On creating art when you’re happy

Recently I’ve struggled with writing.

Part of it, of course, has to do with the fact that I’m running out of things to say. I’ve said a lot of things here on my blog (and later with my comics and YouTube channel) and for the first few years, it was exciting being able to stand on top of my metaphorical box and shout into the oblivion – and get answers back!

Discussions!

I loved discussing things in the comment section of my blog and was actively reading anywhere between 50 and 85 other blogs every week. I was talking. I was learning. I was seeing the world through other people’s eyes and I loved it.

I was still trying to develop my personal “self” and used this blog as a way to interact with others and constructively figure out the kind of person I wanted to become. When I started this blog I was a 20 year old who had lived in a couple different countries and was in her first serious relationship, well, ever. I think I published my first blog post around Ryosuke and my 8 month anniversary (?) and I continued to write one to three posts a month for the next year, increasing regularity the more page views I got.

The ironic thing is that the more successful my personal brand becomes, the less I feel like I have to say.

The other part is that I feel like I don’t need to prove myself anymore (if that makes sense).

I don’t need to “prove” that I know and love Japan (to justify graduating early to move here). I don’t have to “prove” how compatible my husband and I are despite our different backgrounds and interests (to justify getting married so young and following him here). Honestly, I don’t really feel like I have much to prove anymore (although, to be honest, that might be because I’m getting older and wiser and all that jazz, not because I’ve been blogging for so long. Whatever).

I love my life. I love my husband. I love my job creating content on the internet. I can’t remember a time in my entire life that I’ve felt this consistently happy, no tears, no panic attacks, no freak-outs over the future, and no frustrating feelings of worthlessness over toxic friendships.

This is kind of unfortunate, though, because those bitter, horrible, worthless feelings were what drove me to create things in the first place. It was this source of never-ending, raw motivation that pushed me to spend hours in front of the computer researching, posting, and consuming content.

When I was in high school one of my best friends told me she hoped her favorite band member never resolved issues with his father or found true love, not because she was heartless, but because she loved their music. She understood that the main source of the lead singer’s talent came from those bitter, hurt feelings and was worried that if he became truly happy, he’s stop writing music.

Her frankness on the matter struck with me.

Artists make some of their best work when they’re heartbroken and/or desperate. I am no longer heartbroken or desperate.

I’m glad I’m happy.

I hope y’all are glad I’m happy too, even though that happiness makes my content more boring and irregular.

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

44 Comments on On creating art when you’re happy

  1. Personally I love your content both now and before, and the fact that you say you are nowadays happy and content only makes me happier, because I really enjoy what you share with us and knowing that this has brought you to be where you are right now in which you love your life can only mean good things. So continue to be happy and as long as you would like to do this please do! I will definitely be reading you. (^ o ^)/
    Create art and be super duper happy!

  2. I just found your blog today, and this is the third post I’ve read. (-: So far, you’ve written 3 for 3 interesting posts. This one really resonated with me, so I decided to barge in with a comment.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity since January, and I do think it comes from a place of tension. One of my favorite musical artists commented that he basically destroyed his life trying to create that tension inside of his relationships — that tension led to insane creativity, but also drugs and other coping devices. He eventually learned how to create tension outside of his most treasured relationships, and continued creating great stuff.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t found any interviews where he expands on that notion of creating tension outside your family circle. I think for me, it might mean pushing my comfort zone on the weekends. Travelling to different places. Entering a contest. Inviting a friend of an internet friend to my home for a weekend.

    I’ve been in Japan for about 25 years, and I’ve created a very nice comfort zone over the years. I have a safe home base to retreat to, so excursions to the edge of comfort shouldn’t bother me much. (-: But it does. But I think I better try to do it anyway. Before life does it for me . . . .

    Growth is a very special kind of tension, and I think it’s a pretty healthy one.

    I look forward to visiting your blog again.

  3. I believe artists tend to grab all the lemons that are thrown at them and turn them into lemonade—something refreshing for their minds and souls. So yeah, I agree with you, most good works come from all the negativity—like all bad things are recycled and transfigured into something pleasant to the heart.

