My quest to try new things in 2013 brought me to the mecca of all things creative, slightly obscure, yet completely engaging… an Anime convention. Anime Central (ACen) to be specific.
ACen bills itself as the Midwest’s largest Anime Convention and takes place just northwest of Chicago, in Rosemont, IL.
For those unfamiliar, Anime are animated Japanese productions including television and full-length films.
This was my first Anime convention and I didn’t know what to expect. The entire idea arose from a fellow intern mentioning the convention, and who was I to say ‘no’ to such an interesting day. We navigated North Chicagolands train system, and the walk from the train to the convention, hosted at the Hyatt Regency, foreshadowed what was to come. Pokemon shirts, enormously spikey hair, and foam weaponry was in all directions. ACen’s popularity–and my rookie convention goer status– came to light as I waited in line for four hours to get a pass (Next time I’ll pre-order tickets and save myself the hassle).
I was introduced to a brand new world, a new culture, where I was a stranger trying to figure out the rules and etiquette (like if it’s alright to take a picture of someone if I think their costume is AWESOME). The many guest and industry panels at the event helped me understand more of the costume play (cosplay) and Anime convention culture, which was also surprisingly similar to blogging culture. These conventions, just like a blog, are built around five seemingly simple, yet often overlooked, concepts.
1. Come as you are
The first thing you learn at an Anime convention is that nobody is embarrassed to be who they are. Wigs, make-up, cross dressing, almost no clothes, even closer to almost no clothes, etc., pretty much anything goes. The potential to be anything you want to be without fear of ridicule (okay, maybe a little fear of ridicule if your costume is weak), really defines this culture.
The same can be said about blogging. I just figured this out recently, but a blog is an opportunity to speak in your own voice, using your own thoughts and ideas. That’s the beauty of having a personal blog…nobody can tell you who you are or what you should say!
2. Be social
The four hour wait in line would’ve been unbearable if each of the thousands of conventioners were left to their own devices, but you couldn’t avoid socializing if you wanted to. If you recognized a costume, you’d let the person know what you thought of it. When you saw an awesome costume, you asked how they made it and if you could take a picture. Curious about an artist’s work? They’ll be happy to tell you about their creative process. ACen is a social community full of old friends and new acquaintances, and it didn’t take much for me to figure that out.
When you’re blogging, or promoting your blog on social networks, being social and responsive to those who interact with you is important. It let’s them know that their effort isn’t falling upon deaf ears and that you’re genuinely interested in their opinions. It’s also a way to make new friends in the blogging community.
3. Plan ahead
In the case of ACen, this is relevant on about a half-dozen different levels. I should’ve ordered my ticket ahead of time, I should’ve checked the train schedules and arrived sooner, I should’ve looked at the panel schedules before I got there, I should’ve packed a lunch to wait in line with, and I should’ve brought my phone charger so I could take more pictures. I won’t completely fault myself, because as I’ve said before, I didn’t know what to expect. Learning from your mistakes is an important concept in all facets of life, including conventions and blogging.
You never want to let an opportunity to blog about something pass you by. For this blog in particular, when I know I’m going to do something new that’ll be worth talking about, I always have materials to take notes with, and make sure that I start a new post ahead of time and brainstorm potential topics that could arise.
4. Be unique, or at least, attempt to be unique
The most popular costumes, the one’s that got the most praise and had the most pictures taken, were the one’s that were unique in some way. Even a common character, like Iron Man, could be created in a way that was unique, like the one pictured below that had a motorized faceplate. The costumes that tried to be unique, whether they were big successes or huge failures, got much more attention than the others.
Blogging is similar. There are millions and millions of blogs on the internet, and likely millions that are just like mine or yours. Finding a way to deviate from the norm is difficult–trust me, I haven’t gotten there yet– but when you do, the attention will surely follow.
5. Your blog isn’t for everyone, but it’s useful for someone
I enjoy Anime and would say I’m knowledgable about the animations. I love One Piece, YuYu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z and ANYTHING FINAL FANTASY 7 related. I can also readily admit that I wasn’t familiar with a majority of the costumes, vendors and panel topics at ACen. The good thing is, I didn’t need to be. I stuck to what I knew and was open to learn what I didn’t. Sound familiar?
The odds that your blog is popular enough to the point that you can retire are super slim. Slender Man slim. For this very reason I don’t look at site stats much, aside from the occassional glance to see whether my very limited promotion is even working. Just know that eventually, someone will be looking for the content that your blog produces. May not be today, tomorrow, or next month, but eventually you’ll find someone that’s interested. That one person who comments or likes a post should be all the motivation you need to continue blogging.