I did a big clearout the other day, and I came across something I haven’t looked at in years. A sheer bomber jacket, with polka dots on the front and stripes on the back. The sleeves and body kind of poof out when on – it’s so bad, so terribly, terribly bad, I had to laugh. It’s the 80s on steroids.
Other than make me reminisce on all the terrible things I’ve worn (I used to dress weird, there’s no other way around it. Spats? Yep. Kimono? Yep. Dress that looks like a tent? Yep. Bowler hat and red braces to work? You betcha.) it made me think of the other skeletons that are languishing in my drawers and on my hard drive.
I mean those early attempts at stories and novels. I had a look through them and my word were some of them bad! As well as making me laugh, looking through my old writing turned out to be hugely beneficial because it highlighted just how far I’ve come. Granted, I still have a long way to go, but staring at the abyss between myself and Neil Gaiman is not the greatest motivator. If the gulf was smaller it might egg me on to work even harder to close the remaining gap, but let’s be honest now, the gulf is huge because he’s in the US and I’m in Hong Kong (That’s a lot of distance). But also because he is one of the best writers around currently and I’m – you know – not.
I’m all for forging ahead and keeping an eye on the future rather than living in the past, but looking back at the growing distance between myself and those initial efforts does a hell of a lot more to motivate me. Without a benchmark to refer back to, it would be easy to lose sight of how much we’ve changed and grown.
Which reminds me of a quote from House of Cards (have you seen it? I was OBSESSED with it, I watched the whole thing over a weekend.): “To improve is to change. To perfect is the change often.”
Note that it isn’t “to change is to improve.” Change can be a bad thing if you wind up throwing out the baby with the bath water.
But there is no improvement without change. There is no perfection without constant change. Without pushing beyond the comfort zone, learning, growing, trying new things, we can easily stagnate both in our writing and in life/business/sartorial choices.
Trying a sheer bomber jacket was a risky choice. As was trying to write a story from an inanimate object’s point of view, a candlestick to be precise (I kid you not. This was a loong time ago. A very long time ago. I think I must have been trying to somehow emulate Beauty and the Beast – and failing quite spectacularly). But now I get to look back on both, have a little laugh at myself and go on with my day, safe in the knowledge that I no longer look like I got dressed in the dark, and that no matter how bad a writing day I have, it will always be better than that story.
So I’m keeping them both, so that next time I’m having one of those “everything I do sucks so bad there is no moisture left in the world” days, I can remember to give myself a little break.
How about you? Have you looked back at your writing recently to see how much you have grown? Have you got any bad 80s gear to share? (Please share terrible 80s clothes, I hear it’s a thing on Wednesdays to subject yourself to sartorial embarrassment!)
Oh and here’s the unfortunate jacket….It just needs a perm and some neon leggings, doesn’t it?!
(Ok full disclosure – I was a little too young to get involved in the 80s fashion scene, I bought it AFTER the 80s. I know. I know.)