On Disappointment & Reinvention
When I heard about Yen Press’ New Talent Search last November, deep down in my gut, I knew I was ready. I’ve been honing my craft year after year, challenging myself to do more, do better each time and finally, this was the opportunity I’ve been waiting for.
I ate, slept and breathed manga for two whole months, sought feedback at every junction to improve my work and even used up my vacation hours through Thanksgiving week to make sure I could submit something I could be proud of.
When I was laid off in December, I thought “This isn’t so bad. Time to work on the art! I should be hearing from YP soon anyway!” Well, I waited…and kept waiting. I did use that time to push myself creatively and work on my writing but there was a lot of obsessive inbox refreshing. I won’t lie, I was banking on starting my new art career this year. It may have been utter naivete but I believed in the work and in myself.
On March 25, I finally got an e-mail. It said ‘the wait is over’, ‘I had potential’ and ‘the editors will be contacting you in the next few weeks to provide feedback.’ At this point, any response would have triggered the jumping and joyful squeals, as you can imagine. Self-taught artists just don’t get enough validation, I guess.
I got to know my fellow finalists online and sought other people’s submissions, offering my feedback if they wanted it. There was a general sense of excitement and possibilities. But when Yen Press’ latest issue rolled out, the Editorial Letter essentially stated that none of the artists contacted were up to the magazine’s standards. I felt the world shift under my feet and my future was now left completely uncertain again.
Mid-way through May, I’ve distanced myself enough from what happened to analyze and understand my disappointment, my misplaced hopes. In retrospect, there was never anything in the search guidelines about guaranteed publication, contracts or anything of that sort. A bitter lesson for me but one that was necessary to get me where I am now.
So what changed? A little maturity, some knowledge gleaned from looking around and reading up on the comics industry and the realization that if what I truly want is to see my work in print and share it with as much people as possible, there really isn’t a need for a middleman to do that! I have all the tools at my disposal and a burning desire to share my stories. I’m not saying this is the same path anyone who’s been ever rejected by a publisher should take! Self-publishing definitely isn’t for everyone, as I’m learning in my research into it. It isn’t going to be as easy but the rewards are going to be much better.
It’s going to take a lot on my part but I feel like I already have what it takes to create something meaningful and share my stories with people. I want to oversee the creation of a tangible, physical product- something that has my name on it and I can be proud of.
Conan O’ Brien recently posted his Dartmouth College 2011 Commencement Address. (which is pretty hilarious by the way, and worth the time to watch it all the way through) Towards the end, he says a few things regarding his own personal career disappointment that struck a chord with me in light of my own experience.
It’s not easy but if you accept misfortune, handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.
Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. Through disappointment, will come clarity, conviction and true originality.
I think these eloquently spoken words were quite true and anyone who’s ever faced difficulty or obstacles in their own lives and careers should take heart.