Sometimes I’ll hear friends or acquaintances talk about how they would like to do tables at events but their anxiety and confidence keeps them from doing it. However, anxiety was something that I had to deal with too.
I started selling at conventions when I was 18, the first one I sold at was Anime Matsuri 2008. I didn’t know it then, but I definitely had social anxiety. I was outright terrified of talking to people I wasn’t familiar with. The thing is, though I knew that never talking to anyone was going to get me nowhere in my life as an artist. My determination was so strong that anything personal wasn’t going to get in my way of pushing myself out there.
My first couple of years were rough. I was terrified of emailing people I didn’t know, imagine when I was put behind a table and forced to talk to random individuals. I say forced to, but really at first there were often times where I straight up wouldn’t talk to people. I’m very lucky to have had Robert with me through these years, bless his soul, he had to do a lot of the engaging and approaching of people for me. I wouldn’t have kept myself from going out and doing these things if I didn’t have him, but it made the process a lot less painful than it could have been.
I started out with anime conventions which I believe was the right choice for me who had to start from nothing and didn’t have any professional acquaintances which I could get advice from. It was a good environment for testing things out and learning. There are a lot of inexperienced young people at them that also don’t know what they’re doing, and the crowd as a whole isn’t terribly picky about the quality of the merchandise.
After about three years I felt I was ready both socially and artistically to start exhibiting at comic conventions. The contrast between anime and comic cons was staggering. I was met with people being kind and very enthusiastic about my work. Folks didn’t just flip through my portfolio looking for their favorite character and walk off in disappointment when they didn’t find them. Instead they’d pick up my card and maybe even commission me. There were occasionally kind people at anime conventions, but at comic cons it seems like they are the majority.
Comic conventions became a new source of inspiration for me and I’m so grateful to have pulled through my social hindrances to be able to experience them. I get to befriend and chat with such talented peers, and share my work with attendees that are enthusiastic about my work.
If you’re afraid of going out and doing tables, just do it. It might seem a tad scary at first, but once you start it only gets easier. Never be afraid to ask around for advice. If you feel that you might be uncomfortable talking with attendees, bring a friend along that’d be willing to support you in your not-so-strong moments. Doing them has brought a life surrounded by passion, and I hope it’s something nobody will miss out on out of fear and anxiety.