Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Are Paper Tigers Full of Weird

With great talent comes great weirdness.

People like to imagine that weirdness is all manic pixie dream girl nonsense, or playing the banjo at two in the morning, or having an extensive collection of Transformers in your basement lined up so that they appear to be engaging in a combined car wreck/orgy.

But sometimes “weird” looks a lot more like “broken,” and it’s a kind of broken that you are confident that 0 percent of other people ever go through. The kind that makes you walk away from your art, your admirers, and your life and huddle in a corner and cry. Creation takes a certain amount of weirdness, but the same wild energy that creates fine steel from ore can dump a toxic slag into our lives. You wield strange forces when you populate your head with visitors who pull on your time, your attention, and maybe even your temper.

So above all else, this rule to writing must apply: Be good to one another.

I’m a guilty little shit when it comes to this. I try to make apologies when my big ogre fists pop some novice writer on the nose for no good reason, and I freely confess, I love a good fight now and then. But when it comes to someone else’s art? Be good to them. Encourage and do not destroy.

In the indie writing community, this rule applies times one thousand. We ought to all get secret writer tattoos on our asses together: “Be good to one another.” Because, let’s face it, what separates the indie artist community from top shelf sellers is that the top shelfers seem to have it locked down (more or less).

Consistent sellers are selected for their consistency and hard work that spans years and years, which is what it takes to crack the business and to stay in it. Or so I’m told. But for the indie guys? We are selected for the reverse. We are the quirky moon howlers and the ten-years-to-write-it obsessives and we ought to all be careful about following the advice of Stephen King too closely because, shit, that guy has it together in ways we never will.*

The truth is, we lack a crucial ingredient that makes for the sure-fire best seller, and for a lot of us, that ingredient is consistency. Or, well, sanity. Our Weird might make us wilt into a ball of compressed terror at the notion of a deadline; or it might leave our skin thin like sieves so that trolls can suck the blood out with a kiss; or maybe our lives are just a wreck of unpaid bills and overdue projects that overflow a wireframe waste paper basket until we live under its shadow.

Whatever the case, we are paper tigers. There is talent and potential here, but we break so, so easily.

So. Find your closest indie author friends and defend them, nourish them, love them for what they can do—and soak it up in return. Because who else will?

*Except for the part about not becoming addicts. Listen to him on that. For serious, be quirky, but don’t wreck the organ in your skull that makes the light and the thunder happen.

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