Non-Fiction

Moving on From Creative Projects

Close-up photo of two dead flowers lying facedown in the dirt, with some sticks, bark, and a few little green plants around them.

You are allowed to take breaks. You are allowed to pause. You are allowed to go on a hiatus from a creative project. You are allowed to abandon that project entirely. You are allowed to shift gears. You are allowed to leave things unfinished.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are or the project is a failure. Maybe it was never meant to be finished, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be done so quickly.

Maybe you were meant to learn something from this project. Maybe you can apply these lessons to the next one. Maybe you were meant to develop some skills. Maybe you were simply meant to have this experience.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do for a creative project that isn’t working is just let it go.

Even if you move on, you have not wasted your time. Art is never a waste. Allow yourself to move forward. Leave the guilt behind.


Thinking about all my abandoned manuscripts, the books I started writing before I figured out what kind of writer I wanted to be. I will never finish them, but they are still valuable. They helped me become the writer I am today.

Thinking about my old YouTube channel, which I poured passion, creative energy, and hundreds of hours of my time into. I decided to stop being a YouTuber, but I carry the lessons and skills that gave me into my work today. I wouldn’t take it back. I wouldn’t undo it.

Everything that came before has been a part of my creative path. A creative path is messy, leaving all kinds of debris on its shoulders and in its wake. That’s all right. That’s how it should be.

Non-Fiction

You Don’t Need to Have a Brand

Photo taken out of a car window that's covered in water droplets of a storefront with an open sign in the window and several framed pieces of art on the walls within. Pink-and-purple filter over image. White text aligned left reads, "You don’t have to have a brand as a creative person. You can just create. It’s fine." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

You don’t have to have a brand as a creative person. You can just create. It’s fine.

Late-stage capitalism and social media are impacting our relationships to ourselves and our art. We are encouraged to commodify, label, and measure the success of our creativity.

If we don’t have a large audience for our work, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists. If we don’t make money from our art, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists. If we don’t have a defined brand or theme for our work, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists.

We haven’t.

Feel free to experiment, get weird, and try different things. Don’t feel like you have to stick to creating something you don’t like just because it’s a part of “your brand”. It’s probably healthiest to stop thinking of yourself as a brand.

Creativity likes flow, freedom, experimentation, messiness, and room to breathe. Creativity doesn’t like confinement, pressure, rigid expectations, commodification, and, um, capitalism. Don’t kill your creative process with branding. Don’t try to label and define something just as it’s trying to be born.

Let yourself fuck around. Start new projects and abandon them. Spend your time creating what you want rather than what you think the world wants from you. Don’t get stuck making the same thing over and over just because other people like it.

Art is not always straightforward, presentable, and easily consumable. Not everything you create has to be made for consumption. Not everything you create has to resonate with an audience. Art can exist for its own sake. You can make it just because you want to.

If you’ve been feeling pressure to create specific things in certain ways, if you’ve been feeling blocked, try doing something completely different. Step outside of the confines of what you normally make. Experiment. Don’t worry about how it will be received, and know that it doesn’t have to be received at all. Don’t worry about the final product. Allow yourself to get lost in the process and see what happens.

Snippets

I Started With a Tiger

Photo of a pink pillow on a couch with a cartoon tiger stitched on it with a raised front foot and its head turned away.

I am a little pink pillow with a tiger on it. One of my feet is a circle. It’s the foot that’s raised. It was sewn from memory. I posted this tiger illustration on DeviantArt in high school, and you commented to say, “I want this as a poster to hang on my wall”. For your birthday, I printed it out and gave it to you. You hung it up in your hallway and looked at it every day. Then you moved out, and it continued to hang in the hallway of your mother’s house. For years, your mother had the tiger poster. Then she moved somewhere else, and it was taken down and packed away. You haven’t been able to find it since. You wanted to use it as a reference, but you remembered it pretty well, particularly the foot that was a circle.

“Aw, I was learning to draw,” I say after receiving the pink tiger pillow for my twenty-eighth birthday. I was fifteen? Sixteen? A teen who dedicated a year of their life to learning how to draw. I drew every day, and on one of those days, I drew a tiger in my sketchbook and coloured it in on Photoshop. Or maybe it was Paint. Either way, I used block colours: orange, white, black, and pink.

Of the front feet, which is its right and which is its left? Nobody knows!

This tiger was my commitment. This tiger was my enthusiasm. This tiger was my dedication. This tiger was my anxiety, my neurosis. You cannot see its face. It never turns around. The original file was lost. The poster was displaced. Only the pillow remains, created from memory. Memory made from years and years of hanging in a hallway. This tiger was my adolescence. Its raised foot is a circle. We’re not sure how its front legs work. We’re not sure if that’s what its stripes looked like. There’s no shading. It’s in block colours. I made it on a trial version of Photoshop I had on a CD back before it was subscription-only. Or maybe it was Paint. Either way, I made it. This tiger was me.

I don’t draw anymore. I got that out of my system. I focus on writing now. I write in Google Docs, and I do my best to shade in my words. I try to use references. My backgrounds are more than simple block colours. I attempt accuracy with my proportions. I’m not afraid to write faces. I examine the tiger from all angles. I have a lot of learning to do still and a long way to go yet. I did not start here. I started with enthusiasm. I started with dedication. I started with a tiger, drawn in a sketchbook and coloured in with bright digital blocks.