I don’t often reveal much of my personal life. Please don’t be offended by this, I was raised to believe that showing any of your vulnerable underbelly was a weakness should be avoided at all costs. My family taught me that I had nothing of value to say and that none of my emotions were valid.
Perhaps this is why I ensconced myself in books. In their worlds I got to see what it was to have a parent who asked a child about their day or hugged them, something that I didn’t get at home. Fiction was a safe place where anything could happen because it was pure fantasy.
As embarrassing as this is to admit, it’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve realised some people out there do reveal themselves to others. Sadly, I have been conditioned for three decades and so my learned behaviours are fully engrained; opening myself to anyone in person won’t be happening any time soon.
Please don’t feel sorry for me, or laugh, at how pathetic my upbringing was. My father left when I was a child and I lived in a cold environment with my mother where feelings, or discussions of them, were bothersome. You do what needs to be done and that’s it. You get up in the morning, go to work, eat and sleep – that’s about it. There is nothing more to life. At least that’s what I spent my childhood believing.
All of my pitiful ramblings above are the prelude to how I feel this evening, which is why I am chattering. Sometimes I do feel alone. Being estranged from my parents was nothing in my youth when I had a million friends (rather superficial acquaintances) and a frantic social life. But I don’t have that mask disguising the truth anymore.
As luck would have it – or not – when I did find a man to settle down with it turned out that man was an abusive alcoholic who thought only of himself and not of me or our child. Eventually I freed myself from him and now I have a lot to be proud of in my life. My son is smart and beautiful and keeps me going every day. I built a business that I run from home so that I can be there for my son when I need to be and never miss a school show – even if it means working until the early hours when he is asleep.
Writing has been in my life since I was a child, as I said before it offered me an escape and let me explore the emotions I felt but was not allowed to express. But it was my grandmother’s death that prompted me to publish. The woman was a tower of strength, the most incredible person that I have ever known, and one who would give her last to those in need. I’ll admit that she was from a different generation and wasn’t exactly the tactile, warm and fuzzy type, but she cared for my sister and me in a way that no one else ever did and she never made us feel like a burden.
Through the years I have loved and lost in relationships of the romantic and platonic variety. I’ve stood up in courts to defend what is right, even when it broke my heart. What family I did have left I lost when I defended my niece and nephew against the only sister I have, in order to prevent them being subjected to her abuse.
I’ve proved to myself that I have integrity and I have proved that I can, and will, work hard and do what it takes to care for the children whom I love so much. I imagine sometimes that my grandmother watches over them, as she watched over us, and that I have to do for her what she no longer can, because she is not on this earth with us anymore.
But it’s hard, oh god, it’s hard. Tonight I’m feeling blue, as you may have guessed. Having struggled all of my life with depression and anxiety issues I recognise that this will pass, sometimes life slaps you down just to remind you of the strength it takes to stand back up.
Why do I bother? No one in my real life knows that I publish. I was taught to never expose my emotions or inner thoughts, and there isn’t a place more personal or revealing than the words I put onto paper. No one would understand. If they read and saw just what went on within me I’d never be able to look them in the eye again. I’d be embarrassed and ashamed, not because of the explicit content of my novels, but because then they would know that I feel.
But when no one in your real life knows that you publish and you have no one to share your frustrations and triumphs with online either the whole experience becomes so isolating. There’s no one there to say, “Wow, look what you did…” Only writers know how many hours (see months and years) it takes to hone your craft enough to publish. Only writers know how invested we become in our characters and their worlds, and how much of yourself you pour into them.
Spending all of that time writing is one thing. But to publish is a whole other ballgame. You have to learn how to make covers, write your own blurbs, and fill out acknowledgements. Believe it or not, those are the fun parts. Learning the ins and outs of formatting was fun (not) and each platform has its own rules, so getting the hang of KDP means nothing when you head over to Smashwords.
KDP, there’s a laugh. You think you know what that’s about? No one does. And they keep moving the goal posts. Should you give Amazon exclusivity and enter KDP Select? What the hell is KDP Select? Right, ok, so I can’t publish elsewhere and they let me choose promotions from either free days or Kindle Countdown Deals… wait, what? What the hell is Kindle Countdown and do I want it? Ok, pick your dates and how many increments, and fill out all the—pop-up box, “Your book must have been…” and there’s a list, the same price for thirty days, and then you can’t change the price for two weeks after it’s done and… forget it, let’s go with the free days.
I could write a novel on my experience of self-publishing alone. I can’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent reading blogs and Googling terms I’ve never heard of before in my life.
Learning how to publish is a steep curve, but the promotion racket is worse! Then you have to build a website, make teasers and banners, and adverts. You have to run all your own social media, even when you know no one, and have no clue what you’re doing. You sign up for everything that’s going, and never use half of it again, but you sign up anyway.
After all those hours writing the book, formatting and publishing the book, then promoting (making a nuisance of yourself everywhere) the book – all the while wearing your cheery, plastic smile – you look up and realise… it all means absolutely nothing and has gotten you nowhere.
The truth is, the world is too big. It doesn’t matter if you write the best novel in the universe, if you can’t get it out there then no one will ever see it. For the girl who was taught that every time she opened her mouth and uttered a word she was an irritation, it’s very difficult. I am proud that I’ve worked hard and learned so much. I am a grown woman. So why do I still feel that I should apologise for existing?
“This too in time shall pass…”
“Ours is not to wonder why…”
The clichés mount up until you find yourself sitting in the dark at four in the morning wondering why on earth you bother. No one can take writing away from me, but why do I work so hard to do the best I can? I can’t answer that.
I’m a strong person, but I’m not a social person, I’m an observer. I was sent here to watch the world, not to participate in it. I love to watch and to wonder. The trouble is, I’ve spent so many years learning to be invisible that now I’m in a situation where I want to be seen, I don’t have the first clue how to do it.
Anyway, sorry for taking up your time. I’m sure that most won’t get this far in my blether and I’m sure that I’ll be embarrassed tomorrow for writing this. But getting it out there, freeing these words, somehow makes me feel less alone. So thank you, it might be feeble and pathetic, but gratitude is all that I have left.
Good luck on your adventures,