Every few months *cough* every year *cough* I have an epiphany with regards to my writing and I pledge to find a new love for my chosen career path. Generally as another milestone passes and I realize how long it’s been since I published the last book in The Tribe Novels. I promise myself that this is it.. I’m going to work on the series again. I’m going to finish this story line that I love.
And then I don’t. I’ll tell you why.
By the ugliness amongst authors, bloggers and readers. By the pressure that is on authors now to churn out books to an impossibly growing demand. By the urging to follow tropes and market shifts to ensure you write a story that will get you that coveted orange flag. By the constantly changing algorithms, sales platforms, marketing strategies and God knows what else that makes a career as an author unattainable to many.
I’ve forgotten what it is to just write.
I think I know how to start again. And I can only hope that those of you who have stuck with me this far, will stick with me a little longer. I may disappear, to remove myself from all these things that have sucked away my love of writing. But in my absence, please remember, authors are people with families, ailments, commitments and responsibilities away from the keyboard. We have feelings. Life happens. We get bogged down in our own thoughts and insecurities. We are not mass word-making machines.
I’m going to hide in the shadows, dear readers, where the story was all that mattered. Because in the end, it’s the only thing that does. I’ll see you on the other side.
A dear friend of mine stumbled on something recently and it got me thinking about legends and superstitions and whether or not they can survive the age of technology. So much of what I write is based on old legends, stories passed down through the generations of mountain folk trying to come to grips with events that seemed beyond reality’s explanation. These were people who believed in ghosts and demons, God and angels, witchcraft and salvation with equal sincerity. Their beliefs were strong. They are still strong, compounded and handed down by their parents and grandparents through the years with the same fervor in which they’d been created. Belief is a powerful thing, but is it enough to keep legends alive in a time where science and reason reign? I like to believe that it is.
Let me tell you a story, dear reader.
On the other side of the Ohio River, across the bridge from Gallipolis and some 40 miles from the holler as the crow flies, is the mountain town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Known by some as the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War, by others as the site of the 1967 Silver Bridge collapse…and by others still as the home of the Mothman.
The Mothman has been both praised and condemned as either a hero or a demon depending on how you read the legend and events that lead up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge, understood to be a harbinger of catastrophe or an omen of warning. No one knows for sure what its intentions are, or if it even exists. What they do know, is that people have claimed to see it all over the Appalachians.
I had thought that this kind of legend would have died out when everything can be dispelled on the internet as a poorly executed hoax. The Mothman, the Jersey Devil…Bigfoot.. they would all meet a sad fate at the hand of Google search engines.
Or would they?
Just when I thought there was no hope for these myths in a modern age, my friend stumbled on an article that had somehow eluded me. The Mothman had been seen in Chicago. Not in antebellum years. Not in 1934. Not in 1967. In 2018.
In that simple eyewitness report, I found hope for the old stories… for the myths of spirits and cryptids inhabiting land growing barren and industrialized with progress and rising population needs.
I found a reason to keep believing, and maybe, even though the world is changing and the magic is disappearing…maybe legends never die.
I just realized that its been over a year since I was here. Over a year since I had made the announcement that I was thinking of giving up writing. And outside of a few short stories, I haven’t written in even longer than that. That’s embarrassing to admit and shocking to say out loud. No one could have predicted what 2020 would bring. Nor could we have predicted that a year later, we’re still learning this new reality we find ourselves in
But after such a dark year, hope springs eternal. With the last of winter finally starting to ebb away and the sun returning after what seems like a life time, I find myself looking toward my piles of unwritten book ideas…the plot for The River and The Mountain and the new dates for signing events that have been rescheduled with the promise of 2021 being the year we can all get back to our lives as we knew them.
You might have noticed that I’ve redone my website, my branding… ordered some new pretty things as I’ve dipped my toe back into the waters of the Indie world. I miss writing. I miss my worlds. And I miss you all. It’s been too long and I need to stop pretending like I can let it go. I owe myself more than that. I owe you all more than that when you’ve been waiting so long for the next book. I owe my characters to have their stories told when they’ve been shouting at me louder and louder lately.
