Guess what my least favorite part of my job is. Go on, guess. Nope. It is not being broke from time to time waiting between publisher checks and book sales. And no, it isn’t dealing with angry fans or angrier trolls. Hell, it isn’t even the occasionally hostile environment I’m treated to within the industry for having the audacity to speak out when I see problems.
Nope. It’s none of those things.
The thing, the single thing I hate the most about my job is writing bios. And no, I don’t mean the black and white screen where I tell the computer to stop trying to boot from my CD drive while hating my life. I mean the little paragraph of text at the bottom of an online article that you aren’t going to read anyway. My 50-word-or-less chance to distill everything that is important about me so that you listen to what I have to say. Or read what I have to say. Or something. It’s a cred check of the highest order, and not one I can reasonably dismiss. This isn’t some dude on a forum telling me I don’t know from comics, this is my professional presence. And yet, it almost feels the same. ‘Quick!’ the bio says, ‘justify your entire value and existence in three sentences, go!’
No no wait, that isn’t it! My least favorite thing about my job is the emails. Not the work stuff, or anything like that, but the regular stream of emails I have to send out begging for work. Or attention. Or time. ‘Please please please see the value in this thing I’m doing/have done and acknowledge me!’ Or ‘hire me!’ or ‘help me put my thing in a space people can see!’ This is almost my day job, especially during crowdfunding a new book. But even outside of that, I have to chase freelance assignments, or chances to write for sites or what have you. Like with the bio, I’m writing out descriptions of my soul, of my value, and shooting them out into the void in the hopes for a positive response. The silence is the worst. I’ll take form letters or ‘no’ over silence any day of the week. It’s an endless, impossible to avoid part of the job, and it can be humiliating and demoralizing.
That’s not it! No no! I know what I hate THE MOST about my job. It’s demoing. Oh shit that’s the worst! I mean, I LOVE gaming. I love the games I make. I love getting games out there and talking about them and all that. But demoing is so demanding. I have two hours, (four hours is too long, by the way, and yet…) or I have 10 minutes, or some other absurd inorganic length of time to show you why you need to love something I made. To get a little metaphorical here, a countdown clock hanging over your head while you explain to strangers why your children are beautiful and deserve to live. Can’t fudge the rules, can’t forget them, can’t forget a setting detail, must distill two hundred (or less, or more) pages into a brief intro so we can get to the game. Are you fucking kidding me?!? I know there are people who can do this. It’s practically an art form. And it’s one I’m not any good at. I’m drawing stick figures up in here. And YET it’s a thing I HAVE to do, because no one is going to do it for me.
No, shit, it’s the podcasts and Hangouts! That’s SO HARD! I mean, it’s the hardest parts of begging emails and public appearance. These nice people are taking time out of their show and their lives to spotlight my dumb ass so I can beg their listeners by extension for their time/attention/money. Seriously, shoot me. You wonder why you see a beer in my hand during every single Hangout you’ve ever seen me on? This is why. The pressure to be funny and smart and charming all at the same time? And sometimes do it with makeup on? I!!!
Have you noticed the pattern yet? Because there is one. I can’t speak to a universal experience, or even a gendered experience (not exactly,) but I can speak to this personal experience. The thing I really seem to hate about my job is me.
Isn’t that a pathetic thing to say?
But there it is. It isn’t a lack of confidence in the games I make, or make with other people. It isn’t really a question of my ability or talent. It’s the ‘me’ in the equation that I hate. (That’s um, not a cry for help or anything.)
But what do I mean when I say ‘me’? Really, I mean selling myself as a part of the package. Self promotion, (dramatic chord progression.) Attaching the things that I’ve made to myself in a public way is always, always painful to me. Love my work, as it exists in the aether, and we’re cool. (Same goes for hating my stuff, or being meh about it.) But when I must, or you must, or we must attach that work to me as a human being with all my warts and flaws and stutter, I kind of want to curl up in a ball and die. It’s impossible to fathom being judged as a person for the work I do, and yet, that’s a necessity of self promotion, which is a necessity of success. Or at least, a necessity of making enough money to feed my kids. Which they feel pretty strongly about.
I don’t have any really clever solutions to this. I kind of hope this post gives you something to consider and spawns a bunch of response blogs that DO have solutions. It’s also made all the more painful when people, and especially women, in my circle (inside the industry or in other industries like writing and so on,) make grand sweeping statements about how ‘wrong’ self promotion is. How it’s all ‘shouting’ so no one gets heard. Characterizing my need to let people know what I do as ‘shouting’ and ‘demanding attention’ makes me want to throw my computer out a window and get me to a nunnery.
Right now, where I sit is, I do these things because they have to be done. There’s a ‘work ethic’ in hating a part of your job that’s appealing, but I can’t ignore the underlying wrongness of that appeal not to mention they why it is so painful. I can’t wrap this up with a clever list of things I do to get over it. I can’t give you a clever list of things you should do to get over it. What I can give you is my list of don’t. (Negative, I know.)
- Don’t take it out on those you’re reaching out to. (This means you don’t start your emails with ‘I’m so under-qualified not what you’re looking for’. Let them decide that.)
- Don’t do more than you can. (If back to back demoing will leave you a wreck and mean you poison the well for that last table, don’t do it. Yes, you won’t reach as far, but you’ll reach with cleaner, happier hands.)
- Don’t compare what you do to what other people do. (Okay, so that person really thinks that talking about your stuff to interested audiences is being a Prima Donna. Make peace with their ways being different from your ways and don’t let their ways in. Seriously.)
- Don’t beat yourself up over being unhappy about the things you don’t want to do. (Guilt over feeling bad has got to be one of the most fucked things the human mind has created to fuck with itself. Feel bad. Deal with it. Accept it and find ways to work around it.)
- But! Don’t give in and not do it. (I feel like I say this a lot, but it’s true. No one is going to do it for you. Do less, change tactics, get help where you need to, but at the end of the way, you’re still going to have to get out there, put your name out there, and make sure people know that the things you’ve done and made have value. That’s on you. It’s heavy, but it’s on you and you’re the only one who can do it the way it needs to be done.)
Let me repeat that last bit one more time. You’re the only one who can do it (whatever it is) the way it needs to be done. Some people will do it ‘better’ by whatever metric they can come up with, but no one can do it like you can. And that? That fact? That’s why it’s worth attaching yourself to the things you make and the things you do.
OH! Also. You should back my Kickstarter. Because it’s about Giant Robots. And I’m awesome. (ow ow ow.)