I have been trying for the past few days to put into words what I’ve been feeling over the last several months. Returning from the worst convention I’ve attended to date and really thinking about what made it that way helped solidify the issue.
Simply put, I’m burned out. But it’s more than that. I ask myself why the hell I’m wasting my time doing cosplay when not only is it not profitable, it’s actually detrimental to my finances. Why the hell am I spending money on making things that don’t mean anything, why the hell am I bothering to try to make screen accurate costumes when people who buy a onesie from Walmart make the news, why the hell am I doing this thing that most of my friends and even my family don’t support or encourage.
And I come to two conclusions.
First: artists gotta art. No matter how pissed off I am before, during, and after a build, I still feel fulfilled. Art makes me happy. Even the book full of crappy pencil sketches that I’ll never show anyone brings me happiness. Because when I’m done, I feel like I did something. And even if I’m not content with the end product, even if I completely hate what I made (cough cough Meow), I learned skills that I can apply to making the next thing. Because art is about process, not product. I made a thing, from scratch, from grainy pictures and screenshots, from one lousy piece of concept art that didn’t even show all the sides, from some tiny model to a full-sized robot. I did that. The hours I put in, through late nights and sore fingers, through hot glue burns and caffeine jitters, through tears of frustration and fits of swearing that would make a pirate blush, those hours were mine.
Second: things suck right now. Always have, for some. And if things don’t suck for you, then you are fortunate. You should remember how it was when things did suck, and you should be working to ensure that everything does not suck for the people around you. And if things never sucked for you, then you are triply fortunate, and should be working even harder to be someone who helps raise people up.
As a person for whom life has always sucked, I try to make sure that, at the very least, I’m not making everything suck worse for those around me. I probably fail at this, but I do try. I try to make sure the guy behind me can see in a panel. I try to make space for that wheelchair struggling to get through the crowd. I smile for that picture, even when I’m about to cry because I just had a fight with my friend. I try to think of how I would feel in a given situation, and what I would wish someone else would have done for me. Write that get-well card, say that please and thank you, be that person that people remember as a bright spot in their day.
I get to go to a couple, maybe a few, cons a year, and the sacrifices I make to do that are significant, because for someone who has trouble leaving the house and interacting with people, it is that much more important to do things that you really want to do and to have success at doing them. I want to go to the store for food, pretty much have to, but that’s not really a rewarding or fulfilling experience, and it never gets easier. Going to the store doesn’t make me feel like trying to accomplish something more ambitious. I want to go to conventions for many reasons, and they’re (usually) rewarding because there is success and growth in them, in both the artistic creation leading up to it, and the positive social interactions at them. Going to conventions (usually) makes me want to do more with my life besides wait impatiently for death to pay me a visit.
I’ve seen a number of cosplayers lately express a lack of motivation. A lot of people in general feel directionless, hopeless, and burnt out. And so this goes for not just myself, and not just cosplayers:
You can’t stay still. You will rot.
If you can find something that gets you out of bed in the morning, focus on that. If you can find a thing that brings you more joy than frustration, hold on to it. Build on it. If you can find a way to make things suck less for other people, try to do it. Get more people involved. Maybe you haven’t found any of those things yet. Maybe you found them and lost them. Maybe you have to step back and reassess.
I really can’t pretend to give advice when my life is a mess and I’m on the brink of quitting the one thing that has brought me fulfillment in years. The thing I can say, the thing I wish someone had said to me at many pivotal moments in my life, the thing that we should all say to one another, is this:
When it is between staying home or leaving the house, between trying something new or hiding from change, between freezing or acting, between playing it safe or taking a risk, between giving ourselves or locking our souls away: always, always go.
(Also, can someone please cosplay and perform this video at the next con? Thanks.)