I’ve been having some fun going through old creative files on my computer. Stories and comics and illustrations and such. Most of it makes me cringe, as any early work tends to do, but I’m impressed by the sheer number of projects, albeit mostly unfinished projects. In college I attempted to start over a dozen young adult novels, I tried my hand at screenwriting, and I continued the serialization of my comic strip Bud Ralphy (which is online somewhere, though I’d warn you not to do a Google Image search of those words, specifically not “ralphy.”) I played around with lots of illustrations, and then I started one graphic novel in earnest, reaching 50 pages before losing steam. All the while pursuing a degree in painting that would prove to be as useful as it sounds. I don’t say all of this to brag – it’s not unusual for a creative person to amass lots of scrap-bookable experiments. Or maybe they’re false starts. Either way, the reason I mention it is because I find it really interesting how those creative endeavors, which may seem like failures at the time, contribute to a greater sea of creativity.
What do I mean by that? Well, for example, as I peruse some of my earlier writings I find that many ideas repeat themselves in various forms. Certain characters and plots are recycled, not just from draft to draft but jumping from one story to another, or even from one decade to another. Take the story I’m working on right now, for instance. When I started writing it this summer, I thought I was beginning with a completely fresh idea. Today, though, as I skimmed some stories I’d started ten years ago, I found one which began with the exact same premise, almost beat for beat. In a way, I was plagiarizing myself! Except it’s totally legal, totally ethical, and actually, a really great way to add richness to a story. In a sense, I’ve been marinating on these ideas for a decade or more and didn’t even realize it. Similarly, I realized that Picket Line is just a continuation of plot and themes that I was writing about in a previous novel (as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge). How many other stories might spawn from the “failures” I started in college? And so, these exercises, these experiments, are not simply things to lock away and be ashamed of! They might be embarrassing, yes, but we’re awfully hard on ourselves if we think they weren’t helpful or necessary in our growth and development as artists.
Over the years I’ve given my parents a number of my artworks as gifts, which they still proudly display. Some of the paintings are embarrassing now, and in the past I’ve asked if I could swap them out for a more recent, skillfully rendered piece. But the truth is, those early works hold a lot of value simply for their place in my creative history. They document my growth, and contribute to the map of my creative landscape – a map which can only prove useful as I continue moving forward with my ideas. So, not only will I allow my parents to continue hanging them, but I’m going to share a few more of them here, now, just because.
From the Vault:
And finally, if you’re really curious to read the graphic novel that I abandoned 8 years ago, I put it up on Issuu, just for you!