Freelance writer Lulu Pencil made her professional wrestling debut on August 28, 2019 and has already managed to achieve something that will forever remain elusive to most of her fellow scribes: a steady, successful upward career trajectory.
In just three months, the rising star from Emi Sakura’s Gatoh Move promotion has cultivated the beginnings of a worldwide fanbase called the Pencil Army, put on a match of the year candidate against wrestler of the year candidate Antonio Honda, designed and sold out her own t-shirt line, and made her international debut as part of Pro Wrestling EVE’s SHE-1 Series.
— Mei Suruga 駿河メイ (@Mei_gtmv) November 10, 2019
The exponential rise of Pencilmania is well-deserved.
Lulu Pencil the character might be a lamentably poor wrestler and weakling whose ceaseless efforts are inspiring as her failures are amusing, but the performer behind her is highly skilled. Pencilheads are drawn to her sharp comic timing and clear appreciation for the medium she’s working in. There’s an adage misattributed to everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Gandhi that you must learn the rules before you can break them, and Lulu Pencil’s thorough grasp of wrestling is evident in the way her matches consistently subvert wrestling logic. Whether she’s getting pinned by her own pinning maneuvers, awkwardly bailing on attempts at a high-risk moves, or tapping to the setup of her opponent’s finishing move, the results are a joy to watch.
As a fellow freelancer writer, though, there’s another reason why I appreciate Lulu Pencil so much. Atypical prosperity aside, she’s the best representation of our profession that I’ve ever seen.
Writing in general is a hard job to portray in a way that is both interesting and remotely accurate. The actual process is almost too tedious to make people watch, listen to, or read about. For every moment that almost gets it right — like a dead-eyed Jimmy Shive-Overly repeatedly typing the word “balls” into a Word document in You’re The Worst — there are many more Carrie Bradshaws and Rory Gilmores pluckily banging away at effortlessly-landed dream gigs. Everything that surrounds putting words and ideas on the page part tends to either be glamorized, like Finding Forrester, or overwrought like Sideways. Freelancing, which combines most of the downsides of being a staff writer or established author with added financial and emotional insecurity and even more isolation from the rest of society, is even harder to capture. It’s rare to see a portrayal that comes close to capturing the realities or the essence of our strange and occasionally wretched existence.
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Lulu Pencil does not write during her matches. She’ll share items she’s penned, often about wrestling, on her Twitter account. She once helped Antonio Honda tell one of his famous and dangerous Gon The Fox fairytales. But we’ve yet to see her work on her own stories in the ring or on the Ichigaya Chocolate Square mats. Much of what she does perform during her matches does make apt metaphor for the freelance writing experience, though.
Lulu Pencil is weak and somewhat timid.
The odds are invariably against her every time she fights, but she she still tries. So hard. More often than not, she eats shit for her efforts. But she picks herself up, to the best of her often limited abilities, and tries again. This is a haunting recreation of what it’s like to pitch story ideas to editors and to follow up on unpaid invoices. The moments where Lulu Pencil ascends to the top rope only to lose her nerve, slink back down and attempt something from the bottom rope instead captures the highs of getting a pitch accepted and the lows of realizing that you actually have to write the thing. Even in moments of relative triumph, she’s usually suffering in some way. That truly does encapsulate the writing process.
Beyond the symbolic representation of the work itself, though, there’s something about Lulu Pencil’s fledgling, intermittently functional endeavours that just generally embody the freelance writing existence.
I’m struggling to articulate it as surely as Lulu Pencil struggles to properly execute a backslide, but she exudes freelance writer energy. Every time she hurts her elbow on someone else’s head, falls down before her opponent can attack her, or spends a tragicomically long time trying to execute the most basic of techniques, I know exactly what she’s going through. When I see her keep going, anyway, likely out of resilience but maybe out of a lack of other options, I get it. (For most people, professional wrestling is an against-all-odds dream job. For a freelance writer, it might actually be a stable alternative.) And every time Gatoh Move’s largely earnest but lightly deadpan announcer, Pumi, exclaims “even her offence becomes her weak point,” or, “she doesn’t have much power, but she always tries her best,” or “the freelance writer power is too slow,” or, “everything is too difficult for Lulu Pencil. I don’t know why,” I feel seen.