Over the past 17 years, I have won numerous awards, accolades and recognitions. I went to the state competition for UIL headline writing and I work as Editor-In-Chief for this very publication. With this in mind, a logical assumption is one of these many accomplishments would be what I consider my greatest thus far. However, none of them can receive such an honor.
While I do appreciate and value these awards, I find that my greatest achievement is much simpler; it is my finishing of my graphic novel, both illustrated and written by me. I have decided the spirit of creation, hard work and love for the work, is what makes my novel worthy of being my best achievement.
A graphic novel, while it seems childish at first, can actually represent an impressive amount of art. Between the carefully planned out panels filled with unique drawings and the bold storytelling, this form of literature is something to be admired. Having now completed one myself, I know that the creation of such is not a simple task.
That being said, the difference between reaching the end of my novel and many of my more revered accolades is the work I put into them. I gained many of my awards through events and activities I was already a part of and doing for fun, such as newspaper and UIL. I did not participate in events like these for a medal or ribbon and they were not something I consciously put time and effort into acquiring.
My graphic novel, however, took months, including many late nights and long hours leaned over my corner desk. There were times in which I would drop everything, leaving the pens to dry out and the caps still scattered on my desk, and walk away from the project entirely. I also experienced moments where a part of the book was difficult to illustrate or a certain section of dialog did not quite flow. Somehow though, I always found my way back to the book, back to the ink and to the storyboard. It is the struggle to achieve makes the success more valuable.
While I was fighting to complete my book, I was also enjoying every second of the process of putting it together. Unlike so many other things in my life, the graphic novel I created is entirely mine. Every picture, every word came from me. The process of seeing your own ideas come to life is magical. I have experienced this before, with a couple short stories and countless drawings, but it was the coming together of my two loves that made the finishing of the novel so much more important to me. Combining several things I enjoyed felt like the culmination of many years of practice.
The tangibility of a finished product is noteworthy as well. Many of my past awards and creations were limited to a computer screen or a sheet of paper with embossed letters. While such details are meant to represent class and the superior skills I supposedly possess, holding my actual finished book in my hand is what really symbolized that to me. The folded pages and eight different versions of a title page add both character and meaning, something a certificate will never possess, no matter how it tries.
Given, there are many works similar to my graphic novel. The plot, which centers on a young man who struggles to find purpose and gets himself into a dangerous situation, is not by any means original, but it is also my version of the story, which, contrary to others, has pieces of me in it everywhere.
My main character has semblances of my rash decision making, but also my kindness and willingness to trust others. The setting is based on a place I loved visiting as a child. Even the art style is unique to me, and my process of cultivating it over many years. The beauty of creation is that, whether they mean to or not, the creator often finds themselves embedded within their work, which again is why my novel is my greatest achievement. I love that I am my work and that it is me.
The joys of creation are not limited to the creator, however. Many times, sharing a finished product is as satisfying to the creator as it is the individual enjoying it. When I first completed my graphic novel, I showed it to a few select people. It was daunting, handing a part of yourself scribbled on a paper to someone else. However, my siblings, who tend to be unapologetically honest due to their age, loved the comic.
As I shared the book with more and more people, I began to notice a pattern. I was receiving both compliments and criticisms, but almost everyone could recognize and enjoy the hard work and originality I had poured into the project, which, in the end, is what gives a creation its purpose. A book without readers is not useful, just as a painting without viewers or buyers exists on the wall of its painter only. So, when I gained positive feedback on something I worked on, it meant I had done it right. My graphic novel had been given its purpose.
Most likely, this book will not retain its place as my greatest achievement forever, as my life is long and I have many things left to experience. However, I can hope that the graphic novel set a precedent for the type of achievements that are soon to come.
My art and writing, when I really work hard on them, mean everything to me and even more so, giving my art a purpose and allowing others to enjoy it. With any luck, I will continue to work in this direction, covered head to toe in dried paint, ink stains, and most importantly, the love of what I do.