This isn’t the end
I can’t do this anymore.
I meant to post on New Year’s Day.
I wanted to post about my “Better Than Monday” Facebook group, because helping people become their best selves matters to me, and I don’t want people to wait for some phantom day in the future.
I wanted to post a lot when I released Jesus Freaks II: The Prodigal.
I have posted about my spiritual struggles as of late, and most recently I wanted to post an update on that.
I wanted to make a blog post every day of this year, because I knew that’s what I’d “have” to do in order to stand a shot at continuing to have my writing be noticed.
But I couldn’t.
My spiritual condition lately, I reasoned, was to blame. God and I haven’t been on speaking terms; which is to say I’ve been pouting in the corner while refusing to deal with life on life’s terms.
“I’m busy,” I’d say. “Four kids in the house who are all in activities, a household to run, and a relationship to nurture …”
Still, no blog post.
I picked a word for this year. A word around which 2015 is supposed to revolve. I meant to post a blog about that, too.
The word is: Simplicity.
Perhaps in some form of irony from my Higher Power, I made the most simplistic blog post about it of all by not posting anything.
I haven’t been writing as much in the last couple of weeks because of my new part time job, because of the kids’ schedules, because of my—you guessed it—spiritual condition. Because, because, because …
Today I did the most non-author thing in the world, but the most Andrea thing in the world and I reached out to a dear friend through a phone call. She’s a writer, too, you see, and while I didn’t call her to talk about writing, that’s inevitably where our conversation ended up. Because it’s hard to tell where we end and words begin. We met through our words, we’ve cried over our lives, and we’re joined together forever because we look at life differently than most anyone else we know.
We’re artists. It’s both our deepest joy and heaviest cross to bear to be so connected to the world around us that a simple sideways smile, or a child’s laughter explodes in our brain as a ninety-thousand word novel within seconds. The way a painter might see a forest and think, “I need to paint this,” my friend and I see life and think, “I have to write this.”
As we talked, our conversation shifted from family and friends to business. There was this blog post, she told me, that really spoke to her. While she instructed me to read it on my own when I had a chance, she gave me the gist. I did eventually read it, and you can find it here.
Between this simple twenty-five minute conversation with my friend, and a single blog post by someone I’ve never read, it finally clicked.
I haven’t been pushing my writing further and further to the side because I’m busy. I haven’t spent (slightly) less time on the Internet because I’m too saddled driving from activity to activity or cleaning my house or working my part-time job.
What the blog post and parallel conversation with my dear friend illuminated for me is this: Publishing the way I have been is drowning my soul.
My spiritual condition hasn’t ever been separate from my writing. A writer separate from their soul isn’t a writer at all. They’re simply a type hammer slapping ink against paper. Mechanically. Not even maddeningly because they have no pool of emotions from which to pull madness, anger, grief, or insanity. All fine ingredients for a delicious writing life.
You see, growing up I thought myself an extrovert by virtue of the fact that I didn’t particularly mind attention, had a lot of great friends, and enjoyed socializing. I had friends who were clear introverts, and I always seemed to provide social lubricant enough for them to join me on whatever outings we found ourselves. I always had a quiet, introspective and quite broody side of myself that I let out in writing poetry.
Rarely did anyone, or has anyone to this day, ever see my poetry. It was my way of working things out in my own way, own time, and in my own privacy. Writing allowed me the space to nurture the timid introvert inside me, so I would be prepared to take on the world with a smile and a laugh the next day. I could count on writing to give me the privacy I could never really pin down that I needed.
As I’ve grown older and settled into myself more as a human being, a woman, and—gasp—an adult, I’ve become more introverted, for lack of a better term. I still really enjoy being around people, but I do less of the talking now than I used to. My writing self, as I like to call it, has taken over more, and I find myself observing, studying, and investigating the inner workings of the people and conversations around me. Sure, sometimes it’s for the selfish reason of wanting to hammer everything around me into my art. Yes, I might take the way you bite the edges of your fingers and put that into a character. And I’ll most definitely take the most ridiculous thing you say and have my favorite character say it. Or a villain, depending on what mood our interaction left me in.
But it’s more than all of that that’s causing me to circle inward. It’s that the one place that always allowed, and even required, me to be an introvert—my writing—has sold its own soul to the circus.
Write. Market. Promote. Interact. Sign. Smile. Write. Advertise. Market. Market. Market.
My solstice, my happy place, my art has given me a great opportunity by allowing me to support my family financially for quite sometime. Hardly anyone can say that. Statistically speaking, basically no one makes money off art. Especially their own. But I’ve had the glorious opportunity to defy those odds for the last couple of years.
