writes nerdy things, celebrates those things as an English teacher, and is the co-founder of the production house ADK MOGUL. He lives in the mountains. Thanks for reading; feel free to leave a message, and please don't ask if he's D(e)Press(e)d.
I don’t think this column could have shown up on a better day. First thing this morning this quote shows up on my dashboard:
“Stop comparing where you’re at with where everyone else is. It doesn’t move you farther ahead, improve your situation, or help you find peace. It just feeds your shame, fuels your feelings of inadequacy, and ultimately, it keeps you stuck. The reality is that there is no one correct path in life. Everyone has their own unique journey. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. And that’s okay. Your journey isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad. It’s just different. Your life isn’t meant to look like anyone else’s because you aren’t like anyone else. You’re a person all your own with a unique set of goals, obstacles, dreams, and needs. So stop comparing, and start living. You may not have ended up where you intended to go. But trust, for once, that you have ended up where you needed to be. Trust that you are in the right place at the right time. Trust that your life is enough. Trust that you are enough.”—Daniell Koepke.
I’m not so sure about those last two sentences, because I do not believe that one should ever settle or trust that your life is enough. It isn’t enough, not yet, and comparison pushes work ethic and allows one to reach farther than ever before. The problem is, and what gets me nodding my head at all the points before those last two, is I struggle with comparison and it affects my confidence. I can’t seem to remove the little tick in my brain that nothing I’ve done is of any worth. I’ve been working this out over this semester, and Schorn’s recent column really knocked it out. Starting in two weeks, I’m going to join a group of colleagues and we’re going to experiment with developing a Taekwondo club, and it seems like now is finally the right time to do this. I’ll be with the person I care most about, and people I deeply respect whom I feel I can learn a lot from not only as a freshman teacher, but I know I’m going to grow because they’re martial artists, and I really want to cultivate that in my life, because I believe that learning and growing and committing yourself to a thing like this makes you a better person and in turn a better creator.
I really think it’s going to do a lot of good for me and my confidence and my nasty habit of starting and stopping over the years has only increased my desire to learn. So, I want to commit. Schorn really gets to something here where she’s focusing on the dojo—where her imaginary friend, her Awesome Personality named “Jeffrey”—is on display and it creates respect. That’s something I’ve strived to attain for a long time and what people keep reminding me is that what I’ve already accomplished is pretty fucking great.
Martial artists spend a lot of time acknowledging one another’s intrinsic worth—our silent, invisible Jeffreys. One way we do this by bowing. A bow is our way of saying, “I can see that you’re a badass right now, and that you have the potential to become even more of one.” Bowing honors the whole person, even the parts that aren’t manifest in daily life. It expresses respect for what you know about the other person, and what you may never have guessed (always a good thing to consider, especially before you spar with someone for the first time).
Bowing differs from everyday compliments in that, when a fellow martial artist bows to you, you always bow back. Courtesy is always mutual. There are many layers of hierarchy in the martial arts, but the bow is (to my Western mind, anyway) deeply democratic. Everyone bows to everyone, regardless of rank. It’s a mark of respect without gradation. In a karate uniform, everyone is awesome, period. Everyone merits real respect. Everyone’s invisible Jeffrey is standing front and center.
This is not to imply that bowing is a mindless echo of whatever gracious remark the other person has tossed your way (“I love your haircut!” “Thanks; you’re dress is fabulous!”). Bowing in karate is supposed to be mindful. When you bow, you allow yourself a moment to fully consider the person in front of you, and all they represent. This, I have learned in the years since I first put on a gi, is a very important habit to cultivate, outside the dojo as well as in. For one thing, all that bowing makes you aware that most of us probably should spend a lot more time declaiming one another’s awesomeness.
One of the many reasons I struggle with confidence, and this is what people are always reminding me when I have my monthly crisis, is I let people get to me. The years of ridicule actually convinced me that I’m worthless and when I work hard and get put down I really feel like nothing I do will gain respect. I was pushed around a lot growing up and put down and labeled limited for a long time and it affected me to such an extent that it not only pushed me to prove them wrong, but I also became a liar, which is why I’m the worst writer ever. For a long time, I felt that in order to be confident I had to be someone else and I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve been so lonely for most of my life because people can see that fraudulent manner a mile away.
Since I’ve been back home, things have been working out, this new chapter is really working out. Things that suggest I am good and I don’t need to make things up about my life to feel notable or someone important. I can stop expending that energy and just be myself.
My job is pretty great and people seem to like what I’m doing, so much so I’m going to have an extremely busy Fall. The other reason is I feel like I’ve stepped in some pretty good shit. I’m with a really extraordinary lady who forces me to pinch myself on a regular basis because she likes spending her time with me, we’re having a brilliant time together so much so I can’t help but think I must be doing something right.
So, yeah, things are pretty great here in the mountains. It’s gonna be an awesome summer.
