Bardman Year One

(With apologies to Frank Miller and fans of the Dark Knight)

So, as summer comes to an end, I find myself reflecting back on my first full year as a “working bard” (participating in actual bardic events, interacting with the bardic community). I tend to mark a Scadian year as falling from one Pennsic to the next. It is the biggest and oldest event in the society, and affords opportunities to live one’s passions like nothing else on the East Coast, at least.

It has been a glorious year, and successful on at least a par with my wildest hopes. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a bard, and how to succeed in the SCA in general. Some of the things I learned this past year about how to “level up”:

  1. Figure out what your sweet spot is. The thing you love to do that you’re really good at. Then do that. (You do have one, even if you may need to think about it.)
  2. Find out where the people are who do that thing too. (This may require some searching, and they may not be local. But happily, we are mundanely in the 21st century.) Find the clubhouse, ask around, then go there and introduce yourself. The clubhouse always wants another member.
  3. If you can’t find a clubhouse, build one. Online clubhouses require very few materials and can connect you to all sorts of people.
  4. Lead with service. Show the other folks in your area of interest how much you love that thing, and how willing you are to help out in growing the community. It makes a terrific first impression. If you have to sit on the impulse the show off your skills, your patience will be rewarded.
  5. Participate. Get to events, contribute to live and online conversations in your community, ask the questions you want answered. Other people want to hear them too, and will be grateful that you stepped up and asked.
  6. Network. This means paying attention when a colleague says there’s someone you should meet. When you see a name you don’t know yet teaching interesting classes in your field, make a note of the name, ask your colleagues about that person. Request an introduction. People are happy to introduce new up-and-comers around.
  7. Believe in yourself. Take it right up to the edge of arrogance (then dial it back if necessary with a dose of humility)… Bring your A game, and compete to win. The community wants more talented people like you.
  8. Set goals. All the awards and recognition, the “cookies” we’re not supposed to obsess over? They’re there to give us goals, short-term and long-term objectives to strive for. They help measure progress. And your goals don’t have to be cookies. Challenge yourself to complete two more pieces this year than last year, or to participate in a bigger-scale event than you’ve tried before, or to volunteer or teach at an event. And don’t forget to acknowledge and enjoy your progress.
  9. Do not be intimidated by people with big reputations, pointy hats, or fancy elevated titles. These are people just like you who’ve been doing it a little longer perhaps, but when people stop approaching them out of intimidation, they actually get lonely and miss the camaraderie. Most will be glad to offer you a helping hand.
  10. If you need to, pull your head out of the game occasionally and remember for a moment that it is at heart a game. It’s wonderful, and meaningful, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try not taking it too seriously.

That’s plenty for this year, I think.

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