Mutant Hamsters and Grace

Perspective on judging your old work

Image by Author

I, like a lot of kids born in the 80’s was absolutely obsessed with the Goosebumps book series. Seeing my son read, “How I Got My Shrunken Head” brought me a lot of joy.

In third grade my love for these books inspired me to write my own scary book. I grabbed a three prong cardboard folder and I filled the folder with 20 sheets of wide ruled paper. I thought, this should definitely be enough. I sat down with my number two pencil. I got to work. This was not a school project. I just wanted to write a book.

Two sentences in I realized that I had started on the wrong page and people were going to have to start reading on the last page of the book. My book was going to get thicker in your right hand the more you read. I didn’t care. I had momentum.

I was watching my friend’s hamster while he was on vacation. It had been three days and I still had not found the hamster. The fear of telling my friend I lost his hamster inspired my first attempt at a novel.

In the first chapter of the book my friend comes back from vacation. I told him about how I lost his pet hamster. Instead of being mad at me he convinced me to go and look for the hamster. This led us into the scary old barn on my property. A barn that we as children were told to never go into.

I only wrote one chapter of the book. I showed it to my parents. They thought it was funny. They probably thought it was cute, but I felt embarrassed and did not complete what would have been an obvious classic.

Fast forward 25 years and I still struggle with being hard on myself. The last video project I worked on I did a lot of self reflecting. I watched a lot of work that I did only a few years ago. I have improved a lot and because of that I started to cringe while watching my work.

Then I remembered my book attempt in third grade. There is not a single part of me that cringes when I think about work I did 25 years ago. I imagine that is how I am going to feel when I am 50 looking back at work I did in my 30’s.

Keep making things. You won’t regret doing it, and when you start noticing progress and you cringe at your old stuff. Try to give yourself the kind of grace that increases with time and distance from the subject.