Artistic expression – any kind – is a form of discovery in my view. Whatever the medium, you give life to ideas and set them free through the creative process, and in so doing you can learn a bit about yourself. Depending on the circumstances you can also experience a form of discovery by revisiting, and rethinking, something you created a long time ago in order to create something new.
Case in point: The next issue of Threshold Magazine (#3), a publication by and for fans of the Mystara campaign setting for the D&D game, will feature an article I wrote several years ago about an exotic (and highly dangerous) island that players could visit – and possibly even return from. I was a very prolific member of the Mystara writing community at the time it was first written, and many of my works centred on the Lovecraft-inspired Outer Beings, which I had just begun to develop. I was also a more exuberant writer then and explored many ideas in quick one-offs, such as the article in question, that I rarely revisited. Given my current writing interests, this seemed to be the perfect piece to explore.
A regular feature of Threshold Magazine is that it combs through the extensive Vaults of Pandius (the nexus and main archive for the Mystara community) to shine some light on older works that people may have overlooked, or forgotten. The original author is then invited to revisit their old work to expand on it, comment on it, and so on. So, when the theme for issue 3 was being discussed, I proposed my article for possible inclusion, and received the green light. I then hopped into my TARDIS and got to work.
Working with my younger self has been an interesting challenge. While he was full of ideas, he didn’t flesh them out to the extent that I would today (“I wish you’d expanded on that a bit more,” I told myself a number of times), and his approach to incorporating Lovecraftian elements into D&D tended more towards action-oriented pulp than dark fantasy. However, he was also more likely to run with a random idea and see where it went than I, accustomed as I am now to thinking about how an editor or publisher will react to something I write. He also had energy to burn, if the sheer amount of material he released to the community during that time is anything to go by. We turned out to be a pretty good team, in the end – even though there were a few “what was I thinking?!?” moments.
Despite the occasional frustration, I did achieve what I had set out to do. I revisited an old project and updated it in a way that suits my present tastes – thanks to my deeper knowledge of writing that my younger self lacked, and to advances in technology (digital hex maps are much easier to create now than they were when I first wrote the article). Revisiting my old work was like reuniting with an old friend, but while it was enjoyable it was also good to return to the present, and look towards the future.