On the tenth of every month, my computer reminds me to balance the budget of my small business and to pay out any royalties that are owed to the contributors I’ve published in Geek Force Five over the years. This month, while checking in on the company that prints hard-copy books for us, I discovered that I’d sold a copy of my own first book, Those Little Bastards — the first in a good, long while.
I shuddered at the thought. It was an involuntary response, something I’ve been conditioned to do by this world where serious creators are expected to look back with disdain on their early work. And I wasn’t happy that I’d felt that way, not at all. Because I’m proud of the kid who put himself out there, who decided those stories were good enough. In fact, in my preface to the 2014 edition of the book I wrote:
The Chris of 2014, the thirty-six-year-old professor of creative writing who is editing this, would like to say something here about how these stories are the work of a much younger man, that he is proud of them but that they are best viewed through a certain lens.
The Chris of 2002, the twenty-four-year-old who put this collection together in the first place, invites Professor Clark to eat shit and die.
I bring this up because it ties directly into my motivation to bring all of my old blogs back online, a project which I completed this week.
I’ve been blogging since January 1999, first on Geocities, then on thatlittlebastad.com, clarkwoods.com, and geekforcefive.com. But since I switched hosting providers and content management systems in 2012, most of my 18 years of material has been offline, unavailable to anyone’s eyes but mine.
Now, some folks might view this as a blessing. I’m sure there’s at least one person out there reading this who is thrilled that their Livejournal is lost to time, or that no one will ever again be able to read — in between all of the ridiculously sparkly animated gifs — their MySpace musings from back in the day. But for me, the absence of all that writing from my Website felt like a betrayal. Enough of a betrayal that I’ve been working for just shy of two years to bring all of my blogs back online.
I am not proud of some of the things I wrote over the years. Some of the things I wrote when I was younger are borderline offensive; some of them are over that line and made me think twice before hitting publish again. But I see value in presenting myself, warts and all.
The writer and professor that I am now, the one who comforted his students when they felt traumatized by an election and who gets more positive feedback on his work than negative — he did not emerge fully formed. Every day — every word — is an evolution. And I hope, as I hope with everything I produce and put out into the world — from a story to a lesson to a podcast — that my students, my fans, my friends and family… I hope that, in the moments when they feel as imperfect and flawed as I so often do, that they can turn to some stupid shit I wrote once upon a time and take comfort in the fact that we’re all fucked up and that all we can do with the time we have left is to try and do better.