    Also, I ish happy for your happiness! :D

  4. It was hard to think of everything to put into just a comment, so I did a video response on creating when you’re happy and also getting out of a creative slump – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB_x7pCESj0

  5. Kierra Mizushima // 10 March, 2016 at 6:42 am //

    I can understand this; I myself use my writing as an outlet for all my negative emotions, a way to reflect on all the horrible things I’ve done, and what people have done to me. Thankfully, I have lots of material, due to a toxic childhood friendship, a demeaning ex-boyfriend, an overly sensitive cousin, a nosy next door neighbor (back in the USA), being pansexual and still belonging to a religion that does not endorse gay-ness (though we’re still supposed to be loving towards them), stuck-up girls who still use social media to make fun of me (honestly, they need to get a life), horrible anxiety and depression—honestly the list of bad stuff is endless. And though I want to move past that constant resentment, anger, sadness, and embarrassment, I fear if I do, I’ll never be able to write again.

    And then there is the whole “proving myself worthy” shtick. From moving to Japan and getting married at twenty-three (which my parents have deemed “much too young”), to having the forethought and intelligence deciding to be a freelancing graphic and web designer and translator.

    I don’t know. I can just relate to this. I understand the feeling. I just hope I can write my book before all my resonating unhappiness dries up. And with my husband and friends and family? That’s gonna be soon.

  6. I feel the exact opposite. While I understood it better with the music reference, I can’t seem to pull myself to do ANYTHING. I don’t even have the confidence to post much if I have written. (Which is in part why I had to use a poll on Twitter to figure out what to do for this last emotional post of mine.)
    Though I feel like I am at an all time stress, overload time. When I was in my teenage years I used to write a lot of poetry and stories using my angst. But now a’days, getting out of bed is easy enough, but to write or pour my soul into ‘art’ is harder than ever.

    I am so glad you are doing so well, it gives me hope that the horrid days will seem far and few between in hindsight.

  7. Valentina S. Pavez // 9 March, 2016 at 6:28 am //

    I am a painter, and as I grew up to become one I happened to encounter a lot of ideas. First of all, you never become a “complete” artist (the kind that most people imagine-EVENHIS/HERFOOTSTEPSAREMASTERPIECEOMG), what you do become is an artist that is always open to new information and experiences and who which, at some point of your life, will digest and understand all that information to make a stunning piece of art. A piece of art CAN be perfect, a masterpiece, but the artist cannot. Now, the tools or the path that the creator took consciously, or not, to make that piece are very uncertain. Once a friend told me “I believe hate is as powerful as love, so I chose to use all my hate in favor of creation”, I believe so too, but I also believe that any emotion that is experienced profoundly will lead you to a state of perfect work. Pain has taken many people to many places, but so has love. After painting with A LOT of pain, I realized it wasn’t healthy, every time I looked at my work I remembered and every time I fell in a black hole I felt like painting, so then my brain would associate a brush with tears (haha). Later on I decided that I loved creating (not only painting) and that I couldn’t depend on my desperation to make satisfying work, so I now try to take every step with eternal gratefulness (as cheesy as that sounds). I am grateful for having these two hands and this brain that can make whatever I set my mind to, and I am thankful for my history… and who knows, maybe I will make a masterpiece someday and hopefully you too.

  8. Hi Grace! I’d just say that, as a reader, I actually love little posts like these when it’s just you talking to us about your thoughts. And I think others will agree with me. In the end, we’d just like to talk to people who have, or have had, experiences similar to ours, or experiences we would like to try out. So don’t worry about what to write about. It doesn’t always have to be researched, planned. Sometimes it’s even refreshing when you are open with us and show us a side of yourself.

    Keep up the good work, and don’t feel guilty for being happy!

  9. you happy helps us in turn be happy, or become happier, knowing its not easy at times is ok, as well but if it was always one or the other none of us would be inspired, and honestly it makes my day hearing someone is happy. so be happy enjoy it, you will find something to write about ,Kitsune weddings,to how loud the cicadas are,all the way to poop hats. and all of us cant wait to hear/see whats next(sry if this makes no sense its 3 am & i have not slept yet)

  10. Akio Katada // 8 March, 2016 at 11:08 am //

    Dear Grace,
    As an admirer of your work, I am not worried at all except your last word. Might I suggest you work less sitting down at your desk all day, exercise more,and increase your fruit and veg intake.

