Writing is an art form and like all works of art – is deeply personal and not for the faint of heart.
Those who write books, regardless of genre, usually find themselves hearing certain things once their first book is released. Often, they are on an emotional high for having accomplished such an enormous task. They are inundated with new and other authors in the same genre wanting to be friends on social media, fans, they start networking through different book review sites, they are introduced to the headache of campaigning and marketing to ‘get their work out there’, etc.
Most writers that I’ve met are introverts. They’re watchers, observers of human behavior. They are the wallflowers at a party. They are the ones who may not be able to stay in a crowd for very long before their social batteries wear out, myself included.
So once we lie to ourselves and type “The End” on our manuscripts – it’s usually a couple of weeks before the quietness of our lives are suddenly interrupted with everything that comes along with writing.
Those who befriend us – when they hear we’ve written a book – often say bullshit like, “I could do it. I could write a book when I have the time.” Blah blah blah – yeah, okay. Let me know when you’re finished pumpkin. We all know these people. And their words often begin to bring us off that high of finishing something.
But they’re not the only ones.
The market, publishers, sales or the lack thereof, editors, and other artists – can suck the marrow of creativity out of your bones faster than anything. In short – the joy of writing has a counter balance and that is in the sheer misery of post production sharing of your work.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been recovering from a string of just shitty circumstances and shitty people that makes the idea of opening up a word document an act of sheer insanity.
It was a culmination of people that made me doubt myself and who I am as a person. See, I identify as a writer. Writers write. And I often identified as a m/m author or gay fiction author.
I’ve been published several times over, I’ve received glowing reviews, and while I may not be the lead story in gay fiction – story wise – this dude can hold his own.
And I’ve always been okay with that. I’m not the most famous name out there. I don’t make much in the way of money, but I’ve always been okay with catching four and five star reviews from people who love my work using that to justify the idea of writing as a career.
I love the idea of touching people’s lives with my work.
However, the past couple of weeks have made something VERY clear to me. Genre specific writing, especially in m/m – sucks. Having to create a world based upon arbitrary rules that surround romance is so destructive of creativity. I mean, how many times can you tell the same fucking story?
Man meets man, man loses man, man gets cute man back?
I totally get why Prince (God rest his Purple Soul) turned himself into a symbol.
The book industry blows chunks because its a fucking machine that devours.
It takes a writer, an introvert, and throws them into the spin cycle of frantically trying to navigate the egg shell laden floor of having to deal with everything that comes after writing “The End” in a book.
No one wants to fucking do this. At all.
It’s a place no one wants to be because post production can be nice to you one minute – it can turn on you and since you invest so much of yourself in the work – can rip you to shreds.
You end up feeling like a slave and the industry feels like a master with a bad temper. And in m/m romance that machine is bloated in identity politics and ambitious authors who dance on other people’s misery be they other authors or the subject matter they write about. In the midst of all this – gay voices are being drowned out in favor of mass production of the same novel repeated for the millionth time – because that’s what is setting the market and publishers go in that direction because – well – capitalism. Add in the stupid and often insipid drama kicked up by someone who is a D list celebrity (more like Z list) – fuck me with a cactus, batman. No thanks.
Telling an author “This action by your character wouldn’t endear them to the reader,” as a reason why the book won’t be contracted and sold without a rewrite, is garbage. It’s like “So what? There’s a moment of actual humanity?”
Erasure of gay people’s range of experiences , even the bad ones, robs them of equality and robs the reader of learning something more than gay people have sex and fall in love.
There is more to us than that. Far more. And having to remind people of that – is too exhausting for words.
Also one shitty, bitter, and angry editor who tells you ‘you have no ear for writing’ can wipe all the good that has happened in your writing career.
So – after a couple of weeks of trying to pick myself up off the floor – I’m erasing the idea of writing to a genre, to a publisher, and to an audience.
Essentially, I’ve opted to do my own thing. Yeah, I’m bitter.
But I didn’t used to be. Writing used to be fun. It used to be fulfilling. And I think I’ve been wrong headed about all of this.
I am no longer going to ‘going with the flow’ – not that I’ve really been in that mindset anyway.
I am erasing the m/m author, gay fiction author, and even author for awhile.
I’ll be a writer. There’s passion in that. Truth. Realism. And the ability to reach out of the ether and touch people on my terms and in my time. Make real connections.
I am a writer. I know what I can do and what I do, I do well.
So for other authors out there feeling the sting of industrialized book writing. I feel ya.
The only advice I can give you, that I am taking for myself, is Bill Shakespeare’s age old advice, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Fuck everything else.
If you have a creative ability – that is something that can’t be taught. That’s a gift to be cultivated. Avoid everything and everyone that wants to chew through that. You may not get rich but you’ll be happy.