Sunday, March 30, 2014

7 Year Writing Anniversary

At the end of February seven years ago, I sat down in my college apartment and typed the first sentence of The Beast of Bannock.  It was exciting, it was terrifying, and it set me on the path I've been traveling for the better part of a decade.

Each year around this time, I like to doodle a little portrait of my dear boy-turned-equine character, Ellis.  It helps me see my art progress, and reminds me why I still love the very first character I created, even if his story is still unpublished.  This year, my writing anniversary corresponded with a busy (but fun!) time when I was involved with my Adobe Illustrator class.  I didn't have time to take on the Ellis painting project I had in mind, and I didn't want to force myself to do it anyway and be a grump about it.  (Because that would defy the whole purpose of spending quality time with the character I love, now wouldn't it?)

So instead of sharing an art piece to celebrate my seven-year writing anniversary, in true writer fashion, I'm just going to wax poetic about a metaphor for a while.

This is my SCBWI folder.  I take it with me to every local chapter meeting, shoving it in the bottom of my bag and forgetting how wretched it looks until it's sitting in front of me in all it's ugly, embarrassing glory.  I've been saying I need to replace it for the past year or two, but still I cling to this ratty old thing.  And when I took it out the other week, I realized it's the perfect reflection of myself and my writing.

Now, why am I like a manky, decrepit, ready-for-the-trash folder?  We both started out bright, fresh, and shiny all the years ago.  I bought it right before my first SCBWI meeting, just shortly after my first writing anniversary.  My head was as empty as its pockets, and the sunny yellow color matched my optimism and enthusiasm.  I saw nothing on the horizon but clear skies and smooth sailing.

Years later, well, it's not-so shiny anymore.  Just look at it.

It's scratched, crinkled, and torn.  It more closely resembles the color of forgotten, back-of-the-fridge mustard than daffodils and sunshine.  (And it probably smells about as good.)  It's been dragged through the trenches and seen many a dark day.  It's worn thin and falling apart at the seams.  It is, in one word, a mess.

But now, let's take a look inside.

While the inside is, well, also a mess--it is a glorious, information-packed mess.  Between the fading, fraying bindings, the thing is bursting with several years' worth of notes, handouts, and worksheets.  There are handy tips, gems of advice, and tales of inspiration.  There are exercises, brainstorming sessions, and maps to success.  There are failed experiments and reality checks, alongside encouraging words to try again.  There are databases, resources, and countless pearls of wisdom.  (And yeah, there's probably a lot of useless junk in there, too.)  There is more knowledge than can fit within the pockets, and still I keep cramming in more.  There is unreadable chicken scratch, dangerous edges that can give you papercuts, and...

Okay, I think this metaphor has officially run it's course.

But you get my drift.  Beaten and bruised on the outside; brimming with wisdom, experience, and all sorts of ooey goodness on the inside.  And just like that tattered binding refuses to quit, I do, too.  There's still plenty of life in both of us yet.

So on this seven-year writing anniversary, I'm bringing out the duct tape, patching things up, and soldiering on.  Whatever point you are in your own writing or illustrating career, I hope you're hanging in there, too.  Maybe our folders can meet up sometime and share their battle stories.  (I won't make fun of your murky, used-bath-water blue folder if you don't make fun of my rancid mustard one.)

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