    Warmest regards

    PS Being surrounded by all those hats might have strange psychological effect.

  11. Be happy because so many people are not.

  12. Well I wish you all the happiness you can get even if it means I will not see your creations anymore. You inspired me to create again and My daughter loves to draw too already so thanks for sharing :)

  13. Frederick // 8 March, 2016 at 8:25 am //

    Here is an idea of a blog topic. We are happy when we receive compliment, right? How about writing the best, smart, witty, compliment you have ever received? I will throw in a few compliments which she find impressive. Hope you will like it. :)

    Wife: how do I look in this dress?
    Me: the dress is plain. But you make it look very pretty!

    Wife: how is this dish (her cooking)?
    Me: (serious look and in deep thought). Please don’t be mad when I say this.
    Wife: What? It is that bad?
    Me: Yeah, can I ask you to cook it for me everyday for the next 40 years? Are you up to it?

    Breakfast time I took out a stick of butter from the fridge, spread it on my toast and ask wife, “would you like some on your face?”
    Wife: no! What are you trying to do?
    Me: buttering you up before we start the day!

  14. This is really interesting. I used to write angsty short stories, basically all about suffering due to various things and how to deal with the pain. And I noticed whenever I was dating, I didn’t write. So in order to create stories, I had to be in pain. So I’d have something to write about. It wasn’t quite right, I create more not when I’m in pain, but when my life is boring. I need stories for my emotional feed. When my life doesn’t give me strong feelings, I create stories in my head to compensate. And since dating was never ending drama, I didn’t need any more feelings and all my other activities were dull. I’m creative the most when I need to study or when I work a lot. I think my creativity is protecting me from becoming a robot. And it was protecting me when I was a teen from going crazy, because it was a way how to deal with my problems. Creativity is amazing.

  15. I agree with some of the other commenters, that it is probably just because happiness leaves you to open and free, which is good, but then without focus, which is bad for creative types.

    Maybe try writing out “challenges” that you are going to try to accomplish to lend yourself focus (learn a new skill? go to a new place? people watch and draw character sketches?) and don’t worry if your blog evolves away from the specifically Texan in Japan experience. We love you and Ryosuke and honestly will probably read whatever you write about.

    Maybe you could do something silly like draw a word out of a hat and you have to draw a comic or write a blog about that. (Like pretend you are on a reality tv show and have to complete a challenge to reach the next round!)

    I am sure whatever you continue to do will be great!

  16. The same idea applies to a lot more than creativity. Imagine a politician without a desire to heal some internal insecurity through power or do-gooding. That’s not a successful politician.

    I’ve been thinking some of the same insecurity-as-motivation-things about success in my area, which isn’t your typical creative field. I’ve a great wife and wonderful little girl. Why struggle for more than to maintain and enjoy? But–and maybe this is why I’m reading here–maybe the awe/insecurity from clashes between the old world & Japan are a kind of fuel for new challenges :)

  17. Please remain happy, as unusual as that sounds, your happiness makes us happy and hopeful. To know out there is someone having a good life that we can envy and hope for, not because you are rich or famous but because you are happy.

    It’s great that you’re happy. It’s not necessary that you become unhappy to write. It makes it easier to write when you’re unhappy because the motivation is close to the surface and raw and obvious. The focus needed to write is, in a sense, taken away from you by a flashing painful arrow saying “look here”.

