Hey all! As you might have noticed, there’s no new video this week. My wife was crazy sick and had to stay home, so I kept myself on call for her tea, coffee, and snuggle needs. So instead I decided to post up this new article for you all. First off some news.
I’m halfway through writing the first Nine Shot Sonata book, and I’ll be going into a rotating schedule here soon where I’ll be working on finishing that alongside my short story collection. I’ll have more tidbits (and even some more samples) for you all very soon.
On the Patreon front, I’ll be launching a contest soon for all contributors. It’ll be a simple drawing from the names of current Patrons. Once i’ve locked that down, I’ll make a full post detailing all the goodies I plan to give away. Want in? Then all you have to do is chip in a buck, and become one of the venerated members listed upon the Wall of Awesome.
And now, for your reading pleasure (or chosen time-killer), today’s article.
The Attempt is Everything
There’s this meme making the rounds on my Facebook feed, as memes are wont to do. But for some reason, this one in particular struck a pretty powerful chord with me. It’s a simple enough game where participants list out their first seven jobs, and the viewer gets a glimpse into the meme-poster’s humble beginnings, or rollercoaster ride through the world of the working citizen.
It got me to thinking about my own litany of titles I’ve worn over the years. But, as my brain likes to do, my mental take of inventory took me further on to shelves dedicated to the path I’ve been on as a freelance creative. And that inspired me to share something with you today that I sincerely hope puts your own journey into context.
To begin: I’m a professional failure.
I know, right? Pretty bleak right out of the gate. But it’s not what you think it means. At least, not entirely. Sure, there’s a patina of self-effacing dolling up that phrase, but like most things of any substance, it’s what’s inside that counts. Or, in this case, what’s beneath the paint-job.
Look at this pic. It certainly wasn’t the first piece of art or design I posted online, but it’s one of the earliest I could find from a very special time in my life. The year was 2002—or a subjective eternity for those who are getting their first driver’s licenses presently. Welp. Now I feel truly old. Thanks for that, ye 16 year olds. You youthful monsters.
Anyway, I was 22. I was a month away from marrying the love of my life. I was young, invincible, and determined to make good on the idea that I had been sold on for most of my life: hard work and talent pays out. In 2002, I took the plunge and went full time with my creativity. That took the form of a little webcomic called “Konsekai: Swordwaltzer”
The comic ran for a few years. It saw two publications in print form. It had a small but devoted following of folks that shared my brand of crazy.
It failed. The reasons are numerous, and gleefully draw from acts of a whimsical universe, but the why-for’s are only important in hindsight. It’s not what I’m serving up today. So let’s move on through the strata of the artist’s past a bit more.
That’s one of the pieces that put me on the map after submitting it to Playstation magazine. My follow up submissions to them also garnered me some slick street cred in the fan communities. There was a slew of commissions I landed from the notoriety. I applied myself to that task to try to pay the bills.
I failed to do so as the commissions dried up fairly quickly.
Oh, this one’s pretty fun. This was my attempt at getting into something a bit more mainstream. Specifically, this was my entry for Udon’s first Street Fighter art book. At the time, I was pretty damned pleased with this. I was still young, still believing, still hungry.
It didn’t make their list. Neither did two follow ups. Failed attempts, all.
That one? From my follow up webcomic, “Nine Shot Sonata”. It ran from 2008-2010 in the original format. It too garnered a small group of devotees. Hell, I even began putting together music for the fictional band that lived in the comic.
The comic never really got around to them. The comic never really got around to much of anything. Yep. It failed.
There were soft relaunches of both webcomics. There were hundreds of other illustrations, dozens of commissions, and a gallery’s worth of personal projects ranging from music to animation. During all of this I even landed a job as a voice actor for the now defunct ADV Films dubbing studio. For the record, I wasn’t particularly good enough to make it more than the odd paycheck every few months or so.
I wrote a novel, three novellas, attempted a motion comic, launched new websites and merch and a heady dose of art/logo design/graphic design projects for (shudders) Facebook games and other people’s projects that also failed to get past the conceptual stage. I tried my hand at Nerdcore. I never claimed anything beyond Creative Magpie Syndrome, folks. All failed.
To misquote the Bard: “Damn, dude.”
Pictured: One of my favorite failures.
Right now, you might be wondering why in the hell I’m sullying your Friday with such a downer litany of mistakes and failed swings for the fence. That’s just it, though. You’re looking at it the wrong way. Don’t feel bad. I did too for a long time.
This isn’t a list of failures. This is a list of me trying again, and again, and again. This is a march forward even past all of the times when I was sure I couldn’t go on after a defeat. I’ve certainly learned some harsh lessons, true. But knowledge, as they say, really is power. I’m not as young, but I’m still hungry. I know I’m not invincible, but I’m still willing to wade in to the fray. I’ve walked away from some avenues, but I’m still pushing forward in the belief that my creativity will bring me success.
What’s more? I want you to be as well. So how in the hell do I keep going? Why?
There’s plenty of psychobabble I could hack through to explain it, but really the why is pretty simple: I love this, even when it doesn’t love me back. I love entertaining. I love taking those bits out of my head and showing others. I love the connection.
But how do I keep going? That’s a bit more complicated. I’m blessed insofar as I’m not in it alone. I have friends. I have peers. Most of all, I have a saint of a woman that has supported me every step of the way since those first quaking steps of mine back in 2002. She believes, even when I do not. Especially when I don’t, in point of fact.
And YOU are not alone. Moreover, it’s time to look at your own list of past works in a new light. First, by recognizing that the little victories are STILL VICTORIES. The minor successes are still successes.
My work has made me a guest at conventions across the country, and from those I’ve made friends that have stuck with me through the worst of it. My work opened doors that I never thought would be opened, even if they opened on dead end alleys. Practically all of 2009 was carried by my commission work for my wife and I.
Gone but never forgotten.
I’ve had people cosplay my characters. MY characters. That’s insane. I’ve had fan art, fan comics, remixes of my music, fan-made RPG ideas based in my various worlds. I’ve been able to pay bills now and again. There are people out there right now with permanent ink drilled into their skin from my work.
And those are the big ones. I have to recall the smaller ones; the still important nuggets of victory. People have paid money for my work. People have bought my books, my albums, and ponied up cash just on the mere idea of giving me something of themselves to turn into reality.
Most of all? I have to realize, accept, and acknowledge that through all the setbacks, all the hardships and depressive episodes of failure, I’ve been tremendously lucky to have made the attempts at all.
And, padawan, so are YOU.
Oh man. I used to do traditional pencils? Wacky.
Failure is a WMD. When it goes off, you know it. But it’s not physical destruction that’s wrought upon your world. Failure obfuscates the landscape you’ve managed to build so far, and still worse makes you forget the simple fact that whatever’s there, no matter how humble, would not have existed at all had you not made the attempt in the first place.
Those webcomics? Novel projects, now. Those commissions? I take one now and again. But now I’ve got this blog. I’ve got a vlog series on YouTube that has a small following. I’ve got a Patreon that—shockingly by my estimation—can pay our light bill every month with a bit left over for me to contribute to the woman that has so much faith in me.
I still have dreams. Fucking hell, I STILL have dreams, even after fourteen years of trying.
I can’t say if my upcoming novels will bring me the success I’m chasing. I couldn’t tell you if my vlog will ever get major numbers. I don’t have the faintest clue what the future will bring beyond one simple fact:
I can only control whether or not I’ll keep trying. Same goes for you.
And you know what? So far, so good. I’ve succeeded in the ongoing attempt to keep up the attempt.