I had this dream, some time ago, when I was still reading a particular author’s blog* wherein I saw said author on the front porch of a large cabin, which had a really tall set of stairs leading up to it. Like a sort of huge stage or platform (I suppose this is pretty on the nose, as they say). And I was standing on my own front porch, which was at ground level, a bit hidden back in the trees. A crowd of people had gathered and were waiting for the author to speak, but some hikers walking through the area paused and looked at me, rather than them.
And I realized then that I was perfectly happy with that.
I’m not a published author, and I don’t have a brand to promote. I have thinky thoughts about certain things, and I like to put words together in (hopefully) interesting ways. I enjoy the freedom of saying them without holding back what I really want to say. I know I don’t get into controversial stuff too much, but when you have a “brand” or are attached to certain entities (e.g. SFWA, a publisher, a school, a governing agency) you either censor yourself (consciously or otherwise) or else get those entities caught up in your bullshit. I like being a free agent, with my own agenda and not beholden to another. I sometimes wonder if that holds some of us “aspiring” authors back from trying to gain mainstream publication. Not necessarily being enamored of the whole self-publishing movement, but rather, not wanting to hand over that little bit of rebel in us. The one that says what we mean, regardless of whether it’s going to gain unpopular attention. The one that doesn’t want to sign up for owing the next book to the publisher on a schedule because maybe we prefer to do it part time; or have other commitments which are important to us; or because we write slow and we watch trad published authors frantically trying to meet deadlines and think “no thanks!” Maybe at heart, we’re still that punk kid wearing black and drawing anarchy symbols on our textbooks, sleeping late if we are able, and giving the finger to whomever we perceive as part of the Establishment.
I can hear some folks now: “You’re making excuses.” “You’re not a real writer.” Here’s where I get to say what I want: fuck off if that’s what you think. There is no such thing as a “fake writer” and of course they are excuses. They are perfectly valid excuses. The whole “you’re making excuses” thing is what we do when we want to feel superior to someone else for whatever reason, despite the fact that we ourselves probably have some other horrid habits that just aren’t relevant to this discussion. We’re not superior, any of us.
The author who appeared in my dream was another in a long line of authors who, at some point in their career, made proclamations from their pulpit about what makes someone a writer, and the whole “you’re just making excuses” if you for any reason do not write every day while saying you want to write. Some days? I’m trapped in an MRI machine for a couple hours, but apparently I should find a way to write while in the waiting room. Sometimes, my hands don’t work, but I guess I’m supposed to invest in speech-recognition software or else it’s just another excuse. Bullshit.
I give props to commercial authorship, to producing books for a market that demands them. But I think there is still room for people who take their time crafting something beautiful and artful. If it isn’t on the NYT Bestseller list, who the fuck cares? Make good art. It can still be secondary that there is some humongous audience for it. There is room for this. So what if only a few lone hikers passing through the woods are the ones who find your little cabin. If what you have to say is beautiful, meaningful, insightful, I believe that is worthwhile too.
*-The name of this author isn’t relevant. And I don’t read them anymore, now that I’ve stepped back and come to understand their formula of posting something political whenever their stats are down, just to build page views, while crowing about being an ally to the marginalized. Or being contrite about their privilege as a means to show how concerned about the marginalized they are, which only gets attention because they are privileged. And the marginalized continue to feed this person’s admitted ego.