Everyone I seem to know is at PAX Aus this weekend, which does make me sad that I’m sitting on my couch in Perth writing this, but at the same time I’m proud to say I know so many amazing people in this industry. That got me reflecting on what I’ve accomplished as a writer over the years, and it’s not the easiest thing to write about given my nature.
Let’s go back a few years. When I first started writing, I was an incredibly shy young man. Barely out of High School, I was working on a number of smaller websites and throwing together articles on the fly in a style I thought was appropriate … at least at the time. My skills have gradually improved since then, to the point where I’m comfortable enough when it comes to writing just about anything I can think of. Problem is, writing an article as a ‘journalist’ is only a small part of a much larger whole.
Being an introvert means two things. For one, you’re shy when it comes to going up to people or starting a conversation, elements that are important if you want to be a journalist, right? Secondly, you feel uncomfortable in just about every situation involving people you’ve never met before, leading to early exits from events or standing quietly in the back. That’s me in a nutshell.
The first ever PAX was an eye opening event for me, and God awfully stressful too. It wasn’t the first convention I’d been to as a journalist (that honour goes to an EB Expo a year prior), but it was most certainly the most I’d ever attempted to do before. I was doing my best to talk to writers, I had my own business card and I was on my first official panel. That’s a lot for someone like me who, up until that point, had only been published online a handful of times.
I’ll be honest, when I was sitting on that stage barely saying a word (I’m pretty sure I did say a few things … just not an awful lot), I was stressed out of my mind. I mean, there I was sitting in front of a packed room, all those eyes staring back. If you’re an introvert like me, you’ll know exactly how awkward and uncomfortable that was, despite being excited to be there and trying to take it all in. The sweat down my back probably left a river behind.
I’ve been lucky to have attended so many great events over the years, and yet I feel like I’m far from accomplishing anything by them. I always go in with the right mindset, with a game plan of ‘I’ll talk to that person’ or ‘I’ll interview these guys’ … and then it never happens. I chicken out or don’t have the patience for it, I constantly come up with excuses to avoid confronting anything I know will make me feel uncomfortable. It’s a challenging thing to live with.
So why am I sharing this with you? Maybe I feel like, by putting this on the page, I’ll feel somewhat better about my attempts and so-called failures in games journalism. Maybe I can teach you a thing or two about what to do or not do in a similar situation, especially if you’re just starting out. To be honest, I don’t really know anything for sure, but it’s good to just let it out there. Maybe someone will understand.
I am improving though. A lot of that comes from working in a customer service position, having me constantly talking to customers. It takes me out of that comfort zone and, while it doesn’t necessarily force me to get used to it, it gradually shifts my focus away from my uncomfortable nature into something I can live with. I’m hopeful that I can take what I’ve learnt and transfer it into this field, but it’s a gradual thing. It won’t happen overnight, hell it’s taken me fifteen or more years just to be able to get used to talking in front of a crowd.
Last year I attended my second PAX event, and like the first I was on a panel. Except this time, it was a panel I had organised myself with a group of like minded and amazing people. I consider myself very lucky to have had such an opportunity, but more to the point, I was far more confidant and engaging with not just the panel members but the audience as well. It was a step up, in the right direction, and though it may have still been uncomfortable at times for little old me, I felt like I had made the right choice.
The lessons here are twofold. Never, ever tell yourself you can’t do it. We all have our off days, we all have room to improve, but saying it’s impossible or it just won’t happen will just lead to sadness, heartbreak and that continued, niggling feeling in the back of your head that constantly reminds you of your mistakes years later. Can’t is a word that holds you back, the more you say it the more you’ll believe in it, and that’s an unhealthy attitude in everything you do. Whenever it creeps up into your vocabulary, remind yourself of Yoda’s teachings and have a good laugh at cannot’s expense.
Trust me when I say you’ll feel better for it, but I know even that can be a difficult thing to do. Pushing back against it is just as big a challenge as any, especially if you’re not used to it. Sometimes you’ll need a friend, someone you can rely on or have your back in a pinch. Sometimes you’ll need an outlet, a blog or a Facebook post. No matter which you choose, find something that not only makes you feel comfortable, but can also help to drive you forward and provide that extra spark of motivation when it’s most needed. You’ll know it when you find it, as did I.
The second lesson? Never give up, no matter how late in the game it may be. If the Chicago Cubs have taught us anything this year, it’s that time is irrelevant to success. I’m 34 this year, and I only now feel like I have the skills and temperament to get where I need to go. Many, many times I’ve said the same or considered I was ‘ready’, but sometimes failure brings with it its own rewards (as they say). Be patient, keeping working away, and when you least expect it, time will pay you back.
Being an introvert is difficult. It’s a challenge that many of us face every day in varying degrees. I’ll still be living with it for years to come, no matter the kind of progress I make, but I’m confident that I can use it to my advantage and create the kind of product and entertainment that makes the most of this brain of mine. I urge you, if you’re reading this and feel the same way, to keep pushing forward any way you can. If I can do it, so can you.
And hey, I may not be at Pax this year, but I’m proud of the fact that I know people there who know me, even in the smallest of ways … and RTX is just around the corner…