How many times have you thought of being a writer? A painter? A musician? A songwriter? Or a dancer? And how many times have you decided you don’t have what it takes? That you are unworthy to be one?
I’ve always believed everyone can make art, ever since we learned to produce and mimic sounds, or hold a pen and write on walls and color outside the lines. But while growing up we had to conform to certain rules and meet expectations of our family and of society, expectations that also molded the standards we set for ourselves. With all these voices constantly bombarding us with dos and don’ts, there wasn’t enough space to create and fail. Soon we’ve lost the confidence to make our own sound, to write our own words, and to sing and dance to our own songs. We have become afraid that people won’t like what we produce, that it won’t matter anyway, or we will be judged. So, we crippled ourselves. We conformed by sitting on the sidelines, watching and admiring other people who dared to do it and left wondering if we will ever get the chance to create our own. This is what happens to the most of us.
We forgot that making art is a productive way of expressing ourselves and discovering our truth. The words that turn into poetry, colors that turn into a painting, musical notes that turn into a song, and body movements that turn into a dance, are all but our language to communicate our fleeting thoughts, ideas, and emotions. It’s never just about the awards, nod of approval, or number of likes. It’s the whole journey of building that confidence and painful nerve-wracking moments of baring yourself, your soul, to a piece of paper, a melody, or a dance, for no other reason but to get feelings and thoughts out of your system so you can function as a decent human being. It’s all about the why. Why are you creating? Here’s mine.
I started taking photos and writing poems and essays while traveling in 2016, mostly so I can process my experiences and make sense of them. During and in between my travels, I experienced falling in love with places and with humans. I took the courage to travel alone and realized I loved it and later on learned to appreciate traveling in a group. I flew halfway across the world to see someone I liked only to get my heartbroken when I arrived. I tested my faith and prayed so much to every church I saw in France, Italy and Vatican so God can heal my father who was battling cancer. And then I traveled to heal my grieving heart when my dad passed away. My love for traveling grew more and more as I became aware of the lessons that it taught me. I tried putting those lessons into words and started sharing them, not knowing how people will react to it. Soon I realized I have poems and photos describing my experiences and I wanted to have a record of it, a diary or a journal if you must, that can help me remember where I’ve been and what I’ve been through. With the expertise of a few friends, I turned it into a book. This is how I made my art.
Last March 2019, I released it as a self-published travel poetry book entitled, Travel Anyway and made it available in my website. You probably think that by this time I have figured out, what to do next and how to do it. No, I didn’t. A big part of me refused to actively promote my book. I thought that it should sell itself to the people that can connect to it. Travel Anyway is my story. It was real for me, the feelings and the experiences, everything was real. Selling it felt that I wasn’t doing justice to myself. As soon as it was out in the public, I started having doubts. Again, the yearning to get approval and acceptance crept in. I had to remind myself over and over again, this is my art. I made this for me. These stories are part of who I am but is not everything that I am and that still doesn’t mean it’s not my truth. I am ever changing and so is my art. My art is for me.
As of today December 2019, I sold 83 books out of the 170 that I asked to be printed and 3 E-books. It’s nowhere near a best-seller or winning any award or being placed in any actual bookstore. If you ask me, if I knew back then that this is how it’s going to turn out, would I still write it, take photos, and turn it into a book? Was it worth it? My answer is, “Hell Yes!”
The photos reminded me of all the beautiful places that allowed me to witness the importance of diversity and therefore helped deepen my understanding of other cultures. The poems helped me faced the hard truths I didn’t dare say, and the realities I was facing I didn’t dare acknowledge because it hurt. The words came in different ways. Sometimes while I was eating alone in a restaurant, or while talking to a stranger on the road that I will probably never see again. Sometimes when I was drunk, most of the times when I’m feeling too much and the words have nowhere to go so, I grab a pen and let it come out. Fleeting emotions, ideas, and thoughts captured in words and photos, this is my art.
Honestly, until now I still don’t have the full confidence to tell myself, I’m a writer or an artist. I’ve taken a few writing and photography lessons back in school but that’s about it. I still get my grammar wrong. I barely know how to operate a manual camera. But I do have experiences and I have words. I don’t need to be called a writer or an artist. I just need a space to create my art. So, if these words resonate with you, I hope for whatever reason, make your art anyway! It does good things to you.
Art, Excerpt from Travel Anyway page 9
Travel Anyway is still available here in my website. This holiday season, you can get the print for Php800 and the e-book for Php350. You can also follow me in instagram for random trips and daily musings.