I made my first Halloween costume in grade one.
It was craft time in Madam Lavallee’s class and in a fit of inspiration I cobbled together my very own Batman Batsuit out of black construction paper, staples, and orange yarn. The boys in my class laughed when I wore it to show and tell (They said a girl couldn’t be Batman. HA! Obviously I was Batman, the likeness was extraordinary, they were so wrong), but I knew I was going to take it home and reinforce it and it would last forever and be the best costume of all time.
In grade two I made paper craft kits that I was totally going to sell.
I was basically going to have disassembled 2D paper shapes in a bag that my heretofore undiscovered customers would glue together (according to my detailed instructions, written and illustrated in crayon) to make a cool polygonal animal that they could put up on their wall. I had three animals planned to start and I would add more to the line when demand got high enough.
I tried writing my first novel in grade three.
Inspired by the Redwall books, I had concocted a rousing fantasy adventure tale of anthropomorphic wolves and foxes and bears and monsters and destiny and such. I proudly pounded out the first scene, establishing characters through endearing hijinx and also hinting, ever so cleverly, at looming doom and future high-stakes clashes of heroes. The protagonist would turn out to be the son of the antagonist and no one would see it coming. On to chapter two!
Sometime between grades 2 and 3 ish, I went fully down the orthography rabbit hole.
I imitated and memorized Egyptian hieroglyphics off the Discovery Channel. I made my own ink out of crushed raspberries or backyard clay and anointed whatever natural-found object was my latest plaything with what I thought were ancient looking words of power. I created a new written system for English where one word could be represented by one symbol, scrawled by a finger in the sand of the playground. I was going to re-do my own language, word by word. I went ahead and started my glossary.
I made my first board game prototype around grade four.
It was an eenie weenie three player hex war game called (imaginatively) Tri-War, which I forced my brother to play with me a grand total of once before we both gave up on it in favour of our Sega Genesis and the lure of Sonic Spinball. I was going to play test again soon and make iterative changes until it got really good and I could sell it. After the next level, though; it would be my turn next on the Sega.
Mid elementary school was my own golden age of comics.
My brother and I had an alternate world in our basement based entirely on our stuffed animals, who were each (of course) blessed with mutant or technological super powers and were divided (naturally) into two competing but complimentary teams of Good and Evil. It was my goal to visually record all their many dramatic adventures and tell all their tales (trials and tribulations and plot twists, oh my!), plus bonus features (obviously) with character histories and exhaustive stats. It was going to be a whole series.
By late elementary school, I had invented and elaborated on a whole new world.
Krom was a diverse mystical land with something like eight or nine nations, and each had their own species of non-human inhabitants, their own noble history, their own geography, their own swath of natural resources, their own flag, and their own Really Cool Thing That Only They Do. I imbued the whole thing with the kind of inter-group politics that would make the senate negotiations on Naboo look simple (George would be proud, I knew), and then I set out to write it.
Also by this time, I had begun developing my first card game.
I was seriously convinced that Pokemon was dumb, you guys, they just took the idea of elementals from Greek myth and made it cute. I was totally a Digimon snob, and I was going to do better than that. I doodled my own creatures, coloured them in MS Paint, scanned backgrounds I cut out from nature magazines, and printed the finished colour cards on my dad’s bubble jet. The first set was about thirty mighty beasts, and I had already planned for, like, 3 more expansions.
In early junior high, I was going to make the Best. Dragon Costume. Ever.
Having taken a dive way deeper into my dance career at the time, I had learned all about chiffon, lycra, tulle, rhinestones, and oh-so-much satin ribbon, and I was going to make something that would move when I moved. I conceived an elaborate undercarriage of lightweight wire and flexible joints that would make the gauzy, monstrous-but-elegant black and silver exoskeleton come alive. I had all the drawings made up and everything.
In grade 8, I was going to become fluent in my own made up language.
