I hate Christmas because it’s eye-twitchingly expensive. Mostly we spend it in the car or feeling bloated from greed. I don’t eat meat and honestly, I don’t really drink either, so the prospect of Christmas does not fill me with fluffy tinsel covered unicorns of joy. When I think of Christmas I think of the Grinch and smirk.
But Halloween, I don’t just like, I love it. And not for its real purpose of remembering the dead, or its meaningful roots derived from Irish mythology and Christianity, but because it’s filled with the weird and wonderful.
Halloween is the one time of the year when judgement stops and everyone is free. Ugly masks and unusual make up suddenly become acceptable, celebrated even. Fancy dress is no longer an oddity served with a raised bushy eyebrow, it’s compulsory.
Halloween has never been scary to me, but the writing business is and so is the publishing industry. 2017 is nearly upon us, and that means, that by hook or amputated butt cheek, I will be publishing next year.
So in a salute to Halloween, here’s 6 things I find terrifying about writing and the publishing industry
Right, I’m going to get the philosophical bullshit out the way first. I swear I wasn’t high when I wrote the first one…
Terrifying Thing 1 – The Truest Shit You Ever Did Write
There are few things in life that are as beautiful as slowly dragging a ‘pen-knife’ across your fingers and watching as the blood flows and you bleed art onto the page. Writing… nay, creating, is as savage on our minds as it is heavenly when we breathe life into characters. If there is a god then we are his art, his beautifully flawed characters that stain the pure white page of heaven. It is only after the brutality of beating draft after draft after draft into a smoothly polished sculpture that our art is finally finished.
And that’s when it’s terrifying, because like any good piece of art, there is a fundamental truth buried somewhere inside it waiting for us to unwrap it and bask in its glorious life-changing book hangover. Not everyone sees ‘a truth’ every painting or book, because beauty really does lie in the eye of the beholder.
But there is something even more spectacular about those that do see it… They don’t all see the same truth. Find the right story, character or author and it’s like the writer wrapped up a tiny gift. A life changing epiphany, customised to prod the perfect cell in your mind so it changes you and you’re never quite the same again.
It’s the rarest most raw form of power, and it’s what writers can do. We farm power, cultivate it over 80,000 words to just the right boiling point and then we fucking unleash the beast and if it’s lucky enough and sniffs out the right person, it will change a little piece of them, forever.
I’ve had it done to me so many times, it’s breath-taking, mind-blowing and terrifying. What if one day, I could be good enough create something that does that to someone?
Terrifying Thing 2 – Fuck Scouts Honour, This Contract Is Written In Blood & It Smells Distinctly Like Mine!
When I first opened my laptop years ago and decided I had to write, everything changed.
It was like I was an x-men mutant and my mutation just kicked in. Shit got real, real fucking fast. I don’t know when I used my soul’s blood to sign a contract with myself, but I sure as shit did. And on that contract was an oath, to honour my dreams, to honour the most fundamental part of me. A part so fragile, that if I turned my back on it, even for a second and didn’t follow it to the ends of the earth, feed it, care for it and nurture it like a newborn, then it would perish until it drew its last breath and went to Neverland, and took a piece of me with it.
I cannot let myself down, If there’s only one promise I keep my entire life, then it has to be this one. It has to be the one that leads me to happiness and my days filled with creating.
I already threatened to cut my butt cheeks off once today and I bloody meant it. If I have to stitch my gluteus maximus to the chair using nothing but unicorn mane as thread and a blunt fork tip, I fucking will.
And that scares the shit out of me, because isn’t everyone scared of being the person they say they will?
What if you do it, you do the thing you say you will and…
Terrifying Thing 3 – You Fail… But Even Scarier, What If You Succeed…
I don’t know what’s more scary. Succeeding or failing? Elizabeth Gilbert, in one of her Ted Talks, discusses success and the fact she (realistically) is looking at the rest of her career, with her best work behind her. That is terrifying. We all continue to grow and develop the more years we spend writing, but what about her? Is that it for her?
That kind of success is the rarest diamond of all. You have to be one in a billion to do it. I don’t aspire to that, I want is to sell enough books to replace my salary so I can quit work and write all day. But in this market, even that is impossibly hard. What if I can’t do it? That scares the shit out of me, not enough to not try, but enough I’d consider selling body parts for camel spit and superman’s groin-sweat covered underpants if it meant I achieve my goal.
Terrifying Thing 4 – And Then You Write ‘THE END’ And Have To Actually Press Publish
I am lagging behind most readers in that I STILL haven’t lost my publishing V plates. Much to my horror and disgust, that makes me a 30-year-old virgin. NO one wants to be a 30-year-old virgin FFS.
But at some point in the spring (It frigging wants to be the spring, because otherwise I swear to pen heaven my eyes will bulge until they explode and smear my Mac screen with eye gloop)… Where was I? Oh yeah, in the spring, I will sit, very fucking quietly, with a triple scotch on the rocks, hands shaking like an earthquake and press the big fat fucking red button publish button of doom and sphincter spasming.
Judgement day is coming bitches, and I am fucking two parts terrified to three parts pure hysterical excitement.
Terrifying Thing 5 – Judgement Day Bitches & It’s Full of Fucking Shrugs
On a good day I am Marmite, on a bad day just bite. But I know I won’t please everyone, hell, M might be proud of me, but she sure as shitbombs ain’t chuffed with the language I used to get here.
I will offend some, surprise some but I hope I at least half please the rest. I rue the day the first 1* review comes in because you’re not really an author until you get one, and if you hadn’t already guessed, I really wana be a fucking author. Judgement day is coming and it’s as scary as it is exciting.
Sure I’ll get some 1*’s but don’t we all. But I’d rather provoke an extreme 1* reaction than I would have someone shrug their shoulders with indifference. Oh god, indifference is terrifying. But worse, once you press publish, you have to pick up the proverbial pen and do it all over again, that’s super exciting, but it’s also the teensiest bit scary!
Terrifying Thing 6 – Change is Changing
I wrote about the author earnings report recently in my October newsletter. It reported a 10% market share loss on the part of Indie authors for the first time in two and a half years… our reign might have finally come to an end, and no one knows why…
Joanna Penn said it recently: the only thing that’s constant in the publishing industry is change.
I love change, it’s actually what I do in my day job, much as I hate the job, I do actually love change. There’s nothing better than analysing a problem or process, spotting inefficiencies, tearing it to shreds and rebuilding it bigger and better. Perhaps that’s why I like writing books, because you tear it to pieces so many times?
It’s not really change that I find scary, it’s the principle behind change that I find terrifying. Change leads to…well, change. And changes induces a form of fight or flight. Like ol’ Darwers said, only the fittest survive. If you can’t adapt to change, if you can’t keep iterating, moulding, shaping, understanding and learning, then quite frankly you’re fucked into the Cretaceous period. Change does not scare me, the consequences of not adapting do. I do not want to be an extinct author.
What do you find terrifying about the book business, publishing or writing? Let me know in the comments below.
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