“Is that the moon, or just a light that lights this deadend street?” – Metallica, The House That Jack Built
I have been struggling of late to get some bearings. I feel like a lot of us have, for many reasons. The easiest reason is the 2016 Election. I think many people in this country are shocked by the turn that has taken place and are surprised to learn about our neighbors what we have. It makes sense that many of us are wondering just where to go to next, and how.
But there’s more to it than that, at least for me. I’ve been struggling for a while now, trying to get some real idea of where I am going and where my writing is going. I get some real steam on a project (like the my oft-restarted serials), only for the ground to get yanked out from underneath me. Plug on and keep writing, I know, but I’m trying to get a lay of the land, as it were.
See, I’ve been in print (off and on) for almost twenty years. In that time, it’s been very clear that the literary industry just isn’t that, well, industrious. Not that much actually seems to go on. The business side of writing – publishing – seems largely self-justifying. Books are written to afford the ability to write more books. Cool, great, but I feel unsatisfied with that answer. I want my writing to be working towards something.
Sometime in the 2010s, I hooked onto the notion that the literary industry as it exists today is mostly a testing ground for other media. The most successful books (read: highest grossing) get optioned for movies or television series. Cool, great, but that didn’t work out for me. My Kickstarter campaign didn’t succeed and not by a hair, either. I’ve evaluated it and spotted a few places I could have done more, a few spots I could improve, but the ultimate takeaway from my evaluation was that wasn’t going to happen.
But more than that, I’m not sure I like the idea of working so long and hard in literature, just to have it immediately sold into a new medium. Is the publishing industry nothing but the minor leagues for the film industry? Sometimes I feel that way and that makes me really sad.
With the recent-ish shakeup at MAGFest, there’s been more than a little speculation that I may not be returning to MAGFest this year. This has thrown my professional calendar into a tailspin because I had slated not only several books for release at MAGFest 2020, but I had a boatload of other surprises. If I am not in attendance as a guest, that would throw a damper on them, to put it mildly.
This has had the wider effect of chilling my entire convention attendance. I don’t have anything slated, nor am I working towards any appearances. This has had a devastating effect on my book sales and my readership on all platforms. My convention speaking career may very well be over. And yet, I’m not entirely heartbroken about that.
Conventions were a lot of work. They were a lot of stress. They were a lot of expense. While I miss speaking and I miss interacting with the attendees, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also enjoy having weekends again. There’s a weight that feels lifted, knowing I don’t have research to do or visuals to collect.
Going back to my thesis, about trying to find some bearings, I don’t feel any closer to having any idea what to do. I don’t know where to go professionally, or even an idea as to what direction to move towards. But on top of that, I’m finding fewer directions pulling me, calling to me.
I don’t know if this is Depression, or enlightenment? Have I stumbled into my mid-life crisis (I am 38, after all) or am I beginning to see through all the shenanigans and charlotry? I’ve talked periodically about liking being a writer but not enjoying being an author (the professional side of writing). Perhaps, through my own unconscious actions and the fickle fate of the universe, I find myself bereft of professional obligations and inputs. Perhaps that leaves the writer alone and free to pursue his craft? Or am I reduced to little more than a fanfiction writer? Is there a difference?
If the goal isn’t money or acclaim or transmutation to a new artistic medium, just what is the purpose of my writing? Where is my writing going?
What started out as an exploration of uncertainty has become a call to adventure. Where IS my writing going?
Let’s find out.
Good talk, y’all.