We needed a mini-vacation, because this snizzle is no longer in the house. So we went to Burlington, VT where sixty year-old hippies play hackisack on Church Street. Noodles, a near mental breakdown at Earth 2 Comics where Meggan picked up the last Saga trade, Rachel Rising (we’re both currently obsessing over Terry Moore), and decided our first book club book would be Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker. I caught up on Daredevil and FF and Punk Rock Jesus.
From Stephen Marchie’s article in Esquire titled “The Golden Age For Writers is Right Now”.
I love this article. Far too often, I feel like writers are grumpy less than optimistic people and I’m sick and tired of it. The woe is me, “I’m not going to sell or promote myself and go the small press route and hopefully hand sell some of my work.” Fuck off, seriously, we’re so lucky to be passionate about writing and wanting to write and live interestingly so, in turn, we have interesting things to write about. I’m not saying live the Tucker Max-lifestyle or anything but live and write about the kinds of things you care about, enthusiasm and drive for excellence is a good place to start. As is affecting the active voice. Be enthusiastic about your work, sell yourself in a way that shows that what you’re trying to do is interesting because you care so much about it. What I’m saying is: writers need to be more confident.
In the mean time: I won’t make you click on the article because Esquire’s website is terrible but instead just excerpt some of my favorite bits:
At least we’ll have good stuff to read while we wait. This fall alone, the number of big books published by major writers is astounding: Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, Junot Díaz, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and about a half dozen others. Not that the list has stopped anyone from complaining. Literary circles have been so full of pity for so long that they can’t accept the optimistic truth: We’re living in a golden age for writers and writing.
The publishers are making money, too. Revenue for adult hardcover books is up 8.3 percent from 2011, and paperback sales are up 5.2 percent. Book sales for young adults and children grew by 12 percent last year. E-books accounted for 30 percent of net publisher sales in the adult fiction category in 2011 — compared with 13 percent in 2010 — but there’s little evidence that those numbers represent anything other than a shift in format. The e-reader is creating a new market, not destroying an old one. People with e-readers read more books than those without, and on average adult Americans read seventeen books in 2011 — a number that hasn’t been higher since Gallup and Pew began tracking the figure in 1990. And it’s not just crap books. The percentage of Americans who told the National Endowment for the Arts that they read literature rose in 2008 (their most recent survey) by 3.5 percentage points to more than half the population — the first gain in twenty-six years. …
The book that “comes out of nowhere” is almost commonplace. Matterhorn. The Tiger’s Wife. Or these, both from tiny presses, which won the biggest literary prizes.
Last night, while uncorking myself from stressing over grading research papers I finally came to believe something I’ve been preaching forever: I’m not in competition with anyone. So what if some movie, book, or comic is like something I’ve been working on forever and it’s taken me a long time to get it off the ground—it’s a learning process—and if that piece of writing or art came out before my thing did that just means that I need to up my game. I should stop trying to affect a particular kind of voice to make it more like some author I look up to and really just fuck off and be myself.
What I liked about last night and this article is in its simple premise: have confidence in yourself, you’re not like others, and if you work hard enough at something—it’ll work out.
I read Watchmen in high school, and was so blown away by it I transcribed Rorschach’s journal into my notebook. (Good one, Dave, way to show you were a terrible speller seventeen years ago. Jesus.) Mixed into this journal are various fever dreams, imaginary protective stories of ex-girlfriends and how I saved them from jocks who used to accuse me of not having an Adam’s Apple, and other fifteen year-old mindscape cliches.
Last night I went through my old bookshelf, and sorted out old books that I would probably never read again and other comics because I’m thinking about selling them, and it made me very happy to see that I’ve been a Douchebag Process Nerd for most of my life. This is, I think, my first journal from freshman year of high school, so I could have a scrapbook of things. Now I just have this blog, and a word document on my desktop and a little notebook full of half thought-out notes.
So I don’t get out much, and it’s made me bad at meeting people. I get excitable, I get loud. Not aggressive loud, but overly-psyched-to-be-talking-to-adult-humans loud, it’s-like-I-was-saying-the-other-day-to-a-volleyball-I-have-painted-a-face-on loud. Plus when I do go out I’m usually with my wife. We’re a good small-talk team; we have an unspoken conversational division of labor not unlike the no-huddle offense pioneered by the late-’80s Bengals under Sam Wyche, and talking to strangers without her there is like trying to play lead and rhythm at the same time. I hear myself being weird and then I get self-conscious about how weird I’m being and I stammer like I’m lying. Which is stupid, of course. Nobody really knows me here except Enrico Fermi. And I meet people, and at least for a little while I enjoy being a stranger. Nobody knows I’m a huge nerd. There’s a whole shelf of comic books in the living room, Rebecca’s boyfriend’s collection of Cerebus and Transmetropolitan in trade paperback, and ordinarily I’d be all over that, conversationally, clinging to the topic like a life preserver just to have something to say to somebody, alienating everyone in the room who doesn’t care who Warren Ellis is. But I decide that for once in my life I’m not going to bludgeon people with my stupid interests and I don’t bring up the comics at all. Comics? Yeah, cool, whatever.
