One of my dragons from when I was around 10.

One of my dragons from my late teens.















Last night I stayed up late finishing today’s blog post only to come to the conclusion that I didn’t want to post it. Real productive, I know. I’m not even going to bother revealing what the post was about because I’m not sure yet when or if I will ever publish it. It wasn’t a bad article; I just noticed some ways it could be altered to help make it more concise. Of course, this left me with the question of what to post today. I have a few other blog posts already partially finished, but I don’t feel like finishing them yet. While trying to brainstorm ideas to write about, I came across my stash of completed novels. Upon going through them, a sense of embarrassment overtook me. I knew then what I wanted to write about.

There are nine 100+ page novels in all (more than I thought there were; each written on the front and back of loose-leaf paper) that I wrote by hand over the course of about seven years, and then I went to typing. Most of them are written in pencil, so they’re slowly deteriorating, but for better or worse, they are still intact. I wrote in a combination of cursive and regular print, and I wrote then just a little slower than I type now (my typing speed ranges from 70 to 81 words per minute). So between the horrendous penmanship and the speed at which I cranked those words out, my stories are barely legible. My writing is so atrocious that even my own mother often had to ask me to decipher certain sentences as she was trying to read my work, and sometimes not even I could make out what I had written. The stories themselves may or may not be a little more well-crafted than the words telling them, and the illustrations are . . . um . . . not.

I’ve mentioned countless times before that I’m my harshest critic, and that still holds true. I can appreciate others' work better than I can my own. I shudder when I look back on my older stories, but honestly, while they aren’t up to my current standards, I should be proud of them. And you, whoever you are reading this, should be proud of your work, too. We all have to start somewhere. It’s good to look back on our work and appreciate how far we’ve come, but I know that I’m one person who needs to learn to stop looking on my earlier work with scorn and really appreciate where I started. If you’re like me, this is something you struggle with, too. I don’t know about you, but I can’t look back on anything I’ve done without cringing. This in turn makes me question my current work.

In eight, thirteen, or twenty-odd more years, will I look back on my work from this period in my life with the same disrespect? Because that’s what it is. I’m disrespecting myself when I bash my earlier work. Without all that practice, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now, and without more practice, I won’t get better. If I don’t change my ways now, will I ever be able to really appreciate my own work? It’s one thing to acknowledge the fact that there’s always room to grow; it’s another to be toxic. I’m toxic. I scoff at my earlier work, then immediately wonder if my most recent endeavors have any true value, and then I shame myself into not writing or drawing at all. That’s not alright. In fact, it’s downright cowardly. But it’s an easy mindset for me to slip into, and if I’m experiencing it, perhaps others are, too. So what can we do about it?

I’m not sure what the answer to that question is. Each person will likely come to a different conclusion. I do know that one thing that has started helping me respect past work is remembering the joy I felt while creating it. I poured my entire soul into it and did the absolute best that I could. Funny thing is, that’s exactly what I do now. I’ve learned a lot since then, but that parallel remains. Hopefully, I’ll continue to do my best no matter how many years pass. I also think about all the support I received from my mother and a handful of others. While the words of toxic people encouraged me to give up because I was “worthless,” those supportive others encouraged me to keep going.

Ultimately, I chose to listen to those who actually loved me and follow my heart, but for some reason the words from others who I loved but who didn’t love me back are still with me. Over the years, I thought I’d stopped letting their words bother me, but maybe I’d internalized that toxicity more than I thought and that’s part of where my scorn for my early work comes from. If this is the case, I’ll have to find a way to let it go because those people don’t deserve to have so much power over me. The same is true for others who’ve faced similar abuse. We shouldn’t let the haters have so much control over us. Realizing that they’re nothing more than the insults they themselves spew out can help us take power back from them.

I’m fairly certain there are a lot of other factors that go into the toxic mindset this post focuses on, and I’m sure I’ll think of more as time goes on. In turn, hopefully I’ll also figure out more ways to counter them. I hope we can all come to better appreciate our own work, past and present—not to the point that we stop allowing ourselves to improve, but to the point that we further empower ourselves to keep at it. Maybe you have your own advice to share on the matter. If so, feel free to drop it in the comments below.