Saturday, September 29, 2012
Why I've Taken A Hiatus From Publishing
That could take a long time to answer. And the truth is that it probably doesn't matter nearly as much as I used to think.
That is part of it. When you pour everything you have into something for over a decade, it starts to feel pretty damn important. But the truth is, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't. I could never write another word and the world will go on its merry way all the same.
All of us will die and the world will get on just fine without us. It got on well enough before we were thrust into it as well. Unfortunately, the very nature of experience and perception is such that we are tricked into thinking that we are at the center of something, when in reality we are each one little cell in a massive organism. My best interest is of no interest to the society at large. I've "gone rogue" since day one, but I always had some hope or faith tucked away somewhere deep inside myself that my Plan would all turn out okay if I just kept pushing.
My will is stronger than my body is. That kind of determination sounds noble but it's just seventy kinds of dumb if you actually want to stick around long enough to hear how the story ends. There's a reason so many famous artists die damn young.
I flip-flop between feeling a great weight off my shoulders (Atlas can have his rock back), and wondering what the hell to do with myself. The truth is that I have plenty to do with myself. I am focusing on trying to heal myself, physically and mentally, and some of the damage done has been a direct result of burning out on all ends from the work I was doing. I could do chigung and neijing martial arts for ten years and still have a long way to go in terms of turning back the clock.
The bottom line... My creative work meant the world to me, but no matter how much I put into trying to market it this way and then that, it never meant as much to enough people to make it feasible as a business. I have often been in the top 1-2% of indie published authors (which is to say a mix of print-on-demand and small press releases), and the dark secret of the industry is that only means I've sold ~500 copies a year on a title. This is not nearly enough to live off of. It's barely enough to buy a latte a day from the local cafe. The top .1% keeps the industry alive. The rest of us are fighting over table scraps.
I'm an all or nothing kind of person. I don't know why, it's just how I've always been, and it's one of those things I can't seem to change. Plus, the work demands more than being a hobby. You put everything you have into it or you don't do it at all. That's always been my promise to myself, and to those that buy my work. It may not be perfect. Nothing is. But I am going to give it my all, and if I can't for whatever reason, it's time to stop.
I put my shoulder into Words of Traitors, and then the exhaustion hit. I pushed and I pushed because it meant the world to me, but at the end, that isn't what matters. I had to realize that before I let it kill me. I very well may have, except that I have at least a few other people on this planet to think of aside from myself.
Surprisingly, I'm just not that selfish.
Another thing that you may not be aware of, if you don't work in media. Burnout is par for the course. And it isn't just restricted to publishing. I've seen people that work in gaming, in music, in film all get pushed beyond their capacity or emotionally abused by employers or circumstance for years, and accept it because "that's how it is in the industry."
Yeah, it is "how it is in the industry." That doesn't make it okay. I've got to draw a line for myself in terms of what is healthy, and I hope that more of you can do the same. That might mean that less passionate, good art and media gets made. It means that the market, the "machine" wins more often than we do. Get used to it. There is more supply than there is demand anyway, and unless if there is a major change that goes beyond drop in the bucket or popularity contest crowdsourcing, that's how it is going to remain for the foreseeable future. Amanda Palmer may be able to raise over a million on kickstarter, and Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead may be able to make several million on "free" albums, but that doesn't make those platforms universally viable -- no matter how hard you work or how talented some people tell you that you are. There aren't enough seats at the table.
Speaking of the future, I don't know what mine holds. I am still available as a consultant for those that know how to respect those that they work with and who can afford me. I may choose to come out of hiatus for particular projects, so as to work with particular people, whether or not it seems likely to make me a single dime. But then again, I may not. I will of course make good on all my outstanding obligations, but after that ... I may rest up and try yet another angle, or I may disappear completely from the places I've frequented in the past, virtually or maybe even physically.
I just don't know. For the first time in my life I am uncertain about absolutely everything, and I really don't think it matters. Because it was the only conclusion I could come to that had my wellbeing as its top priority.
(This doesn't mean I'm taking down my work. By all means, use this as an opportunity to catch up, especially if the only thing you've read of mine is Join My Cult!. I worked on that book in college for christ's sake.)