beauty of this nomadic lifestyle which feels more and more like a normal life.  There’s huge variety in it, and when one situation becomes tiresome, we move on to the next one.  We repeat them alternately, and each of them are just as enjoyable because of the rotation.

Last week, adventuring and hiking and roughing it and indulging felt like heaven.  Today, I couldn’t think of anything better than lounging and working and waking up in a real bed and drinking tea and eating a crumpet.  On Thursday, I’m looking forward to getting back out in the world again and interviewing some new folks in Wellington.

Sometimes you do this, sometimes you do that.  Sometimes you’re here, sometimes you’re there.  Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.  They’re all a necessary part of the balance, the rhythm, the flow, whatever you wanna call it.  This is as much a reminder to myself as it is to you: don’t fear either side, just let it pass through you and keep on moving,  keep on making decisions, keep on firing, just keep on swimming.  Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling burnt out–take a break and embrace it!

Just like in a photo, it’s the contrast that makes life beautiful.