Moving forward from defeat.
This past weekend at A-KON, Garth and I were part of the Character Development panel. When answering questions from the audience, we gave a piece of advice along the lines of, “Why don’t you try having your character attain his/her dream, but then realize he/she is bad at it? What happens to a character like that? How do they move forward in their lives? Who do they become in the wake of such a revelation?” It wasn’t long before I realized I was talking about one of my own past experiences.
For three years I attended college as an Acting major. I had been accepted into a relatively exclusive acting program here in Boston, and I had dreams of “making it big.” In high school I was the drama kid who scored all the lead roles, and everyone expected big things of me past my senior year. I expected big things of myself. I wanted to be an actor more than anything. I loved being on stage, and I loved performing for a crowd. I thought my college years would be the next level.
I discovered that I sucked.
Man, did I ever suck. I didn’t know how to audition correctly. I was mentally stuck in fantasy/sci-fi land. I didn’t know how to interpret a script or look for subtext. There were tons of things I was “supposed to know already” that I was clueless about. My acting teachers past my freshman year (my first year acting teacher was amazing) all talked down to me. It was a generally miserable experience to learn that, if this were a race, I wasn’t only coming in last, but I tripped and fell when the starter’s pistol fired.
It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
First of all, I needed my ego tempered, and learning that I was bad at my dream certainly did the job. But acting wasn’t my only dream. I wanted to act because I loved telling stories. I loved taking people on a character’s journey, showcasing their progression or regression, and nailing that big finale when the storyline comes to an end. I had been eating and drinking comics since I was eight years old, and resumed collecting them in college thanks to some amazing comic book shops in town. So, once I had changed my major in my senior year to Writing, I got back up and tried again.
I stumbled again. My prose was iffy at best, and my first attempt at a novel was so bad that nobody could get through it. But I got back up and tried again.
Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire was my third attempt at chasing my dream of being a storyteller. It took time and a lot of work, but I told that story for eleven years, and everything I have to be grateful for in my life was a result of doing that comic. I made some amazing new friends. I met my wife because I was doing conventions to promote it. I met Garth on that same convention circuit, and now we’ve teamed up to tell this story that I am so very proud of. And, after doing countless panels and getting experience in front of crowds and audiences, I’ve returned to the stage numerous times alongside (and now a member of) the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts, and I’ve been told I’m pretty good after all.
If you have a dream and you don’t achieve it, don’t wallow in despair. Learn from the experience and see how it shapes you as a person. Who you were beforehand, what the experience did to you, and how you moved forward. Always move forward. More often than not you’ll surprise yourself if you’re willing to accept the occasional defeat and get back up to try again.