I’m going to listen. I can’t promise it will happen quickly, but it’s going to happen. These books are going to happen because I have so many things to show you inside the Tribe, so many new worlds and characters you need to see in other worlds that found their way into my head when I was sure there the word well had run dry. I have new stories I need to tell you. And I’ve already been a long time gone.
I’ve been thinking very seriously about quitting writing. There, I said it out loud. No self motivation was working and I’d retired myself without ever actually saying the words. I haven’t published anything since October of 2017 and that weighs on me, but not as much as the things I see in the publishing world have weighed on me since I first dipped my toe in the indie waters as a wee green writer.
I decided to take some time away, to think about what I want and my career goals outside of the influence of an increasingly toxic social media world, inside the writing sphere and outside. I can’t say that I have a plan yet, but I have 12% of a plan and that 12% includes stepping back from social media and the negative effect it has on my motivation, ambition and plans. I’m going to focus on my path forward, far from the madding crowd.
Being a writer used to be a solitary pursuit, an individual driven by their own creativity to create stories that eased their fevered minds. Not for the masses. Not for the lists. Not for awards or market trends. They wrote their story as they needed it to be told and I think the writing industry has come full circle. I’m stepping back not from writing, but from the increasingly rabid and rapidly degrading climate of the indie writing machine.
I’m going to go back to basics.
I’m going to write my stories. My way.
I think I know just how Jimmy Buffet felt when he wrote that song. I came onto the indie publishing world long after it had already reached its peak, when the pioneers were now the role models for success and the market was flooded daily with new authors seeking to make their mark.
I’ve only written two books. One acclaimed by a respectable organization and I’m proud of that. Not exactly the stuff of mark-making, though. To be honest with myself, there are a host of reasons that have kept me from writing any more. Self doubt. A bitterly competitive market. Indie politics (yes, that’s a thing). Real life. It all compounds until your creative inspiration is struggling to breathe, its pulse erratic and thready and you can’t help but wonder when you’ll sit down at your computer to write and instead of the Windows start up tones, you’re greeted with the flat monotone of your muse finally giving up the ghost.
My muse has been on life support since roughly October of 2017.
I’m looking at 40. Hard.
I don’t have a tribe, but I have a few close friends, a tight inner circle who tries to help me find a way to get my muse out of the ICU. Like Stitch’s family, we are little and broken, but still good. They tell me to keep going. Maybe I should listen.
Now that I’ve laid my soul bare, I want to try to get my desire to write breathing again. It’s time for me to charge my defibrillator and get my muse back to the land of the living. I see you, 40, and this is going to be my year. Because while I’m looking at you right now with disappointment and self-judgment, I want to look back at you with a sense of accomplishment and success. I’m going to leave my mark. I’m starting now. Better late than never.
It’s been a long time, Dear Reader, and I see you shiver in antici…
…pation. So do I. Or maybe it’s trepidation. Or frustration. Some kind of -ation, certainly. Time always passes, the seasons running through their cycle, and the speed at which it marches by is staggering, the relentlessness of which I didn’t realize until I reformatted the Tribe Novels for my new branding. I haven’t added to that world since 2016. October of 2016, in fact, and saying that out loud (or typing it, whichever) sank in the pit of my stomach. I started to wonder if I could even call myself a writer anymore. An author, sure. I DID write two books. Pretty damned good ones, I think. But as William Faulkner famously said, “Don’t be a writer, be writing.” I am not writing. I don’t know why. It’s not writer’s block, because my inspiration and muses are legion. In fact, I had another PNR series idea pop up on me last night. What I am lacking is motivation. I WANT to write, but I don’t want to WRITE. I want the stories in my head to magically appear in manuscript form on my laptop. Of course, that’s not how this works.
I am still nearly two months away from my move to Charlotte and the library/office waiting for me there, with it’s promise of inspiration and productivity. I’m afraid that the longer I wait, the further away I’ll get from ever writing again. I can’t let that happen. Not to me. Not to you, my beloved readers, who still email me to find out when I’ll be going back into Wright’s Holler. But in a moment of self-recognition, I remembered that I am part of those hills, the fifth generation born of that rugged part of the Appalachians. If there’s anything us hill folk know, it’s our way back to those forest-covered valleys. If you hear and see less of me in the coming weeks and months, don’t worry. I’ve just found my way home.