    Focus when you’re happy or content is difficult. It’s like telling someone to “write about anything”. There is nothing so cruel to tell someone than that.
    Imposing focus is always the way to find content. I remember reading that a good story isn’t about the city, or the neighborhood, or the street, or the building, or the wall but it’s about one brick in the wall.
    I hate to write stories or articles about bad things. Oddly I find too much about that comes through in blog posts. I guess I still need an outlet somewhere.
    I start with something, usually a sense or an emotion. For example, a smell, a season, a moment and I get everything from the taste of raw maple syrup mixed with the smoke of the fire reducing the sap to something so sweet and cold. Cold because the syrup is poured on snow or ice to solidify. This could also go with the smell of cocoa butter on the beach during a long walk on a warm day with someone who I discovered really mattered to me.
    I write one of these four minute stories to be read five days a week and found quickly the listeners always preferred the happy ones or the ones where everything went wrong in a good and happy way. They liked the ones about the experiences they never thought of doing and now, because of four minutes during their daily drive they now have something new to do. The Maple Sugar festival story was one of the most responded to stories, and it came from starting with the sense of smell. The funniest one people responded to was the one about my new vacuum and my attempt to figure out how to empty it because I had thrown out the little manual as soon as I bought it. Sure the internet was an option but, I could figure it out. Well… I did.

    You tried on a Kimono in one of your videos, how did it feel? How did you feel doing it?
    I would be terrified. I would be worried I would look like an idiot. I would be worried the person putting it on me would think I’m an idiot. I would be terrified to leave the store and I would wonder how I would look when it was just me and the mirror and the feel and smell and sound of the kimono. I would trip, or back into something or do something horrifying that would leave the people standing in the shop aghast with wonder as to how I managed to live this long. That is who I am, and it would make a good story.

    How do you “do” your art? Do you script it all out or just a general idea and start drawing? You mentioned your favorite pen, why is it your favorite, when did it become your favorite? Most my stories are built during the 40 minute walk to and from work. I could drive or take the bus but the walk is part of my process. It’s given me stories about people painting water hydrants to putting Christmas ornaments on trees in the public park.

    I yammer on too much but the overly labored point is that you have an enviable life and it’s not because of the big things, it’s because of all the things, the little ones too.

  18. I have to say I feel the opposite honestly. For years I let the terrible inspire me. Grinding me down until I was nothing left but words of an unequivocal mixture of sorrow and self doubt. I had a closet literally FULL of notebooks, scrap paper, self printed books. When I didn’t know what to do with myself because I was being swallowed by my emotions, I would write to escape them. Then one day I couldn’t take any of it any more. So I left the situation I was in. Unfortunately when I left that life behind, I couldn’t fit my closet of writing in the back of my pick-up truck with every other possession I owned. I was going to be back for it. As soon as I had the money to drive back across country to pick it up, I was going to do so. Unfortunately before I was able to make it back to my writing, it was set on fire. (If you are interested in the full story, it is a post on my page) At first, I felt like a part of me was gone. A part of me was gone. Years of work, dedication, my personal everything, now ash. I stopped writing completely. Then one day I met my current husband. We had rocky times at first, but eventually it was the happiness he provided that brought back my will to write. Not just my will to write, but rekindled my love for the written word. As I got happier I started to write more and more everyday, until I managed to have so much I was brimming to say, I had to start my own blog. My happiness brought my creativity and will to experience new things, not my sorrow. I personally feel that now you are happier than you have ever been, you’ll have less trouble finding things that interest you, and you pen(or keyboard).

  19. I guess I should be grateful that I come from a darker, deeper hole. Or that my in-laws come from a similar place, perhaps. Somehow I think I will never run out of material.

    But I don’t think you will either, Grace. (Though I am happy that the Dark Ages and the power that compelled you have ended.) As long as you keep living and having adventures, there will always be something to share, and I will look forward to reading it.

  20. I know what you mean. For me it can be rather hard as well to come up with new content for my blog when everything is working out well in life. My best inspirations I had thus far from annoying/ frustrating events especially when it comes to my mother-in-law…
    However I managed to come up with new things such as writing about some of the trips we have done, food and now also some little things about the myself, the person writing all those weird stories :)

  21. I think logic subsides when happiness is there. When I was seeing my girlfriend knowing she understood me, I could talk to her with just my look.

  22. It is interesting to hear and read about life in Japan. Do you need some more inspiration? What about that Ryosuke and you would make a visit to a sumo stable where Ryosuske could try to train for a morning. You could also make an interview with Kotoshogiku who won the yusho and has a chance to become yokosuna.
    You could visit some Geiko or make some travelling in Japan and give some inspiration for people who wants to travel to Japan.
    You could make a cooking book on how to make easy Japanese food.
    It would be interesting to see on youtube where Ryosuke could try sumo wrestling or you could spend some hour in an afternoon in a stable and visit.
    There are some new in the highest division. Shodai has done well in the tournament in January. Maybe you could make an interview with him.

