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Left Behind

Being confronted with the idea that you are falling behind, that you’re not achieving all that you had hoped to have achieved or experienced, is a difficult personal conundrum to grapple with.

After all, if there is no time frame, if there is no race being run despite familial and social conditioning to make us believe otherwise, why would one experience such a guttural emotional reaction when confronted with examples that may trigger the idea you have, in fact, fallen behind?

Recently, in an effort to try and understand different publication styles, I went on a little research trip to a local WHSmith to peruse their offerings. More specifically, I was looking at magazines I felt I could write for, given a chance.

Turns out a few of the magazines on offer contained unexpected links to my past that took me by complete surprise.

(Note: Names of parties involved have been removed.)

Select Start

Once upon a time, in the long, long ago of 2010/11, I played in a pop punk band.

I wrote the skeletal structure of the songs on my guitar and/or bass before handing over the reins to my much more talented guitarist and bassist, allowing me to prance about on stage as the group’s lead singer.

That band was called Adventure Starts Tomorrow!, and I loved it.

Years later, I’m still saddened by the fizzling out of the group—London’s best pop punk band that never happened bar one EP (Select Start) and a slew of small bar gigs, mostly attended by friends and partners.

One of the bands we played with were another group that proudly flew the pop punk flag—a scene that, although still kicking, isn’t as prevalent or as popular as it once was, particularly within the UK.

Most modern pop punk just isn’t the addictively good sugary cocaine that fits my specific taste. But we tried to be that. And so did this band.

Sorry, so does this band. Because they never gave up.

So as I found myself discovering a full page spread in a national magazine, advertising their debut album, I was dumbstruck.

It took a few moments to process as my mind ran through the natural longing of “what could have been” for AST! Who knows what kinds of opportunities would have come about had we continued to strive towards a, supposedly, collective goal in the same way—let alone if we had maintained a good relationship with this other band.

But that’s a reality for another timeline.

Temporary PermaNENCE

Ah, I hear you say, but you mentioned two, didn’t you, Steve?

Yes, I did, my astute and attractive friend.

The second was trying for a different reason. It was a little closer to home, a little more personal in some respect.

Before writing what would become my first manuscript, Temporary, the story was initially meant to be a comic book miniseries.

I had an artist attached who had begun to draft concept art for the main characters and had even started sketching the first few pages of the first issue. It was a creative partnership that would, hopefully, lead to a run of comic books that would try to twist and subvert archetypal superhero mythology, all the while playing with the tropes that exist within the genre.

Yet, unfortunately, like AST!, it stalled. And then stopped.

This time around, however, it was because the artist chose to drop the project, instead focusing on something they held close(r) to their heart than Temporary.

There was no real discussion about it. After touching base one day about how things were getting on, I was instead told they were off the project and that he was off the project.

That stung. A lot.

An Unexpected Journey

Their surprising decision happened to coincide during a time of upheaval and change for me.

I had just finished writing and directing a short movie called First Date and was preparing to fly to America to support it at a film festival it was playing at. I was also able to become a panellist for several talks about indie filmmaking, which was an undeniably amazing experience.

Not actual footage of my panel experience

During the downtime of the festival, I found myself sitting in on many writing panels and discussions. Not screenwriting, but long-form narrative writing. I was familiar with screenwriting, but writing a book?

I was hooked.

It was during that trip that I determined to come home, take the idea for Temporary and turn it into my first novel.

Fast forward...

There I was in WHSmith, staring at an advert for the next issue of a magazine—a magazine that would feature this artist’s work on their next cover and include an entire issue of his work within their pages!

Upon reflection, I believe that the reason I fell into this negative comparative spiral was because I knew these people, if only in a tertiary way. We were never close, never friends, but we knew of each other from a creative, professional standpoint.

That personal connection triggered an unintended juxtaposition between their work being advertised on glossy pages and mine, like so many authors, being surrounded by an overflowing fountain of rejections.

The race may be a forced concept, but it doesn't make the emotional reaction any less resonant when it sneaks up on you out of the blue.

But you know what?

Good for them.

Good for all of them. They’ve worked hard and suffered for their art as they learned and grew, and now their hard work is paying off.

I don’t know the choices they’ve made or tribulations they’ve struggled with. I don’t get to see the many rejections they could have received.

That’s their journey.

They’ve earned this, and I genuinely wish them nothing but continued success. They clearly love their respective art forms, whether it’s pop punk or comic books, and are truly living their best life by being able to make their art their life. They deserve it.

They may not know it, but they are all card-carrying members of #TeamPerseverance.

And maybe one day, without knowing it, they’ll see an advert for one of my books in a magazine.

The only way that doesn’t happen is if I stop trying.

Steve R



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