The late-afternoon sun was burning through the windows, causing the wood furniture and hardwood floors in the room to flare up in a warm orange. I was taking a break from drawing. I sat at my desk sipping some of the tea I got at Longjing village, staring at the pale green liquid when up from the depths of my mind a thought bubbled:
I was wrong.
I is better now.
Two years ago, in despair of my work, I wrote an entry in my journal in hopes of encouraging myself. Here's the entry. I basically convinced myself that old piece of folk wisdom is true, the one about how it's not the destination that matters, but the journey. The satisfaction derived from art is in the process, not the product. It seemed true.
But as I sat there holding my cup of tea, looking up at the comic pages I taped to the wall next to my desk, I realized I had deceived myself in some way. Maybe the deception was ultimately necessary.
Two years before, I had told myself things wouldn't be any different when I had published work. But I was wrong. People I've never met have spontaneously emailed me and told me that my comic meant something to them. I thought to desire that kind of recognition was nothing more than vanity, but I was wrong. I am, after all, a primate. A social animal. I have a deep need to contribute to society, and not in a theoretical way. I crave proof that the contribution was real, that it actually affected someone. To receive this proof puts one's soul at peace in a way that I could not have understood before.
Two years ago I thought that no matter how bad I was at putting my imaginations onto paper, they were still satisfying in my head. This is not untrue; however, I also predicted that art would not be more enjoyable the more skilled I become.
I was wrong. It is better.
The drawings really do look like they did in my head. Sometimes it's even better than what I imagined. I had thought that was impossible. Frustrations are not as frequent or as crippling. And amazingly, it's easier to learn once you already know a lot.
But why should this be a surprise? My goal was always to produce a beautiful work. If I was content with my imagination, I would just sit around all day in a catatonic state. If anyone really believed that the end result wasn't important, why would we try so hard to improve?
The journey is good. I wasn't wrong about that. But the destination is even better.