About 18 months ago, I had an extremely unpleasant experience with a local group that was supposedly for would-be writers. I had been looking for just such a thing, so I bravely brought along a sample chapter of the WIP I hoped would become Volume 4 of my fantasy series, and managed to stifle my nerves long enough to read from a few pages of it.
I began to worry when I realized that what others in the group had written was distinctly not even close to my offering. And as the meeting progressed, I also realized that what the others had done was all very similar, all based around a memory or family anecdote from a specific time of year. It also started to concern me that, in between readings, people would discuss politics or social platform topics brought up by the biographical snippets. I found a reason to leave the meeting early, and felt very confused by the time I got home.
The next day, I got an email from the person who ran the group, “politely” (but really in a very patronizing way) informing me that the meetings only covered non-fiction writings, based on an assigned monthly theme, and whatever we might be working on outside of the group wouldn’t be introduced nor feedback given.
I felt absolutely terrible. I figured that I had done the “typical dumb autistic thing,” of not understanding what the group was about before I just barged in to a meeting, and who was I to bring my silly fanciful young adult fantasy novel into the mix of what was clearly meant to be a serious adult discussion?
I never went back.
I also stuck what might have become Volume 4 in a desk drawer, and haven’t touched it since.
In the meantime, I have been seriously plagued with nagging self-doubt about my ability as a writer, as an author. I turned my entire headspace upside down over How To Be A Savage, and the lingering fear of rejection grew so intense that I haven’t even done much publicity for this short story collection that I published this summer. I’m continuing to drag my feet on finishing Fire and Wind. It all goes back to this experience, that stole my joy from having finally begun my publishing journey.
What really did me in? The most damaging thing was the all-too-common worry of neurodivergents everywhere — that I had once again misinterpreted the “rules,” the societal constructs that everybody but me seems to already know, without having to ask, and that I had it wrong, not the group.
Here’s the interesting twist to this tale of woe, however: Some of the people in the “writing” group are also regular library patrons, so — even before I worked there — we crossed paths pretty often. And they told me that the group had been very divided for a while, that the way it was run wasn’t appealing to a lot of people, that several people had attended a meeting and tried writing something different from what the tyrant wanted, received a similar response to what I did, and followed my lead, of simply never returning. In time, the group dissolved, as enough people got fed up with the situation, and stopped going entirely.
Now, you would think that this vindicates me, and I like this resolution. But I don’t like it. I don’t like it, because other people’s unwillingness to stand up to a narcissistic control freak created an inner conflict that nearly ripped apart my hard-fought self-esteem. I don’t like it, because I still had to suffer public criticism of my passion and interests. Not hearing anyone stand up for my effort, my dedication to my own work set me waaay back in terms of personal goals.
I’ve felt like I was living a lie for most of 2019, having to apologize, again, to my readers, for there not being a new book from me this quarter, either, and yet not feeling able to put all the why into words. It’s been debilitating, excruciating.
Finding out recently from people who have had really negative encounters with the individual in question that apparently, this is just how the tyrant is, should be liberating. But I’m not sure. Knowing this doesn’t undo the damage, the hurt. It comes down to: What right does one person have to stomp all over my hard work?
For all the years I patiently honed my craft, all the hours I devoted to increasing my skills in creating believable characters, sensible dialogue, and world-building readers could relate to, I never once wanted to give up because I prefer to write fantasy. Fantasy fiction being a niche genre and market never deterred me; it made me want to succeed more.
Now, though, every new traditional, and indie, release I see brings about a fresh wave of comparison. There’s no way mine is that good.
I haven’t even read most of these new books, by the way. I’m merely automatically doubting my own abilities.
It’s impacting my completing NaNo this year, too. I hit a minor writer’s block the other day, and have been struggling to take to heart my own motivational speeches posted (in earnest!) on Twitter.
I’ve tried to push past this. I hate it. I need to get through it. But month after month, watching my sales slump, not feeling the ambition to create ebooks that existed last fall, not knowing what to put in my newsletters, beginning to feel like a fraud, has really taken its toll.
When you first decide to self-publish, your head is full of a million dreams. The dream of seeing your book on a shelf, on a website, for the first time; of holding it in your hands; of getting the link to a glowing review; coming across pictures of your book on social media; being able to discuss your characters and plot in detail with other people, because now they understand it all. Despite experiencing all of this in the last 2-plus years, I can feel my dreams slipping away.
I’ve been so reluctant to spill any details about Fire and Wind, even with wanting to build up anticipation for it, because the fear is so firmly in place. Rejection is something those of us on the spectrum have to deal with so frequently, we begin to avoid whatever, whenever, we think will make it happen again.
That means I am inadvertently pushing away my own dreams as well.
So, this post is a blend of confession, venting, and hoping for atonement. And as part of this quest, I’ll be really good and leave you a working synopsis of Fire and Wind:
The Demon Girl has no idea where she came from, just how old she is, or even her species.
She travels from country to country, between the mortal and fae realms, through the decades, never ageing, not dying. She helps old friends, comes to the aid of new ones, protects the defenseless, and stays out of the spotlight.
She can’t remember what she was doing or who she was before the reign of King James I, when she woke up with no memory beside a river in England. Since then, she’s worked at being a mercenary for hire, a deliverer of vigilante justice, an ally to the Faerie Courts, and not a foe of the Order of the Twelve Tribes.
Readers were first introduced to “DG” in Volume 3: Healers and Warriors. Now, in Fire and Wind, we explore more about the Order’s least likely heroine, an amnesiac, immortal loner (except for the mythological creatures she’s fond of), traditionally keeping her distance from humans. When a sudden overthrow of the Unseelie Court forces her to choose sides for the first time in centuries, DG will finally come face to face with her past, and the need to determine her future.