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Indie Insights: On Measuring Personal Success

Written by Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor on Thursday, May 26 2011 and posted in Columns

Ken Eppstein shares his thoughts about personal success and throws out his own little outline of how to succeed in the latest installment of Indie Insights!

eppsteinKen Eppstein is the editor, writer and publisher of the independent comic Nix Comics Quarterly, a small press anthology. 

You guys tired of me yapping away about my music idols... Who you probably have not heard of before and probably less likely care about after?  I worry about that a lot when I'm writing this column...  Maybe the whole garage-punk thing is too far afield.   The last thing I want to do is alienate the comic book crowd with something antithetical to the stereotype.    

So howzabout some sports talk instead? (cough.)

Satchel Paige is one of my personal heroes.  Given the volumes and volumes of material available on the man, I don't feel like I need to talk too much about him, so suffice to say that he was remarkable not only for climbing to a position of worldwide renown from the less publicized negro leagues of pre-Jackie Robinson baseball, but also for the incredible career span of 40 years!  In an interview with Colliers Magazine in 1953, when he had been playing for a mere 27 or so years, Paige presented the world with his list of 6 steps to staying young forever:

1.     "Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood."
2.     "If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts."
3.     "Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move."
4.     "Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society—the social ramble ain't restful."
5.     "Avoid running at all times."
6.      "And don't look back—something might be gaining on you."

Now, I don't claim to be a comic book creator on the same order or as Mr. Paige was a pitcher.  He was a massive Jovian presence in his solar system, and I'm a dwarf planet hoping to someday the definitions of such things swing back to the point that Pluto and I can reclaim full fledged status.   That doesn't mean, however, that I can't put together a list of personal steps to success as a writer.

1.      Make the comic book you want to read

Hell, what's the point of this if I don't leave my own personal mark?  Years ago I stopped reading new comic books because I couldn't find much that pulled me in.  I have a choice to either complain about what other people are doing, or to shut up and take a stab at it myself.  Seems like the first choice is whiny, so I'll take the tough guy approach and put my money where my mouth is.

2.      Avoid comparing your work to other people's work

This is almost a "1(a)" as opposed to a full on step, but differentiates itself in that it's important to not feel superior to other creators whose work is not to my liking.  They're making the comics they want to (I hope!) and who am I to say that their vision or talent has less quality than mine?

Conversely, I can't compare myself to my personal heroes, because that'll bring about self-defeatism.  I'm just not that good. (Me and Pluto, waiting to have the astronomical powers to be to grant us a new definition, remember?)

3.      Eat right and exercise, you knucklehead

My natural state of being is "nerdy fat kid."   I love food in all of its forms, from junk to gourmet and frankly would rather watch TV than exercise.  Know what though?  That kind of lifestyle is a recipe for back trouble and diabetes.  It's hard enough to make comics; I don't need health problems tacked on to the already long list of obstacles to success.

It's also a fact, if a sad one, that people are still judged by their appearance.  Since I'm making the comic book I want to read, success has a lot to do with selling myself.  I'll never be pretty, but I can at least attempt to do the best with what I got!

4.      Measure success in personal satisfaction (because no one is going to appreciate you until you're dead.)

I think we all know that Van Gogh was ridiculed during the course of his life for his painting style, only to be lauded as a genius after taking his own life.  Kafka meant all of his works to be read by his family, and only achieved fame when his heirs published his works after his death.  If I'm ever to get any acclaim, why should I think it'll be during my lifetime?  That being the case, best not to count on any monetary success at all and solely base my measure of success of step #1, above.

5.      Watch for the big sell out

In addition to Satchel Paige, one of my heroes is John Sayles, who gladly made silly monster flicks like "Alligator" and "Piranha" in the 80s to fund his artsier endeavors.   Good enough for John, good enough for me! Hey, not all of my steps can ooze with artistic integrity and altruism.  Best to be honest about my moral ambiguity up front.

Did Satchel mean for his steps for staying young to apply to everyone, or was he colorfully riffing on what worked for him? I suspect if you had been able to question him about it, he'd err on the side of  each person defining their own destiny.  That if you wanted to follow the same path he did, surely some good things would come your way.  It had worked so well for him, after all.  In addition to his steps to staying young, Paige is attributed with saying  "Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common."    I present my list in that spirit.  Here's how I go about life and good things have happened for me.  Feel free to copy it in total or part to use on as a map for your path away from the common.

Written or Contributed by: Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor

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