During our lunch hours sitting out on the stairs, me and my super best buddy (one of two equally super best buddies; the other super best buddy went to a different school) came up with a super cool samurai ninja super saiyan culture that we would totally live by. We wouldn’t just come up with Taiken, we would be Taiken. I made the dictionary in excel and printed copies for both of us to put in our duotangs so we could practice every day and get super good at it.
Mid high school, I composed and showcased my own music.
I don’t even remember clearly how it happened exactly, but my mom the music teacher had connections to a young composer’s club/camp thingy, and I plopped a melody onto some staff paper. With inspiration from the music of Cirque Du Soleil (and a bunch of help from a blur of much more skilled musical adults), I ended up with a nifty piano quartet that me (on my cello) and three other friends from orchestra (on their violin, viola, and piano) rehearsed and performed a few times. It was pretty cool because it meant I could make music for my stories. Man, I was gonna be the next Hans Zimmer.
Also in high school, I got bit by the fanfic bug, and I got bit hard.
I was going to write the most epic, most gut-punching, most sexiest multi-ship multi-part arc that fanfic.net had ever seen. It was gonna be an X-over fusion grimdark angstfest AU with OCs and BAMFs (with some fluff and UST and hurt/comfort and slowburn and eventually some hot lemons) with fanart and fanmixes on the side. I was going to get so much feedback. I had one epic multi-parter painstakingly planned for one fandom, and then the next fandom, and then the next. I had eighty pages of colour-coded notes. I even started the second chapter, just had to pump out the next update.
I figured out after high school that I didn’t want to be an animator after all; I was going to straight up write novels.
But which of my dozen totally original novel ideas do I start with?? I picked Ninthlife, my reality-is-not-what-it-seems, these-teens-have-powers-for-some-reason YA masterpiece. I worked on it every week. At home, at the library, in my notebook on the bus. I sent chapters off to my cousin and other super best buddy for comments. I got through a bunch of the early chapters, just had to figure out that first act to second act twist/ramp-up, and I would be on my way to legit author-dom. Just had to make a few tweaks, I’d stop editing the earlier stuff soon and move on.
In university I got serious about my old card game.
Elementals wasn’t just a babyish Pokemon clone anymore, it grew up. It was a huge beast battle smash-up for the fate of the world in a fully realized universe. The gameplay mechanics reflected themes in the novelization that I was working on in parallel. People were going to feel the realities of the battle. They were going to make their strategic decisions like they were really there. I had a playtester group, I was posting updates, I was plowing through the paintings of the 45 monsters that made up the star line-up. I just had to solve this one thing in the combat mechanic, though, something wasn’t quite right. I just needed to do one more version…
And on and on. You can guess how many of these actually came to full fruition.
So I’ve got a long history of starting strong, but no follow through. Sometimes circumstances really didn’t make finishing these projects possible (or plausible; I’m still not Batman, despite my efforts), but I think I’m just much more enamoured of the planning and problem solving and initial iterating than I am of the wrapping up and polishing and delivering.
I don’t like being done nearly as much as I like being just about to do. Being just about to do something is, frankly, much more thrilling, and that’s the trap.
My partial completions add up to something, of course, and I’ve learned absolute oodles by just following the threads of my ideas and trying stuff out. It’s always worth it to try stuff out. But my artsy ambitions haven’t gone away or obliged me by making themselves more modest and reasonable, and as an adult I’m finding it tough to bear that my thought babies aren’t growed up enough yet to be packed a lunch and sent out into the world to fend for themselves. I’m realizing that these projects can’t reach their full potential if they remain private and unfinished. I’m realizing that I need to expose myself and my babies to an audience, because the growth of my skills will always be stunted if I only use them in isolation, with and for only myself. Like my high school self, I need so much feedback.
So I need a shift in perspective, and a new tact, which is the substance of this blog.
‘It’ll be so cool when it’s done!’ need to be ‘It’s so cool that this it’s done!’
It’s taken me as long time to understand this, but completion is cool, kids.
Strive to finish what you start.
Photos mostly by the lovely Kiaz
Additional photos from that box in the bottom of my closet