There's a lot of stuff I have to fight against, more than just the slim chances of succeeding in the publishing world. I also have to fight against a whole whack of things that are deeply personal to me. I have to fight against the pervasive idea that women don't belong writing SFF, and if they do, the writing is inherently sub-par. It's an idea that has been soundly rebutted (especially at the Hugos. Way to go, NK Jemisin. You are amazing), but it's still bandies about enough that it has an impact on me. Perhaps, more precisely, it was so pervasive while I was growing up, the recent shifts have not yet managed to negate the messages I received when I was growing up wanting to write.
For example, I was quite involved with amateur theatre when I was young. I was writing then, too. I can't remember how old I was, but it was probably around my thirteenth or fourteenth year. The director of the play we were currently rehearsing (Oliver) found out I was a writer (well, 'writer'). I was a young woman, so his first response was, "Oh, romance?" Because SFF wasn't something young women read, let alone wrote. It's a small thing, but it was one example in a sea of such examples telling me that I couldn't, and shouldn't. That it wasn't my place.
That sits with me and haunts my ambitions. Clearly, I'm still writing, so it's not been that much of a detriment, but I can't help but think that maybe it does creep into my efforts. I'm wondering if maybe my submissions are not as strong as they could be, because somewhere in my psyche is that little voice that says, 'You don't belong here. You're not good enough." and that somehow leaks out onto the page.
I am traditionally published now, and I adore working with that publisher. Renaissance Press is brilliant, very open and so lovely to work with. They don't have the reach I would like. Part of my ambition is to be able to support myself with my writing. I don't need to be a millionaire, but I would like to have more control over my time than I currently do. I also know that landing the backing of one of the big publishers won't guarantee that for me. But it can help. And with my foot in the door, and my willingness to work, it has a chance of being a really big help.
The thing is, I want to make it big. I have a silly dream of getting onto a bus, and noticing that a few people are reading my book there. I want to be invited to conventions so I can chat with readers, share a drink with my favourite writers and be considered a peer. Book tours sound exhausting, but also really cool. I want to walk past a bookstore and see one (or many?) of my titles in the window. I want to sneak in and stealth-sign a copy or two.
I want these things.
I'm also afraid of achieving these things. Success at this level has only ever been a dream. A thing that can't be achieved. Hell, it's been years of trying, and I don't think I'm much closer to it than when I started the whole journey. I think if it ever happened, I'd be utterly lost. I wouldn't know what to do.
I might freeze, suddenly unable to create beneath the pressure to constantly one-up myself. Perhaps I let it go to my head, and become the type of person I absolutely detest. Or maybe nothing like that happens, but the loud, angry voices that want to destroy joy in the world and hoard it for themselves come after me.
Now, looking at the horrific vitriol that has become an entire movement aimed at excluding anyone who isn't a cis-hetero white man from the SFF community, I sometimes wonder if making it big is worth it. The constant barrage of death and rape threats, the pitchforks and fires, the coordinated attacks designed to make people feel scared and worthless... I've watched it get worse and worse.
I'm an outspoken feminist. I have very little patience when dealing with ignorance. I swear. A lot. I'm also quite shy in new situations, I tend towards the withdrawn (though I'm working hard on that), and I'm deeply, deeply sensitive, even if I try to pretend I'm not.
I'm not sure I would be able to handle the kind of anger and hate that gets thrown at women for daring to shine in fields than (some) men feel they have no right to shine in. I'm not thrilled about the prospect of having to face that shit at all.
Thank heavens I'm white and cis. It would be a thousand times worse if either or both of those was not true.
Anyway, the point is ambition and fear wage a constant battle in me. I want to be a successful writer. I'm also scared of that success. I'm scared I'll crumble under the pressure. Scared I'll change for the worst. Scared of the backlash.
It may turn out that I'm worried for nothing, because I simply won't make it. All that trying for nothing. Maybe that would be for the best.
I don't know. Just thinking aloud.
Right, I have work to do. This book won't write itself.