Only Has-beens Rest on Their Laurels

vintage-gal-writingI learned a valuable lesson about not getting too comfy too quickly with success at a pretty young age. Most people who know me now don’t know that I had a brief career as a cartoonist when I was in junior high. I drew a lot, and I thought I was pretty funny, so I sent 30 single-panel cartoons to the local-ish paper. Because that’s how that works, right? I thought I was going to be published right alongside Garfield and Family Circus.

I got a letter a few weeks later praising my artistic genius. They said they would run my cartoon in the Wednesday kids insert. I was a little insulted that my work of genius was being relegated to the kiddie section, but they were going to pay me $25 every time they published a cartoon. That was five allowances, so how could I say no? I used my first check to get my ears double-pierced. And I figured since I sent them 30 brilliant cartoons, I was good for a while. Why would I need to keep sending them new material, right?

In the end, they published four cartoons and I never heard from them again. I also failed to send any further cartoons. Would sending another batch of cartoons have launched me into cartoonist stardom? Probably not, but more than four cartoons might have seen the light of day. So here I am, languishing in obscurity, all because I decided to rest on my admittedly pathetic laurels.

So learn from the mistake I made in my youth: Don’t get too comfortable with what you’ve accomplished or rely on something you did in the past to get you where you want to go tomorrow. Keep creating, keep bugging people, keep trying new things. I thought 30 cartoons was so many cartoons and that it would carry me far. But I was 13 years old, what else was I supposed to think? Doing a few great things and then stopping may have worked for J.D. Salinger, but the rest of us have gotta hustle. So stop thinking about all those great things you did yesterday and get busy doing something today.