  23. It seems like your parents did a better job of raising you than how you’re viewing the world. Why not be just thankful and have fun. You sound like a liberal from Texas

  24. Be you and be happy! Art can come from happiness too, but maybe you won’t recognize it in the same ways.
    It’s okay if you aren’t in the public view 24/7. Take this time to recognize every moment that brings you happiness and swell up with joy. Create memories and make it last as long as you possibly can! ♥

  25. I think we all would rather you be happy, and not posting regularly, than unhappy and trying to make a point, or prove yourself. Be happy! Write when you want to write, when something happens that makes you happy and you want to talk about it!

  26. I understand how you feel, and most other writers do too. I honestly cannot remember the author who wrote this, but it sticks with me, “Creativity is fueled through conflict. Without conflict, you have nothing to say.” Basically, if you’re happy and nothing is wrong it can get harder and harder to be inspired, but the moment you encounter a challenge you have to overcome your muses can sing. You’ve got more to say, for sure, because you’ve got more of a life to live, and there’s always something waiting in the future to meet you head on.

  27. As an artist, I agree that some of my best work came from my dark places, but I’m so much happier having left those places and I disagree that happiness equals the lack of creativity or an inadequate sort of artistry because I think we’ll always find things to be thoughtful about and stuff to inspire us. There’s plenty of art to be make for people we love and through the happiness that they give us!

  28. Frederick // 7 March, 2016 at 1:32 pm //

    Hi Grace, just write whatever that comes to your mind. Anythings that happens around you, the neighborhood, the city, the countries, the world. Or the crazy dream Ryosuke had last night!

    when I was in college, I picked up a creative writing class. I didn’t pick it for any special reason, just for the convenience it works out on my major classes and work schedule. In the class I had to write things of many topics. And despite English not being my first language, one of my short stories was picked to be read to the whole class. Only 3 stories were picked In the whole semester. So The story was about a WWII couple. It was about love, separation, and reunion at the end because I felt my life at the time was like a major battle/struggle. I knew I had to fly back to my home country thousands of miles away after graduation.

    I was very surprised for I am not even a native speaker of English! I thought the teacher picked my story because it was a showcase of what bad creative writing is like. After reading the short story to the class everyone was dead silent. I thought I had embarrassed myself. On the contrary, the class like it. They were just in deeper thoughts digesting the story. A few classmates even gave me an applause. Who knew this Asian geek who is more into numbers than words could crank out a story worthy to be read!

    Some of the blogs you wrote made me think deep about my similar experience you and Ryosuke had. And I like them! Those are great articles and I encourage you to keep writing. You are a much better writer than me. Don’t be discouraged by anything or anyone. Not even yourself! :)

    Seriously, I look forward to seeing you to write a novel someday!

  29. Hi Grace. I was trying to think of something to type that didn’t sound overbearing or trying to educate you because that would totally not be my intent and not what you would want to read. I just hope as your life transitions into different things you find the motivation out of the joy and happiness. I love reading about positive experiences people go through. For me since television, reality tv, focuses so much on drama I avoid it like the plague. I enjoy reading about everyday things, how people figure out something, act on a decision, etc. I look forward to you next blog post, youtube video, and comic strip.

  30. I’m the same way when it comes to writing from emotion. When I’m distressed or sad in any way, the words (or “art,” if you will — I wrote a lot of bad poetry as a temperamental teen in high school) flow easily. But when things are solid and I’m in a good place? That well dries up. Perhaps it’s because writing is a way for me to vent. If I have nothing that’s ticking me off, then why do I need an outlet?

    Oh, I could talk about all the good things that are happening, but audiences generally love to read about conflict (and a resulting resolution, if applicable). Think about TV news — If it bleeds, it leads, but all the happy fluff is reserved for the very end of the broadcast. Perhaps that’s the journalism student in me abiding by that rule, thinking that if I have nothing “bad” going on, I have nothing compelling to say, no lead.