There’s an odd division of labor, I think, when it comes liking comics and sports—like you shouldn’t like both. This is not true. I’ve gotten up at 9am to head to the pub to have beers with Ben McCool over an Aston Villa match, or watch the Steelers, or talk about the Mets’ bullpen during Happy Hour at the Bull’s Head Tavern. Writing about comics and creating them brings us together, but that’s not why we’re friends. It’s not just about the work, we can talk about just about anything.
I worry that I’m exactly that kind of person Pappademas describes above.
I was observed today while teaching David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College speech, which pretty much blew the minds of my freshmen, as well as my observer who has never read a Wallace piece. One of my major worries is I’m applying the things that interest me onto these students when the things that I like doesn’t necessarily mean anything to them. That they are there by requirement and not because they want to be. This is why the second half of the semester has really been about them and what interests them. I’ve given them plenty of the sort of thing that I like and now I’d rather read things that they like.
These are selected images from Ales Kot and Riley Rossmo’s graphic novella Wild Children, released in July and I can see why I didn’t hear anything about it because it was released around the time of the movie theater shooting and this book is about a group of kids taking over a school, armed to the teeth. Or is it? There is so much meta-text happening in this comic that I think I am hopelessly incapable of unpacking, but there is something I can say about the book: It makes me want to up my game. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m quite up to the task. People are separate and different and each of us are capable of bringing a particular game, the game being exactly what we’re capable of and no two games are exactly the same. To wish to be as gifted as someone else is fruitless, but it does inspire and push one to engage in a level of quality higher than what they initially thought.
On his blog, Kot talks about the Mindless Ones blog:
Comics don’t have to be Doing Something Big. Disposable is fine. We call it recycling now: today’s throwaway is tomorrow’s permanent edifice. But if comics do Do Something Big, pluck their zeitgeist from the sky, or grapple their larger embedded social moment to the floor and daystick it to death… Well, that’s what I’m really here for. (That and the fighting.) Why shouldn’t comics try to be the world they exist in, dissect it, re-staple it together, stick it on the shelves there in reach of the toddlers, maybe change their minds forever? Wise their pissy asses up?”
This is what comics ARE ABOUT, to me. Fast & thoughtful responses to where we are at the moment. Entertainment that works as a mirror, entertainment that changes your approach to daily life. A DESIGN FOR COMICS that changes your DESIGN FOR LIFE. Because that’s what art’s about, innit?
Who am I kidding? Of course I’m up for the task, and I love this book for pushing me further.
I was reading this round-up on all the new Image books announced at NYCC and I’m beginning to think that I’m a pretty dumb person saying a few things about working in the mainstream. It probably should have occurred to me that I shouldn’t talk about desires, dreams, and a lack of interest to work for the Big Two, but then I realized that perhaps the reason Hickman, Fraction, and Gillen are able to do the work they want to do is they all work for the Big Two. Perhaps there is a reverse gateway now. Then, of course, I think that they probably wouldn’t be working for Marvel or DC if they were not first published by Image.
Then there is this Ales Kot who is going to have some new intriguing work come out in 2013. I just picked up his Wild Children on comixology and I’m looking forward to seeing for myself.
My problem with diary comics, I think, may be that I read them in the same way I do other comics, and then end up feeling guilty when I judge the central character — i.e., the person creating the actual comics — for decisions they’ve made or things they say. It’s not even as if they know that I’m thinking such things, but nevertheless, I find myself feeling bad for being so unsympathetic to such talented people.
From Graeme McMillan’s excellent column at Robot 6, The Middle Ground #124 (just compile them into a book already; jeez), “The Problem With Reality”.
I think about this quite a bit, considering my current project, and whether it makes me look like a totally selfish and pompous jerk writing about myself. Part of me says, “It’s all about celebration of not just me but about how comic books can positively affect someone’s life.” But isn’t that most comics-related material these days? It’s all a celebration. Part of me tells me that I have something new to say; something different; something more…illiterate? It’s not just a testament to how much joy we can have with comics, but it’s also a bit of a reckoning for me about how they’ve affected me, because I want to truly understand my love and my obsession with them. Part of it comes from a place of wanting to come clean about aspects of my life, being honest about them. Is that in itself unlikeable? I feel like yes and that’s why I should abandon the entire exercise. Though that’s a shitty pr reason to abandon a piece of writing. You shouldn’t do it if you think people won’t like you for it.
The other side of me thinks about what I preach. Earlier today, a student left a comment in her journal saying that I must really love my job and that I remind her of her eleventh grade English teacher who says, along with me, that in order to write about something effectively you have to care about it. This student said I’m really good at teaching writing, because I inspire her and that I’m not like a lot of teachers she’s had. The other thing that spoke to her was that I am constantly pushing the idea that in order to write and talk about something you must also do it in practice. To be honest with you, I spent a good hour nearly bawling at this comment, because it really blew me away.
What do you all think? Should I abandon the project or not?