Back to the drawing board

For Camp NaNoWriMo in April this year (which I won, btw, nbd *shines fingernails on lapel*) I took a break from my official project (book-to-be-published number 2) and tried to wring 50,000 words out of an old story idea from which I had subtracted a major character.

Sans that one original character I was left with a roman à clef of my first major(ly disastrous) romantic relationship. Also in April I started rewatching an anime I never got to finish in high school, which led to another series, and another, and, well, I haven’t stopped yet. But the point is that watching all this gorgeous animation made my fingers absolutely itch to draw.

So I did.


Surprisingly important doodles from just last week.

And I have continued to.

And here’s why that’s a big fucking deal:

I wanted to write books farther back than I can remember. I always wanted to write and be published, and once I started (in grade 1, with “The Camping Treap When I Was Littel”) I didn’t stop, even if all I was doing was defacing 10 pages of a journal per day in my dark times.

But I also wanted to be an artist. A visual artist. Also for as long as I can remember. When I was little this meant that I envisioned writing and illustrating a Serendipity-style series of books for kids. But by the fourth grade I had already begun to despise my fellow children, an opinion which hasn’t changed to this day. (I have let go of a fuckton of baggage and grudges in my life, but I will take my kid-hating to the grave.) After that, the plan was to write for a living (lol), as a freelancer, and to do visual art on the side. I was going to go to Cornish and get a degree in studio art. I drew constantly. I was getting into assemblage and custom book binding in high school. And I was working on concepts and character development for three comic books  when my emotional development ran into the brick wall was that was my (now) ex, herein referred to as Dingus.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Dingus on this blog before, because he has less than zero impact on my current life, but we’re talking about the past here, and, sadly, he’s there.

(Heed well the immortal words of Anne Lamott, my children: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

Dingus disapproved wholeheartedly (though in a passive-aggressive way) of my art because *he* was a *real* *artist*. Probably he felt threatened. I know that sounds pompous, but I was trying something new every week and I enjoyed tackling my weaknesses like they were elderly gazelles and I was a cheetah. When I discovered that I was awkward at drawing feet I forced myself to draw nothing but feet for weeks on end until I could draw feet that would make anatomical illustrators weep and cast aside their sketchbooks. Dingus, on the other hand, was good at drawing two things and two things only, and he never, ever stepped out of his comfort zone. (Ironically, his comfort zone was making other people uncomfortable.) Also, he flat-out sucked at both hands and feet. (And probably still does.) I don’t know who was the better artist, but I now believe that I was the one with more potential.

Dingus wasn’t just negative about my drawing, of course. He was also negative about my personality, my body, my family, and all my interests. But for some reason his harshing on my art was what stuck. After the dumping my self-esteem and interest in my hobbies bounced back – but I didn’t draw again for well over a decade. (With one very notable exception in 2005 when I drew what may well be the greatest holiday card ever created.)

bucky card

Our 2005 holiday card featuring our cross-eyed, one-toothed, codependent flame-point Siamese cat, Bucky.

I am mystified by how this guy managed to give me the Clockwork Orange cure for drawing, as all I can remember him saying, in reference to my work, was: “that’s cartoony.” (Of course it was, numb nuts, I was making comic fucking books.) But my brain’s coping mechanism is to block out what it deems too painful to remember, so now that I’ve purged a lifetime’s worth of journals the world will never know!

I am wholeheartedly enjoying my (agonizingly slow) return to sketching, but I desperately want to hear similar stories. Have you ever rescued something from your past (an interest or hobby or habit) that you used to love but that had become tainted by a bad relationship or situation? Did your approach to it or your feelings toward it change? Was it like reuniting with an old friend? Did it become a part of your life again or did you decide to leave it in the past after all?

Please let me know in the comments!

— Amanda


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