    But! We need to hear those feel-good pieces, too. Sure, they may not be as “interesting” as the tales of strife, but too much negativity makes one jaded. Plus, those stories of success/happiness/what-have-you can serve as inspiration that after all is said and done, everything can turn out okay in the end.

    For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re happy, and I always look forward to reading your posts.

  31. I disagree. I don’t think you need to be desperate or heartbroken to produce your best work. The secret is the best work comes from within you. I promise you your content will still be good even when it is happy as long as it is from within. Don’t compare what you have now to what you did before. It is all different from a different part of your path. Just show up everyday and you’ll produce great content.

  32. It’s true. Some of my best art pieces were when I was in the lowest point of my life. I look back, and I remember how I was feeling then…and I’m so glad I’m not there anymore. I’ve grown a lot from those experiences, and I hope to only keep growing. Keep doing the great work you do, Grace! Be happy and appreciate every day :)

  33. I completely understand that feeling. Have you read Big Magic? She talks about creativity in a fun way that really inspired me and made me think differently about creating content. You might enjoy it!

  34. Hey, that 60K plus and the work of getting stuff out to those of us who subscribed ought to keep you busy for a while. Then use some of the proceeds to take an extended vacation. Follow the Sakura blossoms from South to North and get a month’s worth of blossom watching in (with some really good local sake at each stop). That will give you some terrific things to write about and some great pictures too. I really enjoy reading your blogs and seeing your comics.

  35. Yup. I can write poetry with abandon when things are dark. When I’m happy and things are going well, nada. I haven’t really figured out a balance either. If I do, I’ll share. ;)

  36. Not to be an a**hole, but have you thought about your 5-year plan? Even if you don’t have one, even just thinking about it will drive you crazy enough to produce a whole series of blog posts.

    ;-)

  37. theblackwalrus // 7 March, 2016 at 9:22 am //

    I relate to this a lot. It definitely comes with getting older (and if you’re lucky also with being happier of course). I was thinking about this last week actually when you ran the kickstarter (congrats!!! You deserve everything!!) – if you create quality content on such a continuous basis, and lots of it revolves around your everyday life, it has to become exhausting or worn-out at some point. If you don’t feel too guilty for it, maybe it would really be a good thing to take a longer vacation for a while. You know, getting the kickstarter shipments done and reward yourself with a nice trip after. Without having to worry about “could i use this as content for my blog/channel/comic”. As many people have stated already – they want you to have then money without you feeling guilty. And if you use this to keep yourselves healthy (i.e. preventing burn-out) and able to create the level of content that people like that’s just a win-win situation I think. Ah, but that’s just my 2 cents, eh? I absolutely appreciate you writing so honest about your thoughts and feelings. I take your approach to this as an inspiration for sure. You’ll make the right decision, or you’ll make it work whatever comes in the future. Either way, it’ll be fine <3

  38. Richard // 7 March, 2016 at 9:17 am //

    Be patient with yourself, Grace. You will find things to write about even though you are happy with yourself and your life with Ryusoke there in Japan. There is lots that is meaningful amidst happiness and fun.

  39. I really do miss your in depth blog posts but I’m very happy to hear that you are doing well. I wanted to write something for you on how you’ve helped me with those early long distance posts but it seems it’s harder to write than I thought. Partly because I’m a private person in some aspects and partly because I’m waiting for a perfect time that might not come. Damn you perfectionism! My point is that I really appreciate your writing and I wish you all the best no matter what. The stuff you wrote from your heart sticks. :) Thank you.

  40. I’m so happy that you are happy. I JA and would feel terrible if you married a Japanese and moved to Japan and were miserable. I think you’ll find a lot to write about, and will fill us with joy, as you write from you happy place.

  41. Preach girl, preach! I totally know what you mean! My best writing came from a very dark and dingy place when I was also 20. That’s definitely the best part about it. Creating content so raw and real, people can’t help but relate and enjoy it. I also find myself struggling to write good content as I am also in a happy place.

  42. Be the happiest!

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