But, art isn’t free from capitalism. Art, in the form of making money, is subject to supply and demand just like everything else. And while I was able to coast along on my art alone for a long time—that’s no longer an option.
What’s required of me, an artist, now, is so much bigger than my art. What’s required of me now as an independent publisher of my books is that I turn into someone who I don’t want to be if I want to keep playing the same game.
One option, outside of this, is to retreat to my study for years and slave away at query letters and subject myself to live the rest of my life as a series of rejection letters strung together. In a way that only the authors who read this will understand, that does sound rather romantic.
But, if I want to stay in the game I’m currently playing, I’m required to be on from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. I’m required to integrate my Pinterest boards with my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tsu accounts, and Hootsuite them all together so I never miss a person, am always available, and most importantly, always visible.
If I want to say in this “Indie” game, I’ll be forced—as I’ve watched others around me do—to be overly nice, and even butt-kissy to those who I don’t particularly care for because they might be able to “do something” for me. Introduce me to their agent, editor, friend of a friend, a blogger, a reader with recommendations made of gold, whatever. It’s not that I don’t want to be nice to people. In general, I think we could all stand to be a bit nicer to each other. It’s that I’ll have to throw a parade for those who I want to be like, and chose to spend less and less time and energy on those who can’t help my career in some way.
This has already happened to me in ways too personal and painful to mention.
I used to think I had a problem with envy. I do in some areas, but I’m finding that with publishing there is some envy and a lot of discomfort.
When my happy place, my place that allows me to explore pieces of me that no one else gets to see, turns into a pretentious art-filled example of corporate America, I don’t want any part of it.
I don’t want to compete. I don’t want to get ahead or make a list or have the most likes, fans, swag, or page hits.
Not everyone I know that has success in this business has gone this route. I won’t even name the exceptions, because I know I’ll forget someone and I don’t want them guilty by disassociation. This is just a trend in general. A turning tide in a business model that’s changing by the second.
But, I don’t want this to be my business.
I want to write. I want to write art. I want to write art well.
My focus word for 2015, as I mentioned earlier, is simplicity, and that’s something I can apply to my art.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing or publishing—forget that business. If I ever stop writing, someone better swing by and hold a mirror under my nose to check for fog.
What this means is I’m going to have less opinions. I won’t worry myself with what everyone else is doing to get noticed, to get ahead, to get big, because that’s simply not my focus anymore.
I’m going to surround myself with the people who live and breathe art. Who take to their keyboards they way another artist carefully dips their paintbrush into just the right color, and moves it across the paper in just the right way.
I’m going to focus on the relationships with my children and sort of-almost stepdaughter. I’m going to nurture the hell out of my relationship with my amazing partner, who is also a writer, and who won’t read this post until sometime tomorrow because he’s sleeping deeply next to me right at this moment.
I’m going to focus on my new part-time job at that fancy retail store at the mall, focus some time on building my BeachBody coaching business so I can help people achieve their best healthy selves.
I’m going to focus on the life that sustains my ability and need to write.
Most importantly of all, in my quest for simplicity in my life this year, I’m going to nurture my inner introvert. The one that’s been shoved, duct-taped mouth and all, into a closet for the past two years. The one who needs to breathe, and cuddle in bed with blankets over her head.
Because, as the blog post that spurred this rambling monologue from me reminds us—growth happens in the silent moments of our lives. “Without silence, there would be no reflection, and without reflection, no opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak, and without the movement of the Spirit on the waters, there would be no world.”
I wrote this book once, and it’s still my best selling book of all eleven titles I’ve authored. In it the main character says, “In the stillness of the moment, I can hear …”
I’m going to cuddle with my spirit for a while. I’m going to write over, under, and through my spiritual condition by continuing the Jesus Freaks series. I’m going to interact with those of you who hang out in my Internet happy places.
But, most importantly, I’m going to spend this year honoring my art.
This won’t make me popular. This won’t make me new friends. But, as I’ve mentioned several times before—I’m no good at being popular.
I never was.
And, you know what? That’s okay. Because I don’t have to be popular to be able to go to bed with integrity and wake up with hope. But I do have to be true to myself.
The only art worth viewing is one that comes from a place of passion, vulnerability, and love. The positives and negatives of each of those things causes something to stir within each and every one of us.
2015 for me will be about the simplicity I so deeply crave.
And I will write from the place that’s always held me close and kept me safe.
I will find my stillness.
And I will be amazed.
Photo Credit: Ashpooh