While I was completing my master’s degree, one of the exercises that I had to do was to write an educational philosophy- a “why I want to teach”, as it were. I’ll be honest, it was obnoxious. I suppose because one would think that verbalizing why a particular passion, career path, etc. has been chosen would be easy; really, it’s not. In fact, it’s quite daunting trying to put a conviction into words and not have it come out sounding like complete bs or superficial nonsense.
However, like the Oracle in Greek mythology alludes, there is an importance in “knowing thyself”. It’s good to dig around in your own head every now and then, especially when it concerns those areas of your life that consume the most of your time and energy. If you don’t have a clear vision of your passion, how do you expect anyone else to? I decided that, when it came to teaching, the crux of why I wanted to do it was to contribute to a more thoughtful, conscientious, aware society. And, being a former outsider in school myself and having a soft spot for the punks, emos, goths, artists, drama club kids, card-carrying members of the ISS club, and other non- status-quo kids, I wanted to be one of the chosen few teachers in a sea of stereotypical ones who gives everyone a fair shake, who treats the students like fellow human beings. If I ever lose sight of that, it’ll take the piss out of the whole pot and I might as well give it up and move on to something new.
I think it’s high time to turn the looking glass inward again and evaluate why I write, or more specifically, why I write and indie publish. The first is perhaps the easier answer. I’m a daydreamer; daydreams are to me what cigarettes are to chain smokers. When I was little I would obsessively play with my dolls because with them I could act out the stories in my head. My best friend and I, when we were about seven or eight, made up this game where we could enter an imaginary world and be with any celebrity crush we wanted. When I would see a movie I liked I would reinvent another story with that character in it. I’d invent backstories to rock songs I liked, etc. I have so many stories collected in my cerebral hard drive, it’s only natural that they would have pushed their way out eventually.
Sad things draw me in; they always have. I don’t know why. The Last Unicorn with all those unicorns trapped in the sea, Catherine on her Yorkshire moors, Beast dying of love for Beauty. The color black, grey autumn skies, church graveyards in the sunshine, dark forests, Dead Can Dance and Bat For Lashes. There’s a strange comfort in sad things for me. There’s a peace in such beautiful sadness. My writing greatly reflects that. An undercurrent of beautiful, sweet sadness mingled in life’s fabric. That, and my ceaseless, stubborn belief that redemption is always only one good choice away. That it’s never too late to begin again; that even in death there is the promise of new beginning. If I want my readers to glean anything meaningful from my stories, it’s to see the beauty in the ordinary, even in sadness, in people’s fragility, in their wrong choices as well as their right ones. Other writers have given that to me; I hope that my writing will give back.
In regards to why I indie publish, I cite impatience as a primary factor. I don’t want to sit on my stories for months or years on the vague chance that a publisher “might” want to pick it up. I want to put it in readers’ hands now. A fellow indie likened self-publishing to what underground bands have done for decades; writing is just now catching up or catching on. Aside from that sense of urgency and impatience, I like the fact that indie writing gives me control over the book covers, the blurbs, etc. I’ve always wondered how authors can stand it if they hate the way that their works are packaged, especially if it’s the polar opposite of their vision. Indie publishing makes every novel truly the author’s work. Plus it’s fun to do all that stuff; it’s a unique creative expression to create the cover art as well as the words.
Lastly (and this is where I’ll get really honest), I like self- publishing because I’ve never been good at “playing the game”. When I was younger, everyone in my family thought I would make a career of music. But I couldn’t stand all the emphasis on perfection, the auditions, all of the bull. I couldn’t see myself having the conviction to spend years pining away, working odd jobs, touring, on the slim chance that I might achieve what the masses consider “success”. I couldn’t stand the thought of something that I deeply love turning into a nine to five that I loathed. I just wanted to sing, yo. I still just want to sing. So I do. At my piano and in the shower and sometimes at churches or small gatherings. I’m good with that. With writing, I feel that same pull not get caught up in the commercialism of it all, or what society constitutes as “success” or any of that. I don’t need writing to bring home the bread, nor would I want it to turn into such a harrowing obligation. I want it to be a blissful escape, the way that it is now. Sure I would like to know that there is an audience of readers out there who appreciate my work; someday I hope there will be. But that’s where my ambition ends. To write stories that stay with readers after they have turned the final pages and to offer the sort of blessed escape that reading has offered me.