I wasn’t going to mention this, but I need to get it out. After much hemming and hawwing, I finally broke down and entered the Penny Arcade Strip Search competition a couple of weeks back, not expecting anything to come of it. But when I was accepted into the second round (500 down to 100), I started to get my hopes up a bit. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure this could be my ticket out of the minor leagues into the big time. Strip Search was going to be my chance to fast forward to the top of the industry after all those years of obscurity. I saw myself sitting in a big office facing the Seattle skyline, with my feet up on the desk. Scott Kurtz in the next room offering me sage career advice, a whole staff of advertising and PR experts at my disposal. I envisioned that I could quit my day job and that now, finally, I had the ultimate validation. My dream to be a self-sustaining online cartoonist would now be within my reach after all my struggles.

Then came the fall. I was not accepted into the third round (100 down to 40). Initially, I was kind of stunned, I thought – was there a mistake? I looked at some of the other creators who were accepted into the next round. There were illustrators and bloggers, why weren’t they all web comic creators? Wasn’t this a web comic competition? Did they accidently send me the wrong email? I had convinced myself that I was going to get through so thoroughly that I wasn’t able to fully accept that I hadn’t made the cut. This hung with me for a few days. I started to feel low, it felt like an invalidation. How could they not accept me? Haven’t I worked hard for two whole years, making the best strip possible? Why hadn’t they picked me? I actually began to wonder if I hadn’t made a mistake trying to pursue this as a career. I started to doubt that what I was doing was worth it. There is another side of this business you have to really be careful with and that’s self-doubt. It can really work you over at times.

Finally, I began to rationalize. Penny Arcade only has room for 12 people out of 500, so they have to be ruthless in their decision-making, I understand. It’s not their job to cultivate people’s dreams, they are looking to put a show together, they are not responsible to protect individual egos. That duty is mine alone.

So wish me luck, dear readers. I’ve come this far and I can’t turn back now. Everything I’ve achieved up until this point has been with my own determination, God-given gifts, and hard work. I don’t need a big, successful company to validate me, that is putting the emphasis in the wrong place. It may take me years to get to where I want to be. Many people have tried, failed and given up. I told Robert Khoo that I’m the best because I’ve seen so many fade out, but I’m still standing. I’m a survivor. I will survive, and eventually thrive. That’s a promise.

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