The Urge to Purge: Revisiting Old Work

One of the downsides of being creative in public is improving in public.  I know that sounds counterintuitive; improving is ostensibly a good thing, no matter where it’s done.  Improving in public, however, means that the evidence of one’s humblest beginnings is out there, stays out there, can come back at any time.   That short story from college, an old demo that sounds like hell, an early painting from the days when one’s signature style looked more like block printing done by a penguin.  Our friends and family may find these artifacts endearing, but to  their creators, they’re worthy of a serious cringe.  And I’m afraid there’s nothing to be done about it.

Other people, I am sure, take the position that it’s all part of life’s journey; that we must learn to love ourselves in every stage, from the egg to the  pupa to the freaky carnivorous butterfly; that mistakes and bad art are badges of pride to wear proudly on the blah blah  can’t even finish the sentence.  I can’t finish because I do not for one second believe it.  I don’t feel it deep down inside.  Deep down inside, I am an animal, and I have an animal’s urge to bury my stinky shame where no one can see it.

Take the first two crochet patterns I ever designed: Frankenstein’s Monster & Bride of Frankenstein, both from 2011.  After two years of designing, I was so distressed by the Bride pattern, in particular, that I went back and redesigned both.  And do you know what happened?  Nothing.  No one invited me to join Club Awesome.  Mary Shelley did not rise up from the grave and say, “Thank GOD you fixed that mess; now let’s have tea!”  No one has ordered the new “improved” versions, and in fact, someone just ordered the originals.  They’re not even listed in my shop anymore, but someone loved them, remembered them, and specifically asked for them.  I sent her a picture of the new ones, but she wanted the old ones, which forced me to pick up those old patterns and live with them for a week.

And that’s the deal, isn’t it?  That’s existence: Living with things, even if they’re embarrassing and inefficient and ridiculous.  My customer doesn’t care if the patterns are inefficiently conceived and sparsely written; she just wants a cute Frankenstein, which I will deliver.



Frankenstein Parts


We can’t abolish our early works, and judging by my experience, there’s no point in trying.  They’re not bothering anyone but us anyway.



  1. shuckclod

    I read your post. Everyone loves different stuff. I have lots of one of a kinds, and If we ever have a fire they will not be replaced and those are the things I cherish. I bet the first ones were great. Have a great weekend.

  2. There was nothing wrong with that first Frankenstein!! I know how you feel though – it's rough looking back and thinking "what was I THINKING"… but he looks awesome. And my kids love theirs, both Frankenstein and his alter ego Monsieur Pear.

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