Next month, I’ll be attending four or five conventions. That’s a lot, even for someone who writes about conventions as part of her job. I went to my first convention in 2008 because I was looking for DVDs. I started writing about them because they interested me. I kept writing about them because people seemed to be reading the stories. I thought that maybe, after a year or two, I would move on to something else. I didn’t. Ultimately, writing about conventions became more than a means of getting paid. Conventions became part of my education.
At conventions, I learned a lot of basics of reporting in the 21st century. I learned how to write fast, how to make the most of technology in places where Internet access is sparse and how to survive on very little sleep. I didn’t simply learn how to report at conventions. It’s inside these massive, crowded venues that I learned how to be a better person
The people that I meet at conventions have the sort of guts that I never did. They wear full cosplay on the Metro heading towards the convention center. They get up in front of groups of people and talk about whatever it is that they love. They show off their art and their comics, even when they are in the beginning stages of their careers. They are not afraid to be really excited about something.
I’m not like that. At least, I wasn’t like that before conventions. I grew up in the music world, mostly indie/underground stuff, where you learn quickly to always keep your cool. Don’t show emotion, especially if you’re a girl, because people won’t take you seriously. Don’t promote yourself because that’s just tacky. Always remember that you aren’t cool enough and you aren’t good enough. The ultimate goal is to pretend that you don’t care what people think of you. Ironically, though, you will become obsessed with maintaining that image of indifference. You think you’re learning composure, but you’re learning fear. You fear the knowledge that everything you do is up for judgment. You’re learning to be subservient to the taste-makers, whether that’s the press, the labels or your cooler friends. In my case, I grew so unconfident that I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was doing, let alone show them my stories. Not too many of my friends knew that I wrote, or actually read my stuff, before the L.A. Weekly pieces started running.
When other people related stories about following their own passions– regardless if it’s a job or a hobby– they inadvertently encouraged me to follow mine. Because they were strong enough to do what they wanted, and to let me interview them about that, I learned to stop being a chicken. If it weren’t for these experiences, I would have given up writing long ago. I never would have done the work I’m doing now with pride, even if my credits aren’t exceptional. I never would have written a comic. I never would have posted those stories on Twitter or Facebook.
It took five years of being inside convention halls to start unraveling a big, neurotic mess tucked into a cool kid facade. However, I have a long ways to go before I become who I want to be. I’m still riddled with insecurities. I second-guess everything I write and every pitch I submit. I obsess over tweets and status updates. I can’t be in front of cameras without totally freaking out, but things are getting better.