“Creation stories” is the new category of the blog. For each season of the year, I will meet a creator and record his or her story. Creating can either be the main job of our guests, one of their jobs, or just a pure hobby.
With this series of creation stories, I hope to break the clichés that widen the gap between public’s vision of creative professions and reality.
Summer guest: Diệu Lan (Ziolan) from Petites Pattounes
This article is the second part of the article “Creation story: Petites Pattounes – When creativity goes hand in hand with healing (1/2): Creation begins when the personality is found” published on September 5, 2022.
Choosing NOT to follow a creative profession
Becoming an influencer is not the ultimate goal of content creation
Lan: Some viewers love my videos and don’t understand why my channel doesn’t have more subscribers. Some even regret that I haven’t reached the level of an influencer. However, this is not something that bothers me.
If you watch my videos and articles, you know that there is no “content” in it. I’m actually talking about my personal life. People only watch if they are interested in me just as a person, if they would like to know what I like at the moment, or what I am doing at the moment.
At least I know that everything I create is genuine. I can’t promote products that I don’t normally use.
Imagine if I had the opportunity to advertise the products I love…
Like the DIY brand Kiwico that I have been showing in my videos. I don’t know what they are waiting for to contact me. Haha… I can imagine continuing to do what I usually do, but getting paid, or being offered the DIY kit outright.
The same goes for Quelle histoire. I have the whole collection at home. If they asked me to leave right away for Brittany mission, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second! Their book costs only 6 €, but it’s not a problem.
But then, we have to keep the commitment in mind, and do some storytelling.
Look at the video where I talked about the Mont-Saint-Michel mission, I was only on it for 30 seconds. I said it was so cool, and that was it. I immediately jumped to something else after that.
I know a friend who had partnerships with brands in the past. Even though it was a product she loved, she still felt the pressure of being obligated to create content, since the contract was signed.
There are several videos that I haven’t put online, only because I don’t think they are good enough. So I’m glad that I have the freedom to cancel projects that I’m not happy with, or that I’m no longer interested in.
Two poles of a magnet
An: In your videos and in the blog posts where you tell your life stories, you seem so bubbly, joyful and youthful with your franglais expressions. However, I noticed that you only sing sad, melancholic, deep songs…
Lan: Yes, I feel that a part of me has remained in the past. I like the language from the past, I like the music from the past.
I am strongly influenced by my sister, Anh. The music she listened to, the posters she brought back from France, once every four years, were waves of culture for me.
At that time, Anh only had home-made CDs with 20 songs maximum. I listened to them over and over. As I discovered all these songs at the same time, in my head, Mano, Patrick Bruel or Jacques Brel were from the same generation. My French friends were all surprised that I knew such old songs.
I was passionate about Anh’s world. I was hanging on to these waves of culture. Maybe that was the reason why the gap between me and my classmates was getting wider and wider.
Some people feel that I have lost my cultural roots. Personally, I think that my Vietnamese part was deeply rooted in me without absorbing the touches of modern culture.
I realized that I don’t actually know about my home country that well. When I was living in Vietnam, I was still a child, I didn’t have many opportunities to travel and discover my country.
In 2018, I returned to Vietnam. I went to visit Huế with Victor (note: Lan’s partner). Victor was reading the displays located in front of the monuments, and out of curiosity, he asked me questions about the details. I was unable to answer any. That came to be the reason why I decided to start the project on the History of France and Vietnam.
It was the first and only “real” content on my blog. And that, for once, I’m very proud of. I come back to this frequently. When I travel, I always look at where we are, what time it was. And I look for what event happened in Vietnam at the same time.
Attitude toward the talent
An: The article on the history of France and Vietnam is the project that makes you the most proud of?
Lan: No. The video I’m most proud of is the Chanson d’ami cover. But nobody watches it! Haha…
An: Hey… I did watch!!!
