I’ve done a lot of thinking today. 2016-2017 was an interesting couple years for me as an artist and author and just general human being. I graduated from college in late 2016 and, to put it simply, attending that college was a mistake. It’s a long story but essentially I was lied to and manipulated by a college that was at the beginning stages of dying when I got accepted, but they’d done such a good job of hiding it that I didn’t know until it was to late.
Coming to terms with that was a huge struggle, especially because of how in debt it put me. It is something I am currently pursing legal action for, but that’s not really the point of this post. The point is that that experience, coupled with my depression (and, let’s be honest, it certainly didn’t help with the depression) really set me back in a lot of ways. I didn’t connect with people, I didn’t network with people, I didn’t develop healthy working habits.
But, most of all, I created my work in a bubble. I didn’t share it with anyone, I didn’t get critique, I didn’t get help. I didn’t want it. In college I was told off for giving in depth critiques, and many students gave subpar critiques that weren’t helpful in any way and that was treated as the right way to do it. These experiences created this sense that critique wasn’t worth bothering with. If no one was going to give me actual advice on my work and how to make it better, then there was no point in asking in the first place.
Obviously, this is a very harmful mentality to have. Art can’t be created in a bubble. It needs other people to help it grow and thrive to be the best it can possibly be. 2017 was my year of discovering that, as well as building the healthy work habits I should have developed in college.
In 2017 I tried a lot of different styles of working. Everything from using timers for everything I did to track what I was doing, to scheduling myself out weeks in advance, to not scheduling at all but taking notes on what I did as I did it. There was also a lot of exploration of how I work best when it comes to planning projects; the level of planning I need to do, what kinds of planning, etc. By late 2017 I finally found the methods that really clicked for me, after a lot of trial and error, and it resulted in an explosion of wonderful productivity and projects I was proud of and stayed proud of. I no longer felt like I was beating my head against a wall to get things done, and then hating them after a few days.
A big part of this was also finally starting to network with people, and starting to find people who could give me the critiques I wanted and needed to improve my work. I found an amazing writing critique group that is full of wonderful people who don’t give me any slack when they’re talking about my work. I reconnected with other disenchanted people from my college, and together we are working on building a network to help everyone else who was left in the dust by a college that was supposed to support us but never has.
These two groups, plus finally having an effective method of working, all really came together towards the end of 2017. That meant I came into 2018 with an entirely different outlook on my work and what I want to do as an artist and author. I’m crazy excited for what I’m going to be able to do now, but I’m also looking back on projects I did during the last few years and wishing they had been able to benefit from the personal advancements I made in 2017.
The biggest of these projects is the Kith and Kin saga. These books are my babies. I’ve already released the first one. People have bought it. I’ve shared it and sold it and done press about it. I’ve written the second book, and I’m currently in the process of editing it.
But I wrote the first book when I was in a bad place in my life. I wrote it when I was still struggling and still didn’t understand my brain well enough to work as effectively as I can now. I wrote it when I didn’t have anyone to help me, to critique me. The same is true, though to a lesser extent, for the second book.
It has been while working on editing the second book that I came to a lot of the realizations I’m sharing in this post. I worked on this book the most while I was going through that self-discovery period last year. Right now I’m still working on that project, but I’ve come out the other side of that period and it is making me view the project very differently.
Working on editing the second book feels like banging my head against a wall. There’s things I can’t change because it is a second book, and I’d have to change the first book to make it work. There’s things I can change but they’re so deeply entrenched in the story that it would involve a full re-write of the book. There’s things about my process that have completely shifted, so going back to a book that was created under my old processes feels like back sliding. I’m not the same artist, nor the same person, as when I wrote the second book and even more so I am not the same artist nor person as I was when I wrote the first book.
Obviously, I will always be changing and growing as an artist, but this feels like a bigger change. This isn’t just general learning, this was a serious, self-initiated, forced change. I made myself into the artist I want to be, the kind of artist that can undergo regular change and growth, because I wasn’t that artist before. It was hard and parts of it sucked, but it was worth it.
With all of that said, I refuse to abandon the Kith and Kin saga. I love it. It is still my baby. I still adore the characters and the world and I know I can do amazing things with it. But I realize now that I need to start over, as hard as that decision is. I’m lucky enough that this project is still 100% mine; I self-published it and I’ve done all the art and marketing and everything myself. Admittedly, this was because I refused to ask for help which was the problem, but in this instance it is an advantage because it means there is nothing standing in the way of me wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch.
This was still a hard decision to make, but I know it is the right decision. I am going to leave the first book, Bound by Kin, as it is. It now gets to be a stand alone novel. But it is also going to serve as an outline for the redo, so there will be a lot of similarities, but there will also be changes. I will also be outlining and getting at least a first draft of all three books in the series done before I release any of them. These books, while there are three of them, are one thing. I need to finish the whole thing before I give it to the world.
That’s not to say I won’t be talking about it while I work, though. I’ll still be talking about it a ton! I’m going to share as much of my processes as possible as I undertake redoing this project, because I love sharing my work. But a finished Book 1 of the redo is probably at least a couple years off.
So, yes. Lots of thinking has happened, and now you all know what’s going on with my work! I’m really excited by this new turn, even if it was a hard decision to make, and I hope you all will enjoy being on this journey with me.