Dedicated to Alice Cirvin
Before I begin, I want to explain the reason my dedication is here. The truth is, we all need encouragement in our lives, and hopefully I will be able to do again with her what’s been done for me.
I’ve been writing a long time. So long in fact, that it’s difficult to remember times when I didn’t. I say I started writing seriously at least as a hobby when I was thirteen. I took third place in my school for the Lawson Literary contest based out of London Ontario. I don’t know if the contest still happens, but when I was in the seventh and eighth grade I had the opportunity to compete. The rules were simple: Write a story or essay about something Canadian. I came up with the story Michael Through Time. Old time readers will know that this blog was once named Michael Through Time. That’s why. It was the first story I wrote for any kind of competition and I did well. It was not a full on yes, but it was a partial yes. A “you did well kid,” kind of yes.
I didn’t win, but was encouraged by that you did well kid compliment. I went down the uncommon path of writing an actual fiction tale. It seems in my case, my career has so far been about traveling the unbeaten paths, even then. I decided to keep going. At first I thought I’d turn Michael Through Time into a comic book. However, with my drawing abilities that consisted on being able to draw a chicken with two circles, two letter ks, and a beak, I decided that words were a better tool for me to keep crafting my work. I had just fallen in love with novels reading the greats of Isaac Asimov, and fantasy giants like Robert Jordan and decided that I too could keep going down that kind of path. I kept writing Michael Through Time through high school, finishing the novel right before I graduated.
This was my second yes. I want to go on record and say a lot of my ability to continue came from my grade eleven english teacher Mr. Sharpe, who went out of his way to edit and encourage me to keep going with this. I went to poetry readings and grew in my craft and as a person. I want to thank him here, not just for his help but for perhaps the most important yes in my life.
The most important thing anyone can here in their development is that they can do this. There is nothing quite like hearing it. Mr. Sharpe was one of the two biggest voices in my life that told me I could. The other, and more important, was my dad, who told me I could do anything I chose to my whole life. These two people made me luckier than most, and to this day, that yes is the one I’m most thankful for.
I decided that this was the path I was going to take. Be a writer.
I decided to explore this whole concept of journalism, so I went to study it in Windsor Ontario…and hated it. There were a number of reasons for this. For one, I was and still am inept at photography (just ask my sister.) I won’t regal you with tales of my ineptitude here. That’s another essay for another time. Let us just say dear reader, that I am not good at everything and leave it at that for now. Also, I really felt the college was kind of insulting. I was excited and enthusiastic to learn, and didn’t feel like wasting my time learning about Microsoft Office – something I’ve used my whole life. The biggest disappointment with college is finding out sometimes just what is the lowest common denominator in an educational facility. While I do understand the importance of making sure people have the tools to thrive in the working world, something that basic I feel should not be taught in college.
But beyond all that, if I’m honest with myself, I wasn’t ready for college then, and really feel even now I couldn’t handle a full time college course load at this point. I still enjoy learning, and do feel it’s overdue to go to another course sometime soon, but me and full time college is just not my thing. It was a valuable experience and taught me a lot. I had a lot to still learn as I moved down my journey of life.
After college, I ended up drifting to Calgary for the first time and learned about the other side of publishing with my very first book, I Am… I do still have a copy of it, but it’s not the best stuff I’ve done. Still, I learned an awful lot and got an important yes from it. The yes? If I worked hard, I could get people to notice my work. I learned that in Calgary on the C Train trying to inform people about my book, and I learned how to sell this book when I lived in Arizona, the next stop in my journey. Yes, I can get my name out there. Yes, I can sell my stuff. All these little yes’ build confidence.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I moved a lot and traveled a lot of miles in the next few years after. Going to Calgary from Windsor and ending up in Arizona. It was here I got an even bigger yes. One of my favorite comic book creators ended up hiring me as his apprentice in Snowflake Arizona. It was the first time I crossed over into something real professional. I began to really grasp what it took to get to where he was on a regular basis. It was the biggest yes to this point, but it taught me I still had a long way to go.
I won’t belabor what happened next. If you know me, you know the story. If you don’t, you won’t. Things didn’t work out as planned, but it was still an important step on my journey and one I would do all over again in a heartbeat. I needed to take this step to understand what it took to be a professional and to have my expectations with other people tempered. It also taught me to keep going no matter what.
I have two very professional books since then and am working on more. I got a podcast, I’ve participated in working in films, I’ve edited, I write. Reading this, even the abbreviated form this is, it’s quite a journey, filled with unexpected doors and nooks and crannies to wondrous places and some terrifying horrors. That all said, in every stop, in every place, I’ve seen yes show up more often than no. It’s been quite a journey so far, and one that’s not stopping any time soon.
If you’ve managed to make it this far, consider this with your own journey. If you are seeking your own art career, first off, congrats. My advice is to be brave. You are going to have your heart wrenched sometimes. You are going to work and slave and struggle with your art, hearing question after question from others wondering how realistic is this art thing of yours, not understanding the drive and focus you have creating your stuff.
Passion is something that can’t be explained to those people. You either have it, and know it, or don’t. There is no point in explaining to those people why you do what you do.
That passion will take you places. That said, I can’t promise you that you will head to the doors you want. As of this writing, I have no idea if a major house would be interested in me. Minor and medium houses are, and I’m okay with that. I still want to try more, even if it’s off the beaten path. In any case, I’ve been true to me. Yes has rewarded me more often than no has. I’ve been rejected, but I’ve kept going and I have striven to improve. I’ve also come a long way, and really feel like if I did walk away that I should have more to show for it than I do. I feel I deserve it.
But it doesn’t matter if it’s writing, art, music, passion is something that you will get the most reward doing. It doesn’t mean you will be a millionaire, but I do promise you this: You will be alive, and not just existing the same day to day mediocrity a lot of normal people (whatever that is) experience and accept. Whatever you do, trust me when I tell you, you can do this, whatever is in front of you. It may seem like a giant task, but I know that with each step you take, you will get closer to where you are going to go.
You can do this. I know you can. Keep fighting through the nos, the you can’t do this crap from people you know everyday. Fight until you get what you feel you are worth, or at least try to get there. There is no point in accepting anything else.
Because all it really takes to get there is just one yes. Keep going until you get it. I hope to see you on the mountaintop.