Lan: Well, I compare it to songs like Dix ans de nous or Je suis de celles that had a lot of views even if I thought no one was interested in it. I spent a lot of time on Chanson d’ami and I thought it would be viral. And in the end, the number of views is really modest.
But I’m still very proud, because it was a difficult song to record. I actually shot myself in the foot during the recording process. I recorded the vocals and the piano separately. When I played the piano, I let myself be carried away by my inspiration. Sometimes I played faster, sometimes I slowed down. Not to mention the tap-tap of the puppets… During the shooting, I didn’t tap following the song’s rhythm. So the editing became extremely complicated and time consuming.
This song is also very special to me. I’ve been singing it since I was still in the cabaret of the French jury I met in high school (see Part One).
Otherwise, I’m proud of all my singing videos, really. I put all my heart into it.
The only thing I know that I’ m good at is singing. It’s neither the piano, nor my current full-time job.
I know I sing well.
I think we have to be aware of our skills and assume them.
An: I agree. If you don’t even realize your value, how can others trust you with great opportunities? I have the impression that, often, when you say that you draw well, or that you sing well, the person in front of you judges directly that you are conceited. But we are not saying that all other people’s drawings are ugly or that we are the best singer in the world.
Lan: There is a cultural trait among many young Vietnamese that I absolutely do not encourage: it is constantly putting themselves down. I know a lot of people who put themselves down and wait for the other person to console them and give them compliments to make them feel better.
I never reassure these people by offering them my compliments.
When you get to a certain age, it is your responsibility to understand who you are and what you are worth.
Being a creative professional: having talent is not enough
An: You are aware that you sing well. So why didn’t you choose music when you chose your career path at the age of 18?
Lan: Because, I don’t think that I was good enough.
I sing better now, since I have my current personality. Back then, I had taste and I had a certain level. But I need maturity to fully interpret the feelings in each song.
An: And today, are there moments when you think about becoming a professional singer?
Lan: Haha… I’m waiting to be contacted right now!
Once again, it’s a question of commitment. When you’re on stage, you have to perform.
I know that my strength is the ability to convey emotions in a song.
If I sing out of obligation, I will feel blocked. If I can’t feel emotional with the lyrics, I won’t be able to sing.
Many times I had time to record a song, but it fell on days when my voice was not at its best, so it was impossible for me to sing.
It takes me very long to release a singing video. And that’s clearly not the strategy for building a sustainable career.
To grow in a professional environment, you also need to have contacts. I’m not good at networking or taking the initiative to create contact.
Or else, you have to have a team. But I know that I’m very picky. It’s hard to explain. People often don’t understand why I demand a certain level from co-workers, when I myself can’t reach that level.
An: I think that this is like the case of the experts who judge the dishes in gourmet restaurants. They may not be the best cook in the world, but they know exactly what a good dish should taste like. They have knowledge and sensitivity in their taste buds.
Lan: Exactly! I know a buddy who is excellent in piano. Every time I perform with him, I don’t have to worry about the piano, because I know he’ll manage it perfectly.
But working as a team also depends on the desire of the person, the compatibility in tastes and also the availability of each one.
This talented pianist is in the same circle as people from my unhealthy environment from the past. And I don’t want to build links with this past.
I also have a hard time finding a person I can count on to build projects together.
The person who meets all my requirements and whom I can trust completely is my sister, Anh. She is also an excellent pianist. But Anh doesn’t like to play. And of course, I don’t want to force her.
The point of view about the career
Lan: I feel secure having a job with a fixed salary that allows me to invest in personal projects.
Thanks to this job in connection with customers and thanks to my former colleagues, I have learned a lot of soft skills. This job forces me to find my personality. Looking back, choosing this path was the right decision.
In the future, if I can continue to do my job and still have the opportunity to sing on stage, it will be the perfect situation.
Today, this job allows me to have this house, to have a place where I can sing peacefully. I think that I got the right strategy.
