“Free to Question the Mirror”

Editor’s Letter : January 2021


I did a quick search in our backend when I started writing these Editor’s Letters. Turns out, this is the 49th or so Editor’s Letter. The reason I bring this up is that I went through this bit of existential crisis a few weeks ago. I was effectively stuck. Nothing seemed interesting. Everything was boring, uninspiring, and expected. I couldn’t rouse myself up to get going about anything.


My joie de vivre (enjoyment of life) was missing. I could probably extrapolate this sentiment onto many of us, who have been battered by so many things out of our control ranging from political disarray to the invisible forces of COVID which have pushed us to change our behaviors. For me, I often counted myself as a person of limitless inspiration and grew worried about suddenly being lost at sea.


Was I tired? Probably. Was I overstimulated? Most definitely.


These factors equated to this dull hum. Back to the drawing board is what I thought. Often things exist for a particular reason and if we’re willing to ask the difficult questions to ourselves, or look under places that aren’t so obvious, we can often find some semblance of direction.


Athletes who rely on a rhythmic motion sometimes hit slumps. Reassessing their swing or stroke opens up new avenues and pathways for improvement. The creative process differs both situationally and by person. A recalibration and reset is exactly what I needed.


So much of our day-to-day is relational to existing phenomena in our lives. One of our first-ever stories on MAEKAN involved a conversation with James Jean and Jun Cha. Together the two were on similar journeys, but on different timelines. For Jun Cha his successes as a tattoo artist were potentially coming to a conclusion while James Jean himself had experienced a similar concept of a “creative ceiling.” Over the course of the illuminating conference, James served up a great insight that progression comes at the hands of unlearning. Unlearning what got us to where we are. Unlearning what gave us success.


The inspiration often came so effortlessly for me. It was a matter of me opening a tab, or stumbling into a heated conversation. But there are real limits to “inspiration consumption.” Once you flirt with those limits, you question whether you can rely on it to take you somewhere new. Breaking out means spring cleaning your processes but recognizing what to keep. What processes and places enable you to explore new unchartered territories.


Asking the questions has been a surprisingly easy way to build a personal curriculum or framework for myself when I’m learning something new. Starting from ignorance, coupled with humility is a powerful combo for exploration. It’s not about letting things hit you at will in hopes things will stick. It’s about positioning yourself to create a foundation that yields the right type and amount of interesting insights and stimulus.

Eugene Kan


Eugene talks about our recent strides with reinvigorating our creative processes and continuing to move forward, even as the challenges we sought to solve and the world around us continue to evolve.