Non-Fiction

Create What You Want to Create

Close-up photo of a blooming flower. Grass, sidewalk, and road in the background. Red filter over image. White text in the centre reads, "Let yourself create what you want to create." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

Let yourself create what you want to create.

Your art can be anything.

It does not have to be serious. It does not have to be “real”.

Creating silly art for the sake of it is a gift you can give to yourself.

Creating silly art for the sake of it is a gift you can give to the world.

You are not meant to take your art so seriously that it drains you of joy.

Your desire to create is a gift you were given to bring more joy into your life.

Embrace the ridiculous. Make silly art. Don’t worry about what “counts”.

Respect your desire to create by allowing yourself to create whatever the hell you want.


For years, I thought I had to be a fiction writer to be a “real” writer. I don’t know why. I suppose I didn’t understand that creative non-fiction is a legitimate art form. I thought that I couldn’t just write about my life, I had to write about something interesting, something people would actually want to read. I didn’t think that the kind of writing that comes naturally to me, creative non-fiction and poetry, “counted” as real writing.

So, I wrote short stories. I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as writing creative non-fiction and poetry. I also wasn’t particularly good at it, but I persisted. If I was going to be a writer, then I needed to be a real, legitimate writer.

Then one day, I sat down at the computer and typed up an essay about the challenges I was facing trying to access hormone replacement therapy. All of the logistical and emotional details poured out of me. Writing that essay felt effortless, cathartic, and therapeutic, but I told myself that it wasn’t “real” writing and I needed to get back to my fiction the next day.

I ended up submitting that essay to an anthology that wanted to publish it. Years later, I included it in my zine about transitioning. I’m unable to recall most of the fiction I wrote years ago, but the creative non-fiction and poetry have stuck with me. Non-fiction has felt more meaningful, and even though I tried to push it away, I couldn’t stop writing it.

I have since learned that this thing I do where I write about my life is called creative non-fiction, many writers do it, and it’s a perfectly legitimate art form. It is creative, expansive, cathartic, therapeutic, vulnerable, brave, painful, and also ART.

These days, I write what I want. When I noticed I was writing more about kink, I went, okay, that’s a scary subject to tackle publicly, but I’m going to make a zine about it. When I found myself writing more poetry than prose, I embraced that. When I started to enjoy adding text to my photographs, I indulged in that too. I create because I am driven to. I believe it makes more sense to create what I want rather than what I think I should. Both I and my art are better off for it.

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.