Jerry Seinfeld once famously quipped that more people are afraid of public speaking than dying. As a result, most people would prefer to be in the casket then giving the eulogy.
Most people feel intimidated by the idea of starting something on their own, or even in a small group. They can be timid about putting out a piece of art, or costume design because they worry about the reaction they’re going to get. The public can be a very scary thing for a lot of people, but Steampunk is a public and if you want to get involved and get something started they’re who you need to appeal to.
One of the themes of Starting Out Steampunk is to go out and do. It is to get up, strap on your goggles, and venture forth into the great wide world of our subculture. Sometimes that means hanging back and chatting with folks at an event, and sometimes that means doing more. I’ve been talking over the last few weeks about creating new ventures and getting active in the community. Starting something new isn’t always easy, but if you’ve got an idea you shouldn’t be afraid to show it off.
It can be intimidating sometimes looking at what others have accomplished and wonder if you could do the same. When some of the older and more organized Clubs are able to put on gala events for an evening that are capable of drawing people from places outside the host city. Or to find the line-up of Troupes brought in to perform and entertain at a Steampunk convention. There are large lists of bands out there, comedy groups, and even a number of web series. People that make fantastic clothing, do amazing props, and travel to conventions to promote the cause of Steampunk all over the world.
So where does that leave you? It’s quite simple really, wherever you want it to. Just keep some realistic expectations in mind.
Creating a Club in a city that already has a well-established one might be difficult. There are many cities and states that have organizations serving Steampunks already. It might be difficult to look around a city like San Diego and try to start a new Club given the existence of the strong Steampunk community that’s already there.
That might not be the case where you live, though. The Tampa Bay Steampunk Society was fairly recently formed due to a lack of any other organizations in the area. Now they’ve gone so far as to create their own convention, The Florida Steampunk Exhibition. So great things can come in a short period of time when you have the dedication to make them happen.
The same goes for Troupes. Sometimes it can seem daunting to try to create another band or comedy group when there are already dozens of both out there. The thing to keep in mind is that there is always room in the world for something new. Be it in the mainstream pop-culture media or our wonderful little sub-culture if you’ve got a good thing going people are going to pay attention and they are going to support you.
A perfect example of this is Dirigible Days, a web series that recently started releasing episodes. James Bragado started with an idea and worked to develop it. He and his crew wrote up a history, characters, a story, and then went out to the community at large to source and hammer out some details. Steampunks came together to support the venture and provided money through a Kickstart campaign, music from Vernian Process, Victor Sierra, and the Root Diggers, and lots of kind words and advertising once the first episode came out. They made a promise and delivered on it.
They serve as a wonderful example of where your Troupe can start as well. If you have an idea, then you need to take time to refine it and move forward. Don’t be afraid to take some chances and come up with something new, or even just give something a new spin. Understand that you have an intended audience and that if you expect them to help you out with creating something, they’re going to have to enjoy it as well. If folks don’t get what you’re doing then consider either tweaking it, or just running with it and developing it yourself.
What if you’re not the type of person to form a group but still want to get involved in some way? There are still quite a few options for you as well. Steampunk isn’t just events, it’s also reflected in the look and actions of those who participate in it. If you don’t already know how to ply a craft or have an artistic bent then there is no time like the present to start.
If you’ve already worked with an established craft then go ahead and put your work out there. It may seem that any sort of jewelry making or leatherworking would get lost in the myriad of other options, and certainly there are dozens of crafters. Everything from clothing to prop weapons to hats to adornments can be found on Etsy and Artfire, so adding yourself to the mix might seem daunting. The answer to that is simply not to worry, and do it anyway.
Odds are you won’t be making a living off of it for a while, if ever. It will still serve as a chance to get your work out in the Community at large. If nothing else, crafting provides a sense of accomplishment that you’ve taken raw goods and turned it into something recognizable that someone could want.
The same goes for art and writing. There are several websites out there dedicated to spreading both and there are a lot of ways to get others to view your work. Once again, making a living just on writing or art alone is very difficult, so consider it a hobby at least to start. Ask questions, look around and see what others are doing. Decide on what sort of style you want to push for and dive into getting some work done. If you’re just starting out, the Steampunk community can be very supportive so make sure you share your work which might just catch some attention and propel you further than you ever thought possible.
The key to all of this is to go and do. To quote the great Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
That can obviously be easier said than done as most people have a measure of anxiety when doing anything on a large scale. Be it starting out a Steampunk group or submitting your first short story for review with an anthology, there’s going to be apprehension. You might worry that someone who is already established will shut you down, or that the community might not receive your work well. The truth of the matter is that not everyone will succeed, and very few actually make a splash on the big stage.
Like most things done in Steampunk, though, you should do it not because you want to impress others; as enjoyable as it is to hear about how wonderful your creation is. It should be because you want to do it. Even if your two man Vaudeville routine never makes it to headline Steamcon or Teslacon, if you can still go to events and perform and get a good reaction then you’ve gone farther than the person who didn’t bother to even try.
Above all make sure that you have fun doing what you’re doing. If you do it to try to make money or impress people but don’t actually enjoy what you’re doing then you’re probably not going to go very far. If you’re not having fun, then why do it?