Support That Isn’t

Growing up, imagination was a lot like Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon’s views on magic, ‘There’s no such thing as…’ Use of imagination was either silly or dangerous.

I’m not sure when I started writing, but I was young. Writing helped me resolve issues or explore feelings I wasn’t otherwise able to express. I noted in a previous blog that I grew up eating through my emotions as neither my mother or father were comfortable with anger, sadness, or my ever present anxiety. Writing let me figure out my feelings as I recreated situations I had experienced at school or at home, as I wrote out the dialogue for the characters, it sometimes helped me to work out what happened and why.

Those precious, fledgling paragraphs grew longer as the years passed. The subject matter changed, expressions grew. I always described my efforts in writing as a hobby, nothing more. It wasn’t until 2016 that I determined to get the book inside of my head out and into the world. Two years later, I’m given the opportunity to publish a small piece, an excerpt from my book into an anthology, Texas’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction, and I’m over the moon. It’s not much, a three page contribution on my part and from over 40 other contributing authors, but it’s a stepping stone to something more. This means something to me. To a writer, having even a small piece published is like that artist that makes their first sale with a painting or a photo. It’s confirmation of artistic direction and justification of time and money spent. A small first step but a tangible one nonetheless.

Imagine the past that inspired the work. Imagine the sincerity of effort put in by the artist to bring their work to life. Imagine friends and family (those few not estranged from you) pledge their support to your cause and cheer you on. You finally deliver proof of your efforts and suddenly the support takes a hiatus.

I’ve gotten a lot of “Well, that’s great and all but it’s not really your book, is it? I mean, I’ll buy a copy of your book when it’s published but I’m not spending anything for a few pages you wrote.” Too many people have made this speech, or some variation of it, and I’m shocked to realize that people seem to think:

1) publishing is incredibly easy

2) since she hasn’t been published yet, her book must be really bad

3) the three pages of her story that are being printed must be the parts that don’t suck

4) I’ll compensate not buying the anthology at $11.26 (Amazon) by inviting her to send a copy of it to me for FREE and then I’ll read it

5) because for some reason I believe she gets unlimited copies of the book for free.

I’m not making this up. I’ve had several people tell me they will not buy the book my short story is featured in (in other words, not support me) because it’s not my book but just a few pages. Ohh, but I’ve also been invited to go ahead and send him/her a copy and then they’ll read it for sure. Essentially, it’s on me to buy all these copies and send them out so it will get read. People, I got one free copy of the book and even then it was a PDF.

When you buy a piece of art, a short story perhaps, you buy the history that comes with it; all the struggle and work it took to get into that modest publication, but publication even so. When you purchase the work you tell the artist that they are worthwhile, that your support for them goes well beyond the generic “You can do it!” slogans and says, “I genuinely believe in you and what you’re trying to do, don’t give up. Small steps lead to full strides.”

To date, only one person I know is getting a copy for free. When this person signed up to become a beta reader for my novel, Ruth, where “Snowbound,” my short story, was extracted from, he actually finished it and provided notes. Now that’s support.

If you find yourself in the position of having support that isn’t really, it’s on you to recall that a writer writes – always. A painter paints – always. A singer sings, a musician plays, and so on. I knew going in that I was writing a novel that may never see the light of day, I wrote it for me first and foremost. I had a goal to accomplish with or without support and I knew that – any artist should know that before venturing out. Bear in mind though, for any artist, support, especially any kind of purchasing support, no matter how small, is a monument in contribution.

Texas’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction

From Amazon:

Our “Emerging Writers” publications are part of an experimental series designed to match readers looking for new voices with up-and-coming authors looking to widen their reader base. We like to refer to publications in this series as “sampler platters” of writers and genres, such that readers can quickly and efficiently discover talented authors they may otherwise have never heard of as well as compelling genres they may never have given a shot before. In Texas’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction, Texas’s most promising up-and-coming authors have the chance to share their own words. Covering a wide array of genres ranging from literary fiction to satire, mystery, comedy, science fiction, and more, these young talents will amaze you. Containing one story per writer, this anthology is a compelling introduction to the great wordsmiths of tomorrow.

And that’s my TED Talk.

Austin, Texas