Dan Jurgens gave me advice, and I ignored him
There's a popular saying that goes, "Youth is wasted on the young." When you're young, you're oblivious to how precious time is. Good advice is also wasted on the young.
Every Sunday, my family would sardine into the car and drive from Brooklyn to Queens to my grandmother's house. As a kid, my favorite thing about visiting my grandma was eating her delicious food, watching TV [She had cable], and reading the Sunday edition of the Daily News. It was thicker than all the other days and was stuffed with extra goodies.
I loved reading entertainment trivia, as well as seeing behind-the-scenes footage of a blockbuster movie that was in production. Somewhere in the back of the entertainment section was a sub-section specifically for kids. Every week, they'd interview a celebrity that was relevant to our demographic. They'd ask the same 10 questions, but it was always fun to see how people would answer.
One week, the guest was Dan Jurgens. For those that don't know, Dan Jurgens is a big deal in the comic book world. He's written or drawn for a lot of important titles published by both DC and Marvel comics. He created Booster Gold. I knew of him because I was obsessed with Superman, and his name was all over the juggernaut that was Death of Superman.
After every interview, the newspaper always included contact information, in case you wanted to reach out. I wasted no time scribbling on a piece of paper how badly I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was older. I asked for advice and begged him for pointers on getting in the industry.
Months went by, and I completely forgot about that letter. The cynic in me was sure that nobody would ever read it, especially not someone as busy and important as Dan Jurgens. One day, he blew my mind.
It was a regular day in the summer of 1993. I received a postcard with an image similar to the one above on the front. On the back, in black ink, Dan told me that one day I would be a great artist, but I had to remember to "practice, practice, practice!"
I turned the postcard around and stared at the artwork. I turned it around again, and re-read the short sentence. I studied every inch of that card trying to find more. Something else. "At least he spelled my name right," I thought. The excitement of getting correspondence from a comic book legend started to wear off, and as more time passed, I got angry.
"Well, duh!" I yelled into the air. 'Practice, practice, practice' was some of the most cliché shit I'd ever heard. I wanted more. I wanted something different. I wanted true insight.
I threw the postcard away years later when I was moving out of my mom's house. I had forgotten all about it. Years passed, and I stopped reading comics. I even stopped drawing. It was with a stack of poorly drawn sketches. The corners were bent. The back was brown. I could feel that familiar excitement I felt when I first got it. When I read the back, it was like that feeling you get when you find out you've been singing the wrong lyrics all along. "Oh! Tiny dancer, not Tony Danza."
What I failed to realize back when I was 11 was that Dan was giving me the best insight of all. He was telling me exactly what I needed to hear but was too stupid to understand. You already know, so I won't insult you by saying it. But if you don't know...
Go out to your backyard and lay a brick. Do it again the next day. Do it every day for months. After a year, you'll have a wall. Adjust the analogy to fit your passion, and don't forget: practice, practice, practice!