After that first taste at hang-gliding, I couldn't wait until I turned eighteen - old enough to fly. Time to chase my dream.
My first real experience came through the University of Georgia. I was a senior (majoring in Graphic Design, focusing on illustration) and found out about a trip to a hang-gliding school at the last minute. I rented the last tent available through the rec center - it didn't have a fly cover, but I made do. I was on an adventure!
I set it up in the LZ (landing zone) in the shadow of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The first step to learning how to fly was to stay on the ground. We learned how to run with the glider. At the time I didn't understand this, but that nose up position is all wrong. It basically puts the wings in stall mode - it's how you land, not how you fly. It's your instincts saying 'but I want to go UP!' A sure sign of a beginner, but I was learning nonetheless.
Just like writing or illustrating, I was laying the groundwork, learning the rules on which to build my structure, so that I could soar.
After that first weekend, I saved every dime I could to go back and move further along in my training. Being a broke college student, the weekends were too few and far between, but I didn't give up.
Equate that to learning how to write or illustrate - going to conferences, reading 'how to' books, taking classes and learning the in's and out's of the industry. Maybe you don't have the resources, so it seems to be a slow-moving process, but you're still on the journey.
The next time I went up to Chattaboogie, we climbed a small hill (the bunny hill) with our gliders on our shoulders. We took turns running off the hill, trying to hold the glider in the correct position to fly. I've got it right in this photo, which is why I'm off the ground!
It wasn't easy to do. Everything in my subconscious said, "I want to FLY!" Which made me push out on the bars, placing the glider in stall mode. And when it stalled, the glider would come crashing down, dragging me with it down the hill and... through the cow patties. Did I mention the bunny hill was in an active cow pasture? Yup. A victorious day of flight training ended with a harness covered in cow manure.
This is a lovely analogy for writing and illustrating. There are the rejections, the failures, the jealousies, the general feelings of trying to do the impossible. Becoming a writer/illustrator is a mental game with yourself. It's can be so tempting to quit, but as they say, that's a sure way to fail.
So I didn't care about the cow patties - literally being dragged through the muck - I was flying!
Just as with publishing credits, eventually I graduated to the larger bunny hill.
After buying some new shoes which actually fit me and let me run better (appropriate tools), I mastered that hill too.
And that led to the mountain...
Keep reading to find out what happened next!