There’s a familiar sentiment that comes up every so often that is just Gatekeeper Talk trying to dissuade you from doing this or that for reasons we are told are for our own good.
I remember being in 8th grade and choosing what I wanted to do with my future as far as a career and I wanted to get into advertising, something that I could have seen.
I remember getting the run down from our teacher about career forecasts and seeing that, essentially, Advertising was ‘full’, meaning that lots and lots of people wanted that career and that, in the least, it’d be a hard row to hoe.
For someone like me, it said – DO NOT ENTRY – and I didn’t.
Any dream I may have had, vague as it was, to get into that career was done.
And there’s the thing, Gates work.
They keep people out.
Even if it was meant to be a subtle – come up with a backup plan – it worked.
When I was in high school and taking a Commercial Art class, I was pulled aside by the instructor into the second year and told that I was ‘no artist’, the bitterness he had for me clear. He resented how I got into his class, which was meant as a primer for a career in Commercial Art (I was in Special Education for emotional issues and was Golden Ticketed into the class). I can appreciate his not understanding ‘why’ I was there but his assumption that I didn’t love art was stupid, as I did the work, I put my all into it, and did the best I could. Instead of working to help me grow as an artist he killed the artist in me for a very, very long time.
I didn’t get serious about art again until I was well into my adult years. I’d noodle with things a little, but I felt shamed because of what he’d said.
The Gate worked.
I read time and again how Self-Publishing was not a legitimate way to get your work out to the world. It was the safe haven of hacks and navel gazers. You didn’t turn to self-pub unless you were just not good enough to get published.
Not finding a publisher for my first book, I turned to something called Subsidized Publication, which meant you pay for the costs and the ‘publisher’ does the heavy lifting. They print, they sell, they ship, they can even get your review copies out to the world. I had tried again and again and had made no headway and felt I had run out of other options. This is a long time ago and I was very young still. I had gotten lucky with some friends and had our fanzine (fan made magazine) picked up for national publication for an issue. It fell apart after that one issue – UGH, that whole mess, though I have gone over it on the blog in the past, but I may re-write the story one of these days – WOOF! – but still, for kids that were 20 that was a huge deal.
Naturally, the publisher I went with folded not long after my book came out.
My parents, my mom, really, had paid for the book to be published, a debt I never got to really repay but will keep trying with every book I put out, and she paid for the freight delivery of all the copies so they wouldn’t be destroyed.
I still have boxes of those first books in my basement, collecting dust.
I learned a lot in the ensuing years, but I don’t regret that book.
That doesn’t mean I still don’t feel a hint of shame about it, or about my other books. Self-Publishing is legit now, has even produced best sellers, but the stigma is still there.
For me, self-pub was the DIY way to do it.
I tried to find publishers.
I tried to find agents.
Neither wanted me.
I was published in other people’s books and a magazine, even got recognition for two of the stories, but it meant nothing, in the end.
No one wanted me.
No one would even really take the time to offer advice.
It’s a business and they won’t hold your hand, and that’s fine, but there’s not even much empathy.
The Gatekeepers told me that self-publishing was what you did if you had no talent.
I did it anyway.
But it still stings.
The Gates worked, just not as well.
I was older and meaner and had less to lose.
I won’t say that I put out the prettiest or best or most grammatical books but hey, I put out the things that speak to me and that build worlds in me.
I had had enough things taken from me; I wasn’t going to let someone take writing from me.
It was weird, I will admit, being at the World Horror Convention in 2005, representing a book that was subsidized – the worst of the worst of self-publishing, don’t you know – with so many established authors around me. One of them being one of the loud industry voices against self-pub.
I went though, and I had the best time I could, and I read a story in front of a bunch of these folks, and I pitched the book that became A SHADOW OVER EVER to two publishers.
I left New York with memories, a short-lived bravado, and little else but the experience changed me.
Once I realized that few authors actually made a living writing it opened my eyes. Not everyone was Stephen King, or even John Farris, they were people that loved to write, that did write, but that found publisher that took that chance on them. They weren’t rich, even if they were beloved, they were just doing what they could to tell their stories.
I’d do the same.
I am still going to hope that there’s an audience out there – YOU? – for what I write because it’s not like what everyone else writes.
Whatever that means.
I was at the MotorCity Comic Con, selling my first book, chapbooks, and issues of that short-lived magazine we had, and I was right next to another author. He had one book to sell, a big, thick thing he sold for $25 and was about a superhero.
He nearly sold out.
I was stunned.
I asked him and he told me – he self-published.
A whole new world opened to me, and I never looked back.
I won’t look back.
The gates people throw up are for movie making, or with podcasting, or with music, or whatever.
You Can’t Do This.
Too Many People Do This.
That’s Not How You Do This.
Except no one gets to decide those things but you.
I made movies with friends as a teen.
I missed those days.
So, as an adult, I made my own movies.
I did it my way.
They aren’t great, but they aren’t bad, and they were fun.
And I am proud of them.
Sure, ‘everyone’ has a podcast and ‘no one’ needs another Cis White Male podcast.
I did it anyway.
I still do it.
I did it with friends and do it solo.
Because I like it.
Because I don’t care what someone I will never meet has to say about it.
I am tired of Gatekeepers.
Sure, it’s good to get advice, it’s good to take counsel, and it’s good to have people who are willing to tell you the truth.
But once it gets to someone snuffing the flame in you, tune them out.
Find your own way.
Learn from your own mistakes and take other people’s mistakes into consideration.
Sure, you’re gonna fail from time to time.
You’re gonna fall.
But you’re gonna learn.
And I guarantee that one of the times someone tells you you’re going to fail you will succeed and from there’s it’s just taking that lesson and applying it to what you do next.
Passion is the flame in us that is ours and no one else’s.
We can share it.
We can broadcast it.
But it’s ours.
And too many of us have that Passion snuffed out.
My mom loved to draw, and to create, and to be artistic.
She was great at it.
Life burned that out of her though.
She adapted, but it still wore her down.
She didn’t find the time to do it.
She didn’t get the encouragement.
And it was finally snuffed out when the school she worked at stopped supporting the big decorations she’d make and put up in the lunchroom where she was working.
I guarantee there are kids out there that were touched and changed by the love and passion my mother shared with them.
I just wish she’d known how many of their hearts they had touched.
I have known so many people through the years that never got the encouragement they needed and deserved.
Their Passion burned out.
The Gates kept away the reflection to their light they needed.
The winds from the Keepers blew those flames out.
What if, what if we stopped telling everyone what they couldn’t do, what they shouldn’t do, and what they dare not do and started saying – go for it.
Go for it.
If it fails, it fails.
Go for it.
Go for it.
If you aren’t willing to fight the good fight, the fight for your own Passion, then who will?
Go for it.
Hey, I write books, podcast, make movies, and write reviews. Check the links on the page and take a look around, maybe you’ll find something you like.