An Obsessive Maker of Things

I am meant for another career than the one I have now. So many dreams have come in and out of my life. If there is a specific type of A.D.D. that makes you passionately curious about anything and everything, you can be sure that I have it.

When I was young, I decided that I would become a paleontologist. It was my friend Kyle who introduced me to the word— before I suppose I just thought that the dinosaurs that I held so dear had just sprouted from the ground and placed themselves in museums to be viewed by children like me. I loved dinosaurs, and someone who studied them for a living seemed like the kind of person I wanted to be. Like an Indiana Jones who studied the more ancient past, I would trek out in search of Tyrannosaurs and Velociraptors, compsognathids and dromaeosaurs.

I followed this dream eagerly into High School, becoming the president of the Science Club and taking Genetics and Statistics my senior year, hoping to beef up my skills in science for college.

By the time I took my first creative writing class in college, even with a teacher as hard as nails, I already knew what direction I was headed. I held out for a while, staying a biology major for my first whole year in a college that had no paleontology department. But I have a history of ignoring my true talents and dreams for things that fascinate me, and for things that have a surer path to society’s standard barometer of success: a job with a steady salary.

Astronomy, astrophysics, space travel, archaeology, paleontology, programming— there was even a brief stint in my life where I considered going in to the air force so I could eventually become an astronaut, although my growing height, asthma, and loss of interest precluded me from ever pursuing it. I am so curious almost all of the time. Science and nature are in my blood, and I wish I could learn everything there is to know about them. Still, as I have said, I have a history of ignoring myself, of getting distracted by varying interests.

Before I could write clear, crisp prose and dialogue, I drew wordless, unintelligible comics. I did my best with my chubby child fingers to make images that told stories that played out in my head. Stories that I brainstormed on the playground as I ran around alone, and drew in to spiral notebook after spiral notebook, ripping out the chaff, drawing and redrawing. I loved comics from a very young age. I can’t even remember a time when Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t part of my life, when my backpack wasn’t filled with floppy issues of Sonic the Hedgehog with the covers falling off and my name written in the margins by my mother so other kids couldn’t steal them from me. The adult collector in me now cringes, but I can’t help but realize how much my mother knew these stories meant to me.

I loved to read, but I always loved comics best. I had favorite artists even— Patrick Spaziante on the pencils, Harvey Mercadoocasio on the paintbrush. I cut my teeth tracing and then drawing the characters on the sacred pages of my beloved comic book collection. Only one half of my time was consumed with drawing, however. As I started to read more, as my skills began to sharpen by looking at my idols, I realized these people did this every day. Watterson, Tolkien, Crichton, Spielberg— these creators got to do my favorite thing in the world every single day. I can’t remember when I first realized it— it was more like a train of events that ran through grade school to high school.

It may have started with Bill Peet, a Disney animator. I read his autobiography at a very young age, a story of his rise as an artist, much of it working for Disney. Then there was Bill Wallace, author of Upchuck and Rotten Willy, my Librarian who wrote a book of Greek myths retold like western tall tales, and Victoria Hanley, author of The Seer and the Sword. Every one of them sat down and told us of the trials and tribulations of being an author. I can’t remember if the rest of the audience was as interested as me, but I remember each meeting vividly. I remember imagining what it would be like to live their lives. I imagined moving to California to write films, to draw comics and cartoons. But I kept the deepest of these dreams, leaving to forge a new, terrifying path, secret, or at least silent.

I drew and I wrote compulsively, but for most of my life I would not admit to dreaming of doing them for a living. I never referred to them as hobbies, but I pretended that they were just that. I told myself “become a scientist and you can draw and write on the side.” Even now, I don’t know why I did this to myself. Perhaps because of the stigma the word “artist” had among some people in my small town. Perhaps because so many who achieve this dream tell people how rare it is to become successful, even though it is their tenacity and desire to create that put them where they are. Maybe it was because I never dreamed that a kid from Nowhere, Oklahoma could ever succeed in someplace so far away. Perhaps because I always thought I might just fall in to it by accident, into the path I really wanted.

Maybe I was just afraid.

It certainly wasn’t my parents. When I admitted I wanted to get a writing degree to my parents in my junior year, their reaction was “it’s about time.” When I revealed my plans to move to California after discovering my chosen medium (animation and comics), their reaction was “we always knew where your heart was.”

I am meant for another career than the one I have right now. I was meant to make things— words, images, worlds— but unlike before, I am no longer afraid to say it. It isn’t just a hobby, even if it isn’t yet a career.

I am a writer. I am an artist. I exist to tell stories.

And so I tell them.

DQ Resized

To the past and to the future.

— Allen

Check out the Tumblr for my art from the ongoing project “The Colossal Girl,” a cartoon about giant robots.

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