Hello fine folks of the internet and good people all around. Another week another article. Such are the comforts we've come to enjoy! This week, perhaps slightly in the theme of Halloween - if it was on a existential and sort of joking but definitely not joking kind of level - I'd like to talk about fear. Hopefully you don't have a fear of overly long poorly written sentences because a writer, I am not. What I am very often is absolutely terrified. Whether it's clowns or spiders or shadow person from when you have sleep paralysis, fear is a a very familiar presence in our lives.
Today marks a slightly less structured article. No tips, no tricks. Today I'd like to talk straight from the heart. Last weekend I had the fortune of attending GP Kuala Lumpur. I was joined by a few fantastic artists (Lius Lasahido, Renata Owen and Christine Choi) and some lovely people. Once I got there it was nice, but the weeks leading up to it I was terrified. It was the first time I would travel by myself for more than 4 hours by plane. For some this isn't a big deal. Some like to travel the world solo and meet new people. Talk to people they don't know. Explore the town on their own. That's not me. That terrifies me. To talk about my fear I'll show you how it influenced me during my travel to Kuala Lumpur.
The glamour of GP life
I started my journey on Wednesday in the rain at 1:30 PM here in Malmö Sweden by walking to the bus stop which is about two minutes away. They are digging up the ground in front of my building so there was mud everywhere. I had to carry the case so I wouldn't dirty the whole thing up. I left a bit early because the bus I have to take is never on time. The bus wasn't on time. I waited about 12 minutes in a thin jacket (which I forgot in KL) freezing my butt off. It was about 8 degrees Celcius which I'm sure is a weird number in Fahrenheit. Why not bring a thicker jacket? Because Kuala Lumpur would be 35c and I had limited bag space and didn't want to haul a big jacket with me.
I arrived at the local train station, paid 10$ for a ticket, waited 10 minutes for the train next to a broken wine bottle. Stood in the train for 24 minutes because all the seats were taken.
Hauled my gear up the stairs at the airport because the escalator was jammed.
Went to the gate for my first flight to Amsterdam.
Waited an hour.
Flew an hour.
Landed in Amsterdam and proceeded to my gate to fly to Kuala Lumpur. I had 3 hours to kill so I called my mom and told her i was still scared of the trip and she gave me some good advice. She told me two very important things. One, there was no going back. I had everything ready, everything booked and a lot of people would be let down if I didn't go through with it. So in effect I really didn't have much choice. It's important to understand that no matter what somebody fears, even if it makes no sense to you, the listener, to them it's legit. The second was that if you don't push through these things you'll never grow. How can you grow, become a more rounded human, if you never push through? How can you teach it to your kids or help your friends if you've never experienced it? Bottom line, you can't let the fear control you.
All my bags were neatly packed, I even bought one of those neck pillows, and was waiting for the flight to leave for Kuala Lumpur all the while my mind was racing with all the things that could go wrong. For me it's not a fear of flying. I love flying. It's the fear of everything around it. Did somebody put something in my bag? Did I bring something that wasn't allowed? What if the taxi just takes me someplace else? What if I lose my passport? At some point the fear becomes very irrational, but then again, that's the point isn't it? I've never been great at reasoning with myself regarding my fear. That voice is the biggest and most insufferable idiot I've ever met and I have to deal with him a lot.
I boarded the plane, waited 12.5 hours, got off, almost got lost in the airport, passed customs and got into a taxi. The driver was incredibly friendly, told me a bunch of cool stories, dropped me off at the correct hotel and that was that. Two weeks of irrational fear for nothing. Stress for nothing. Nice... but at least I learned something right? We'll see next time. I have my doubts.
A GP day
Here is a small peek into a average GP day for the artists. Let me start off by saying that people lining up to get a signature is probably one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had. My days normally consist of drawing for about 10 hours. Sitting behind my PC, answering emails, checking out MTG stuff and eating home made boterkoek. Nothing special. So when you are at a GP, it's a bit weird to say the least.
On GP days I get up around 7 AM, take a shower and get ready. I check my bags to see if I haven't forgotten anything and if it's the second day I pack my left over homework alterations. Go down, grab some breakfast and start setting up the table around 8:30 AM. I make sure I setup my booth in a way that people can see all the merchandise and browse through the artist proof binder. After that things become a bit of a blur. A normal day lasts from around 9AM to about 8PM (provided there are no alterations / sketches to take back to the hotel to finish later). A good 11 hours of signing, altering, talking, drinking coffee and eating snacks. It's amazing to talk to so many different people from all over the world but there are a few downsides. Here are a few things to note and or take into account:
- After 10 hours artists tend to get very loopy. Processing stuff takes longer and we forget things. Coffee helps. After 3 days of this nothing helps and we're just a shambling walking mess even if we don't look it. (we totally look it.)
- Putting bags or drinks on our tables makes us very nervous.
- We love to talk. If you throw your card on the table, don't say anything, then walk away without so much as a thanks doesn't make us feel great. We traveled pretty far!
- Please put your hand in front of your mouth when you cough. Please. Thanks. (Editor's note: @bloodfraygiant correctly corrected to not use your hand but elbow. Very good!)
- If you have weird requests for sketches with naked chicks and tentacles please keep them to yourself. Contrary to common belief, we have heard them all.
And lastly just a small note; we 9/10 times don't get paid to be there. We front all the costs ourselves. We constantly have to hover between being a vendor and being there to add something cool to the GP. Don't get me wrong - that's fine. I love the game and I want to make GP's a bit more fun for everyone. But please, please, don't complain right in front of my booth about how everything costs money. As a ballpark, the average GP costs us around 1200$ to attend. If we don't sell anything we can't keep doing GP's. I'm not saying BUY OUR STUFF! I'm saying be friendly and just hang out. Atmosphere is everything for us.
A last note on fear
Fear is a serious pain in the ass. Fear is also necessary. It shows us where we can improve, an easy guide to teachable moments - or at least sometimes. Fear is something to consider, to work around or push through. It's not meant to be ignored, it's meant to define you by ways of how you handle it. There are many more things I'm afraid of than just traveling by myself. Some I can handle just fine and others I have to actively push back and try not to let them take over or have other people help me out with them.
For me art is a fantastic escape mechanism to get away from the pressure that fear sometimes puts on me. I think we're all like that at some level. That we come to a point where we feel the fear is close to shutting us down. The true test of character starts there, if you let it win or if you push through. If you can find the tools necessary to solve that problem. Whether it is on your own or with the help of friends. It's important to understand that no matter what you fear you're not alone. It's also important to note that if you meet someone who says they are not afraid of clowns, they are lying.