Art Happens Here – Natalie Williams

In the beginning, there was a tweet. Then an overview of the course. What followed, was a few DMs shared, some nerves grown and calmed and then there it was – week one of Toolkits.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shit scared. I’d never created digital work in the way I thought these people had. I knew nothing about coding, very little about digital lit and no clue about the tools at my disposal to create.

I was overwhelmed. I was awed. I was confused, but I was also curious. Within our first Kinopio board brainstorm, I saw others writing words I resonated with. ‘Imposter syndrome’, ‘lack of knowledge,’ ‘fear,’ ‘uncertainty,’ ‘can I create something in time?’

Before starting, I wondered if I would fit in. I was worried I would find myself a stranger to the world of digital creations, but within my cohort, I found a group of creatives who were just as anxious as I was, but who had nonetheless all been chosen. Scared or not, we were all here set on a path of discovering the world of digital storytelling.

I set a goal for our 12 weeks together, not to have a finished piece but to allow myself to expand my view of creating. To break down my walls of perfectionism, and to revel in the fields of making freely.

I’d spent the last year locked into the chains of inadequacy. They would pull me this way and that, away from making anything that my inner critic would deem ‘not good enough.’

Within weeks of participating in Toolkits with the Digi Storytellers, I was coming up with ideas I’d never thought of before. I was imagining ways to utilise the tools I was discovering. My bookmarks folder grew substantially with a wealth of URLs to check out later and pieces to come back to when I had a spare hour.

Through talks with the mentors and my fellow classmates, I absorbed great wisdom not only about the craft of making but about ways of being.

Our teacher Rory shared the great line, ‘Did we make this hell ourselves?’ teaching me the beautiful dichotomy that if we’re capable of making something one way, we can also unmake it another way. We can make, break, and recreate whenever we chose, however we chose.

In between sessions, my classmate Claire would join me in the curiosity and fun of the unknown, rooting each other on with a smile or a giggle.

Another classmate Tim would offer warm, earnest advice when I was struggling in understanding the complexity of coding. They’d offer both patience and puns, including a fabulous meme inspired by one of the group conversations in our mentor sessions.

Two fists bumping with a lightning bolt icon where they meet, and the caption: The Art Happens Here

Tim’s beautiful meme

One of our mentors Jini Maxwell shared insights into how to live life as a critic and storyteller and that, ‘you don’t have to convince someone that a piece of art is ‘good’, you just have to make them think, “Oh that’s interesting.”

They shared the importance of having a hobby/practice that is just for you and isn't turned into physical labour or a full-on job.

Perhaps most importantly, Jini taught me that, ‘Just because something is stressful, it does not mean it’s important. It’s easy to get distracted or have your time redirected by stress. Your purpose is to live. Go live.’

I’d spent so much of my creative life worried that I was writing or making the ‘wrong’ way. Ultimately, I was spending portions of my life drowning in this sea of worry.

These 12 weeks have taught me that there is no ‘right’ way. You’re allowed to make weird, baffling shit. You’re allowed to make things that don’t look good. They can be abstract and out there. You can create simply for the fun of creating.

The digital world is a huge playground, and there’s so much to discover. So tear up the rule book, pull apart the instruction manual, and forget all that you’ve been told art ‘should’ be. It already is, so just let it be.

Maybe then, you will learn you can be both imperfect and brilliant too :)