Creating Space Through Creating Art

Creating Space Through Creating Art

Hero Johnson

I need to write as much as I need to breathe.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me ever since I learned how to write. Something about hearing my pencil or pen scratch the paper, watching the words form from the graphite or ink, it’s almost hypnotizing. I never really thought about why I needed to write. I just did. It became my passion and that’s just how people saw it. I was a shy kid, I didn’t have many friends, and I read a lot. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading and if I wasn’t reading, I was writing. Some kids love to build with Legos; I loved to write in my notebooks.

I love it when I have the time to just sit and write and watch my notebook pages fill up. I even love writing on my computer; hearing my keys click with every letter, watching the bar move over as I type words onto a fresh document. It’s fun and it always makes me feel happy. I learned to write during second grade. I was seven years old, and ever since then I fell in love with writing. I used to write essays all the time and it became a habit of mine to start carrying around at least one notebook, all the time. You never know when you need to write a story. At school, I’d have two notebooks — one for notes and one for stories. I never figured out if my teachers knew I was writing on my own...I don’t think they cared, as long as I was quiet and turned in my work. This habit stayed with me through high school and even now; I always have an empty notebook at my desk or in my bag.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with depression that I started to think more about why I wrote. Why did writing still bring me joy when nothing else did? Out of everything I have in the world, why writing? I started to dissect my life in order to figure out why. I couldn’t understand why I cared so much about writing until I took a step back and read my writing as someone else. It brought me closer to myself. It grounds me into the present. It calms me, helps me think with a clear head, it can bring me from the edge and it has countless times.

One word kept coming coming when I thought about why I create: representation. The stories I was writing — that I still write — all have a little bit of me inside them. My characters and worlds and stories are all pieces of me. While growing up, in all the books I read and games I played, I never saw myself. I couldn't really identify with anybody - not really. Even before my transition, none of the characters I was supposed to connect with felt like me. I read stories of people who weren’t me, and I NEVER would be any of them. I hated that. I didn’t realize it, but I held onto those feelings. It turned into self hate and doubt — why couldn’t I be the ‘hero’? What was so wrong with my appearance, my style, my gender, my likes and dislikes, that I couldn’t be a character in any story?

Yet all of my stories had myself in them. They had all those things I hated about myself and things I wished I could be and yet they were the heroes, the protagonists, the love interests that no one else would let me be. And what’s better is that I started sharing my stories and characters...and people said that those quirks of mine I put into my characters were cute and endearing. If others love those quirks, then perhaps my own quirks aren’t as bad as I think.

My interest in art came from the same mindset. I only started getting serious about my art within the last year. I fell in love with an original character of mine, and wanted to share them with the world. But I was unemployed and had been for a while. I didn't have money to commission anyone to create them; to create the art of them. However, I did have an drawing tablet from when I took an art class in high school. I dusted it off and began to draw. Eventually, I was able to purchase a better tablet, and my art improved day by day. Nose to the grindstone, I drew something new every day. I practiced my linework, my sketching, painting and landscapes, everything just so I could improve. With each month, I am astounded by what I transpires; how I, myself, can create the characters in my mind.

Now — I consider myself both a writer and artist, so I call myself a creator. I spend all my days creating. My projects are all laid out in front of me and are written, drawn, and put together by me - and me alone. And, I consider it an honor to do that. My stories in progress, my games being worked on, everything I do is for the younger me who so desperately needed to see themself in all of their favorite stories. I am a creator because I needed to be and I still do. My creations are saving me. They give me an outlet to be myself and if I so desperately need these stories written — then, someone else does, too. I write for them, too, an audience of strangers, so everyone can see themselves, and learn to love themselves - just like I have. Trans and non-binary people are unique and we deserve to see ourselves in all areas of the world. Hopefully, one day, when people read a piece of work they may not automatically assume the character or speaker is cisgender.

Some of Hero’s visual art:

Rosé Headshot.png

Hero is from California — born and raised in the Central Valley. A self taught writer and artist, he’s currently working on his own projects from home while focusing on finishing his physical transition. He has two cats, Troy and Alexandra, and is in love with stars and Legend of Zelda.