Falling Before You Fly
When trying something new, you’re going to fail. I mean, really fail. It’s a easy thing to do and a hard thing to accept because it hurts. I’m hurting right now, but I’m also learning some valuable lessons from which I will grow.
I’m hesitant to call myself an entrepreneur because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m slowly learning, but still. It’s a lot of screw ups and money invested for little to no return. I know it’s not instant. I know it’s not overnight, but mistakes are costly. I’ve made choices that place me outside of traditional routes for any business. I’m truly an anomaly and I am learning in the trenches what that actually means for me.
This weekend I attended the first ever Atlanta Comic-Con (ACC) and the 3rd annual 556 Book Chicks Atlanta Kickback. These are two very different events. While I didn’t have a table at ACC, I did have a panel and interviewed various creators. It was awesome. The panel couldn’t have gone better. The audience was fun and engaging, which was important for the subject we were discussing. I know I helped some people get past some cosplay fears, and even had a parent come up and tell me that his son, who’d changed his mind about entering the cosplay contest, change his mind again and choose to enter. That was beautiful to realize that I helped people gain some confidence in doing what they enjoy.
The 556 Atlanta Kick Back was an urban book fair, which is a predominantly Black audience that is so far away from geek culture that it was almost another language. I didn’t quite understand that…or rather, I didn’t remember that. I have embraced my weirdness so completely that I forgot what it was like to be the only one who knew of cosplay, much less the whole convention scene. It was the kick I needed to start understanding how my branding has to shift.
Intellectually, I understand that I need to change my presence based on my audience. What I didn’t understand was just how immersed I’ve been in geek culture. The approach and lingo we use there is very different from general marketing and merchandising. There were people who had no idea about cosplay and my costume was overwhelming for them. I probably should have walked around more and been more approachable with a group that is unfamiliar with what I do, but I was wary about the event also. It takes a lot to be in an unknown space and then sell yourself to them. I can easily say I failed.
In retrospect, I should have worn the low-key cosplay I wore at ACC to the Kickback and the Afro Storm to ACC. I’ve seen people legitimately be scared of cosplayers just because the look is so extreme that they struggle with it. But again, it’s been years since I was immersed in that, so this was a good wake-up call. It is very different to be cosplaying in a geek convention than it is to cosplay at a book fair or in a mall or at a school. It takes a lot of nerve to be in a space knowing you’ll be the only one who’s doing this thing and maybe even the only one who gets it.
For the record, this isn’t about reigning myself in or conforming to the audience. It’s about recognizing that I can be out there as bold and brash as I want, and that I need to feel more confident in what I’m doing. Because what I’m doing is new. New for me. New for a lot of people. And new means that I’m going to hit a lot of obstacles that I couldn’t anticipate. I just need to stop being so worried about stepping out and just step out there. The message doesn’t change. I don’t change. I’d still be wearing an outfit I chose to represent what I WANT to represent. I’m not conforming, right? Right?
Shit. If I’m asking, then maybe I am. This is a constant question creators face – am I doing this for me or for whoever might be looking? The answer is both. But it’s what you do with that answer that determines what’s next for you. I’ve long held the idea that I will create the essays and items I wanted and needed to see to feel confident in myself and my choices. I’m hoping that my work is helping someone else who needs to see quirky, Black, fat, angry women out here living our best lives with all the complexities and contradictions that come with it.
I am actively creating my space and putting it on display. This past weekend I fell, and it hurt. Now I’m standing back up and trying again. Every single thing about this journey is uncomfortable, but it’s one I believe is worth the effort.