At a young age, I started drawing. It quickly became foundational to my self-image: I was the artist in my friend groups; I took drawing and painting classes in my community; I created little characters and comic strips. I loved it. I thought of myself as, and was called, a creative kid. I devoured works like Calvin & Hobbes, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I dreamt of creating worlds and telling stories, but I didn’t know how to do it—I just liked to draw.
In high school and college, drawing remained part of my identity, but I was drawing much less. Instead, I was asking what I wanted “to do” as an adult, and where art fit into that. Eventually, deciding I would combine art, science, and education, I went to a liberal arts college that specializes in interdisciplinary work.
During my sophomore year of college, I did well in a writing seminar and unexpectedly found myself working as a writing tutor for the rest of my schooling. Writing was suddenly part of my identity—worse, it was in my job title. It felt strange to say; was I a writer now? I thought I was an artist.
For the first time, I was writing a lot, and I was thinking about writing a lot. In college, I wrote lots of essays, and I also journaled a lot (mostly in word documents), and during a time of great change in my life, I found that writing was a new way of thinking for me. Thinking was never my strong suit; I’ve always felt there is too much noise in my head to be able to do much reasoning in there.
When I write, though, thoughts flow with ease from my fingertips to the keys—maybe too much ease, as I’m always left with a jumbled heap of disparate paragraphs. As my writing mentor in college liked to repeat, however, writing is rewriting, and by editing and rearranging my stream of consciousness, I could suddenly give structure and rhythm to what only ever used to be noise in my head. Still, though, I didn’t do much “creative” writing or storytelling in my writing—it was more a tool for thought.
Two years ago, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and quickly adopted the elusive helm of game master, or the one who runs the game and tells the stories. I started creating settings for my friends to play in, and before long my creations started to come together and I found myself orchestrating a complex world of places, languages, and timelines. In the last five months, I’ve written more than 50k words in my world, and it has grown beyond what the format of D&D can hold. In addition to my world almanac, I’ve also started blogging about worldbuilding.
This month, I suddenly felt an intense urge to siphon this creative energy into my art and create my first-ever longform comic, a graphic novel set in my fantasy world. It feels like the first time I have coupled writing with art in a big way, and I’m kind of amazed at the ease with which the words are flowing from my fingers again.
I’m reminded of a quote by Bill Watterson in one of his Calvin & Hobbes anthologies, something along the lines of “I think I learned to be a writer so I could draw for a living.” 1. Here’s to hoping.