November 20, 2011

The Reading Went Well

Another year is blowing by, too fast for my liking. There doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything I want to do. There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
A common complaint for people in their 50s, 40s, 30s… common and familiar, I suppose for anyone trying to accomplish some as yet unfinished thing, or get closer to some life long goal. It’s a feeling that accelerates as the calendar’s pages diminish every year in the fall. It’s a quiet panic I feel on days when I’m already late for work, and the minute hand ticks past nine ever increasingly faster, for every minute I haven’t reached my desk, my phone and my responsibilities.

But at 43, it feels like “autumn” in my life too.

It has felt like one long “November” ever since I turned 28 years old. Every succeeding year, another filmmaker gives up, or another artist calls it quits, or another colleague tells me “It’s great that you’re still out there working.” It’s beginning to sound more and more like ingenuous condescension. It’s beginning to sound like they never believed they would get any farther than they did at the moment they quit.
I don’t like any of it, their quitting, their excuses, their rationalizations or blaming the outside world, finances or family for why they couldn’t or wouldn’t continue.
I didn’t make the choice to become an artist any more than I made the choice to become fat; the only choice I made was to work hard at it, to devote my life to the series of statements that have become my body of work, so far. Not being paid a living wage at it means I’m not a professional, but having a day job doesn’t make me an amateur.

Friday night, with what felt like a throat infection, I read and presented slides from my latest comic book story. Although this is only my 4th or 5th time doing these kinds of performances, it went off without a hitch. The crowd, mostly people familiar with my work for the past 20 years published in World War 3 Illustrated, seemed to genuinely enjoy the story, no forced art-house laughter from the bunch of them. The applause felt great. It served to remind me that although DC Comics, Vertigo and Karen Berger passed on my work yet again in 2009 (a great piece called Cabbie Baba and the 40 Thieves that I’ll get to someday) although several samples for graphic novels I have done for other writers have stalled or been outright rejected this year, although it seems that self publishing will be the only way to proceed as I feel no confidence in the current generation of editors and publishers, I have managed to create my own stories, on my own terms. In the place of a “deal” or an agent. I have no confidence in any of them anymore either after my last -first and only- agent suddenly expressed confused misgivings about my writing and abruptly quit the business. I have to remain focused on the road I’ve managed to pave without the help or support of institutions who have rejected my work.
Remaining largely anonymous, working whenever my “day job” ends, will have to suffice, and I will have to appreciate that opportunity even on the weeknights that take me long past my initial call to sleep as I toil at my drafting table on stories and images that I will have to distribute myself, if they are ever to be seen by the world they are intended to entertain and engage.

It’ll have to do.

I just wonder, -what will I tell myself when I turn 60?