28 July 2014

advice and anniversaries - panels

I finally read Otaku Journalism: A Guide to Geek Reporting in the Digital Age, written by Lauren Orsini, thanks to a sale (that ended midnight 7/22). It's great. So are other books I have, written by writers that have already been there and telling you what's worked for them: from Critical Path: How to Review Videogames for a Living by Dan Amrich, to The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by amazing author Chuck Wendig. No one will say that these writers don't know about their respective specialties. And these writers all share in their books what has worked for them, and very concrete steps to get from "I want to write about something I love" - to writing it, submitting it, editing, checking sources, ethics, resubmitting, try try again, etc.

But will what works for them work for you?

Not everyone learns the same way. Or dresses the same, etc.

Quite possibly, actually, given the writers I mentioned.

But not everyone is the same. As much as I would like to be on par with Wendig, I am not Chuck Wendig. I'm Kit. I'm not Amrich or Orsini or Hearne or King or anyone else. I'm not even Charles, or AJ. I can't draw. I might have things in common with them - I like Welcome to Night Vale, for example, and I obviously present on Japanese culture. But I'm not them. I'm just me.

Plus, if we were all the same, conventions, Twitter, DeviantArt, and emails would be pretty boring, wouldn't it? We wouldn't learn from each other. We wouldn't have anyone do artist commissions in a style we like; we wouldn't talk about changes in animation styles or art and we'd read the same 20 books and like the exact same foods the exact same way.

Sounds boring to me, at least. I like seeing differences in art styles. I like custard buns just as much as I like hamburgers. I like lagers as well as stouts as well as red wine. I like coffee AND tea. I like poetry, but I also like cyberpunk novels, or epic mythic novels, or novels set in a particular gaming franchise.

I'm all for learning. And if what I do, or what Charles does, inspires you: by all means. Learn. Do. Read. Present. Write.

But you're not us. And don't feel you have to be.

Lauren Orsini, to her credit, does mention this temptation to compare against people you admire; the writer who brings in a lot of pageviews, for example. Wendig also mentions it, albeit in a different fashion, about publishing and process. Basically, people don't read books or articles or want art commissions for the dry facts of things, or for a recording: they want to relate to it, they want to experience something, and that's where you or I come in.

Let's go; to the world of panels.

Otakon 2014 marks a decade since my first panel presentation, which debuted at Otakon 2004. Even with the support of the fandom community I was in - which, at the time, was based around the Megatokyo forums - I felt scared, alone, and nervous. And for years, I would only do one or two panels, at one or two conventions. Sometimes, due to time, but mostly due to expenses. I had graduate studies. Moves, both within the country and overseas. Toxic environments, in which I felt I had no transportation, no friends, and no family to support me even emotionally or mentally.

What I did, and why, may not be anything you have to worry about or want to do. That's fine. Do you learn best by practicing your presentations in front of a mirror? Great! Do it if it works for you. It doesn't work for me, and that's fine too. Did your first panel flop? Identify what you can change; but sometimes it's just unfortunate timing, or the audience didn't respond the way you might have wanted them to. If it's something you can change and improve on, great! If not, let it go.

It's hard advice to say, let alone take. Letting go is hard. Trying NOT to compare yourself against someone else - especially someone who has inspired you or you admire - takes time and effort. It won't happen overnight. But if you do panels, or write on a passion, and keep doing it... little by little, you'll realize that you do have something to say. That your own words are important, and people want to listen to them - because you'll pick up on a connection that they haven't, or that you can relate to certain experiences (cosplay? mecha? how animation gets made? technical detailing?). You'll make connections.

Connections that you, with your own experiences and background and interests, will pick up on. I'll pick up on different things, because I have my own experiences, and background and interests. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I'm glad to be writing on this site and helping Charles; we each see a little differently, we each have our interests and specialties. There are things I'll see or notice or catch, and things that he will spend hours and days learning more on.

Yes, anyone can learn how to do a panel.

But no one else can be you.

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