An: I think people are over idealizing leaving everything to follow their passion. I didn’t leave my stable job until I had tested enough to be sure that I could survive with my new creative job. I even saved up enough money to have a back-up, just in case.
Lan: But I think that you are already very hardworking, since you manage to respect your editorial schedule.
An: This is the first time I’ve made it (note: talking about the blog)
Lan: I’m also talking about the deadlines for sending sketches and drawings when we were working together.
An: But it’s different, it’s my job…
Lan: If the creative project becomes my full-time job, I won’t be able to meet the strict deadlines like you.
If I have to start the singing career today, right away, I will definitely not be able to make it.
About the future
An: On a creative perspective, what’s the best advice you’ve received?
An: Then the worst?
Lan: Nothing… because I don’t seek advice.
I have my own vision and I would like it to be exactly like that so I don’t ask anyone else.
Earlier I said that I wanted a team but I don’t think I would function well with a team.
In all areas of life, when I am certain, criticism will never get me. But it’s the opposite when I’m not sure. Take this table for example, I’m not sure if it can match my kitchen. If I asked for Victor’s opinion and he didn’t like the table, I would be irritated.
In conclusion, I ask for opinions only to seek confirmation from others when I doubt myself.
An: You just talked about your vision. So, what is your vision, or your dream for Petite Pattounes?
Lan: In a perfect world where I wouldn’t need money, I would only make DIY and be a teacher. I would want to help children.
Before the first lockdown in France (note: in March 2020), I was so accustomed to my tasks at work that I was almost on autopilot mode. At that time, I thought I would continue like that, and spend the rest of my time on Petites Pattounes.
I was considering selling my handmade products on Etsy.
Then there was the pandemic. I sewed masks to give to my neighbors and friends. I optimized the process as if I were in a factory. Out of 20 masks, I did the same line of sewing on all 20. Then I flipped them all over, and did the exact same stitching, again 20 times. It was only 20 masks, but I was bored to death. Then I realized that selling the products is not what I want to do.
It might work if I delegated for someone else to roll out my ideas. But again, I don’t trust anyone but myself, so how can I make this kind of business work?
I have also thought about becoming a teacher, since I am pedagogue and children love me.
After my personal experiences in high school, I would like to make a difference in the education system in some way. But for that, I need to have the right degree, and my salary level will not be the same.
Recently, I just started a new position at a new company. I am starting to attack the next level in my career with more challenging tasks. If I didn’t have the salary I have now, my lifestyle would be different, and I might not be able to do the creative projects that I do now.
I also want to have opportunities to speak to young people as a motivational speaker. I would like to go to high schools in Vietnam to organize inspiration and guidance exchanges by sharing my experiences. However, I don’t know if it is achievable.
It is risky because I am afraid. In fact, I am afraid of high school students.
An: It’s like going back and facing a monster that has haunted you for a long time, isn’t it? I think the highest level of healing is taming the monster of the past.
Lan: I’m not at that level yet. Because I’m not ready to deal with it yet. I just avoid anything that reminds me of the trauma of the past. Of course it’s not worth thinking about every day. I have decided to be happy and joyful. And fortunately, I am well surrounded.
So, I have a lot of ideas and a lot of hope… But am I going to start right now? No.
I’m trying to find stability in my job first, and then we’ll see what happens. There will probably be some afternoons when I’m in the mood, and I’ll do chit-chat DIY and I’ll talk about my life story.
An: If I had to choose one word to describe your blog and videos, I would say “sparkling”. You have that bright spark from the happy moments of everyday life. When I was still working in the corporate world, on days when I had to deal with difficult situations, I always used to take the lunch break to read your blog. Once in a while, there’s a new article. And for me, it’s like a surprise gift dropped in my mailbox.
Lan: I feel completely satisfied when you say that you consider Petites Pattounes as a source of positive energy
An: If you had the opportunity to see your “you” from the past, Lan, from 10 years ago, what would you say to her?
Lan: … It will be all right!
It will be all right & keep creating!
Tu Ha An