Anime and Cartoons Help Me Write Through Bad Times
I’ve been a somewhat full-time freelance writer ever since I finished graduate school in December of 2016. I love it most days. This year I’ve had the opportunity to write about planning my funeral and sleepovers for Lenny Letter, Affirmative Action and Puerto Rico for The Lily, and about what bodegas mean to me for NPR.
So many of those pieces have lead to other opportunities. They’ve also resulted in other Latinas hitting me up on Twitter and telling me about how they too lived a sleepover-free life thanks to immigrant parents who didn’t understand the social right of passage. Some of those publications pay pretty well which is the point of all the effort I put into pitching my ideas to them. That and the people I’ve been able to reach through my writing have been fun to talk to.
But…freelancing isn’t easy. Breaking into sites that I’ve read for some time now and admire motivates me, but behind each byline there’s a lot of rejection and long nights filled with editing.
Pitches that were crafted after several rounds of back and forth with fellow journos are met with silence. Sometimes I’m scooped. Every once in a while, a source pulls out of a story. A troll randomly leaves a racist or sexist comment for me online. Those painfully slow months are the ones where I start writing a pitch, read it over once, and then hit delete.
It’s happened a lot this year.
A pitch isn’t accepted in the same week that I find out I didn’t get a fellowship I had hoped for after making it to the final round of interviews. Emails aren’t responded to during the same week that a story I worked on is killed. Those weeks I ask myself what’s the point of even trying to freelance if I’m just going to be disappointed.
After asking that, I give myself a day to pretend I don’t care about anything. I binge watch something in bed (recently it was Anohana and Yuri!!! on Ice). After that I take long walks to nowhere while staring into the distance like a post breakup scene in a problematic romantic comedy.
A few days later I’m up and writing again, filled to the brim with mint tea, optimism, and ideas. Lots of ideas. The kind of idea usually depends on what I watched on my “off” day. And that’s because one of the few things that has helped me stop stressing over deadlines, jobs, and catching over 8 colds this year, has been watching cartoons and anime.
Everyone has their thing. Some of them drain my health and wallet, like eating my feelings or drinking cheap sparkling wine on my bedroom floor. Which is what I want to do every single time something I invested time into is rejected or ignored. To avoid those two, I use Cartoon Network and Studio Ghibli.
Cartoons that are loved across cultures and age groups are the product of good storytelling.
When I watch them I get to lay back, but I also get to learn. I revisit some of my favorite ones like Howl’s Moving Castle, Adventure Time, and Bob’s Burgers. Some of the anime movies and cartoon series that I love are a part of genres I used to make fun of, like slice of life. Watching a series like Kids on the Slope and seeing episodes evolve around a friendship and jazz music, taught me that any genre could be interesting. All it needs is some imagination, witty dialogue, and good writing that has noticeable character development.
Even gory anime or overly sappy romantic one (the type that has too many fireworks scenes) that I used to avoid are watchable, enjoyable even with the right kind of plot and characters. Any kind of post can be interesting to read if I work on it and make sure the message and structure are clear. It’s taught me to have fun with everything from breaking news to reported essays, to blog-y type posts like this one.
Watching cartoons and anime movies is another way of taking my brain to the gym. In a yoga kind of way. A relaxed yoga kind of way. Taking it to the gym while letting it have some junk food. Everyday can be a cheat day if you spread it out enough. And everyday can be a good day with an episode or two.
Or even 10.
Some of the cartoons give me perspective. Meeting a deadline isn’t as hard as Marceline having to defeat the Vampire King and his minions all over again. Having a pitch rejected or not getting a job I applied to isn’t as bad as BoJack Horseman dealing with the death of a co-star after they both go on a long drug and alcohol infused bender.
Their problems are theoretical and dreamed up by artists and writers. And they’re drawn out to be watched on a screen…but they do make me feel better.
Anime and cartoons have also been a source of inspiration. They’ve made slower freelancing months bearable, and they’ve given me ideas to pitch about. One of my favorite short essays this year was one about Lady Eboshi, the benevolent but complicated antagonist in Princess Mononoke.
I’m currently working on another piece. This time I’ll be discussing race in anime and how other people of color are portrayed across different series. If I hadn’t watched so many series during my down time, I wouldn’t have noticed this pattern. And if I hadn’t taken an emotional beating while freelancing that has forced me to think as creatively as possible, I wouldn’t have pitched this idea. A few years ago I would have been to afraid to approach a topic like this. I would have convinced myself I was going out on a limb and there was no way an editor would even consider something on race and anime.
Yet here I am, combining freelancing and one of my favorite pastimes.
Being able to intersect created worlds with issues in the real one makes freelancing worthwhile. Despite a difficult year, being able to watch animated movies and series while being stuck in bed has kept me motivated. Watching an imaginative story gives me something to strive for in my own work. If a movie about a meteor and dreams can break records in and around the world, then I can pitch and write about cartoons. I don’t have to be outlining the next big anything, but I can create.
There’s no excuse not to after being exposed to so many amazing cartoons and anime series.
Go out and find your “thing” fellow writers. Make it your idea generator for the coming year. But more importantly, learn from it and learn to have fun with it even when the ups and downs of freelancing make you feel like you don’t want to leave your bed.
Thank you for reading this! If you’re also an anime/cartoon lover let me know what series/movie you’ve watched and share with a fellow anime lover.
My most recent Medium piece is close to my heart. It’s about Puerto Rico and how it’s shown me the strength of the women in my PR side of the family. Thanks!