A few weeks ago, when I thought about writing a month-long series that would limit my stories, I identified three areas of interest. Love life, friendship, career. For me, this series was an opportunity to dig deep. What stories have I told myself? How have those stories affected my ability to interact with the world?
If you’ve been reading my column for a while, you know that stories are my life. Even when I had a master’s degree in mental health counseling, I always identified myself as a writer. , there was no doubt that I was meant to tell a story.
I graduated in 2020 with many dreams. Confident that I would be successful, I threw myself into the process of obtaining a copyright agent without a second thought. I spent months rewriting my first novel, The Decaying Crescent, hoping that my hard work would pay off.
I’ve written before about my decision to shelve – a fancy publishing term that essentially amounts to giving up a written work – “the waning crescent”. It was easier than I thought, probably because I was unconsciously prepared for failure. My confidence did not deny statistics.
The traditional publishing industry is a highly competitive industry and difficult to enter, especially for marginalized authors.
I spent six months in the research trenches, submitting manuscripts to agents in the hope that one of them would give me a chance. Some people were interested. Most were not. By the time I put “Winning Crescent” to rest, I had learned a lot about writing feature fiction. I quickly identified what was “wrong” with the book (especially plot errors).
Of course, that didn’t stop me from jumping headfirst into a new project. By the time 2022 rolled around, we were gearing up for the next revision with the goal of running queries by early fall.
2022 was an unexpected year. From personal heartbreak to professional crises that sapped all my motivation, I found myself incapable of everything.
I didn’t want to write
I didn’t want to do anything.
I got stuck. And it was all because of the limited story.
Part of it was shelving “The Decaying Crescent”. I wasn’t just burying something that meant a lot to me for a long time. I was filling a part of myself, a part that I dreamed of publishing a trilogy about God, girls, and the end of the world. It was a story I began telling myself over the years.
A story of hardship.
Being told “no” because people don’t want to read books about girls in wheelchairs, because clips don’t sell.
I had no intention of absorbing this negativity. It happened by chance. But it was only a matter of time before it began to affect my creative life.
What’s more, what was the point of trying in the first place?
The problem with limiting stories is that the very act of labeling them can lead to gaslighting.
Many writers have criticized the publishing industry for underestimating authors who write about their lived experiences. I am in solidarity with each and every one of them. It’s time to take a hard look at the stories that the industry, and the consumers that run it, deemed “worthy.”
But the fact remains that I needed to confront them in order to move forward beyond my self-fulfilling prophecies.
‘I will face difficulties as a marginalized author’ went from ‘will never be published’ to ‘my dream is unlikely to come true because the publishing industry is against me’ .
Of course I didn’t want to write. With a voice like that in your head, who does?
I’m blessed with writing groups that call me out of inertia. They believe in my ability to succeed and in doing so they encourage me to keep trying. The obstacles remain, but I find it easier to ignore the voices in my head when I focus my attention on the people around me.
This year, I let my loved ones drown out the voices that silence me.
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