“The truth was that sketchbook was full of nothing but failure, and maybe that’s what I wanted to hear, that every mistake has meaning.”

— Uzodinma Okehi, Over for Rockwell


“He had this really uncanny way of helping you feel like you could achieve your dream project, but then when you got closer to achieving your dream project, he felt the need to sabotage it.’”

— Sandi Tan, Shirkers


Young artists full of fervor and a sense of greatness, whether grandiose or true to their skill, must run through an obstacle course of tropes, naivete, and imposter syndrome. Most of us want to see them make it, especially if they’re any good. Okehi’s novel and Tan’s documentary let us see this course in action. They get us invested.

This pairing displays:

  • Production as the ultimate priority
  • Friends helping or hindering creative output
  • International travel as a questionably helpful muse
  • Philosophically indestructible art dependent upon a flimsy, tangible format
  • The work freeing and binding the artist simultaneously
  • Regretful latency periods pitted against intense periods of “unrelenting hustle” (p. 79)
  • Truncated creations
  • Dusting off the concept of destiny for re-examination
  • Literal, cyclical manifestations of back to the drawing board
  • How comparison can kill whatever it bred in the first place
  • Being old enough for passion and young enough not to know where it came from
  • Sharp vignettes that emphasize what is missing


Everything is over and nothing is over for these characters. Everything is over and nothing is over for us. Adulthood, not artistry alone, is living in a contradiction. There are some things we can do about it. “But something’s always missing,” (p. 275).