Ever been to a writer’s conference or a Comi-Con? Both kinds of conventions have something in common: Lots of people who wish they were someone else. The exhibitionist dresses as Poison Ivy (and has very close friends willing to paint her ass green.) The twenty-something is dressed up as a sad Autobot made of cardboard. The writer wants to be an author. Of these three examples, it’s the writer who can do something more concrete and lasting about his or her ambition.
I feel self-conscious, uncomfortable and sometimes a little claustrophobic at these events. Mainly, I’m acutely aware of the Us and Them aspect of the relationship. The “celebrities” are over there, with security, publicists, handlers and an aura of wary separation. We “wannabes” and fans are in the pit, reaching up, grasping at the edges of dark holes, daring to touch the light in search of heat.
We yearn. We have not attained.
As writers, we want recognition of our work. We want privileges and respect, too. That power is illusory, sure. Knowing intellectually how fleeting and useless it is doesn’t make that goal any less tantalizing. As powerless as writers are in so many ways, the indie author feels his or her potential most. That’s the power of seething delusion transmuted into hope by our next great idea for a book. Art seduces its creator first. Indie authors have few barriers to publication and little time to wait. All that kinetic potential can make you high. Unrealized potential can make you angry.
It’s not jealousy that gives me this grim face. My annoyance is at myself. I’m bothered that I didn’t plan out my life in such a way that I am who and where I want to be. I’m not a “wannabe.” I’m a “shouldabeenbynow”. I want to be comfortable being me. I don’t want to stand on the outside of that metaphorical velvet rope, wishing I were someone suffering the problems that success brings. I want it all and, as Queen sang, I want it now.
Someone will tell me I should be happy with who I am. Bullshit. From where, then, would my ambition come? Needing to escape makes me try. I yearn for that addictive, dopamine-fueled floating sensation that comes with the composition of new life. I long for happy readers extolling me for aping God. Sharing entertaining stories with huge numbers of readers gives me stamina for the late night attack on that difficult, late middle in my manuscript. Greed and ego give me patience for solving seemingly endless formatting problems.
Let’s be clear: Wanting things is not the path to enlightenment. That’s okay. I’m not on the path to enlightenment. I’m on the path to publication.
Some people say greed and ego and recognition are unworthy stimulants to propel you on your course. I say, take your motivation where you find it and go forward, self-aware and honest. Clearly, I’m not in the spirit of these events. I’ll go to these things again when the organizers ask me to sit on a panel. I’ll enjoy it much more when there’s someone excited to speak with me, not the other way around.
Meanwhile, my place is at the keyboard
dreaming up the lies
that make me who I am supposed to be.