by Xeno Hemlock
Catch up on previous chapters here:
You can check out Xeno's website/blog here. And the kindle version of his book here.
Life as an indie author is hard. Life as a Filipino indie author is harder. In a world of “outsiders” (indie author), I feel that I am, once more, an outsider. I’m an outsider in a sea of outsiders.
I don’t mean this to be a rant about race or ethnicity because it is not. In the past few years of trying to embrace vulnerability to become a better person, I’ve learned that to sweep our feelings under the rug is a big disservice to ourselves. We deserve to acknowledge what we feel, whether they be joy, sorrow, or fear. And we should! To deny the isolation and loneliness I sometimes feel with my writing career is a betrayal to myself. I will not do that.
There aren’t many independent Filipino authors like me. In fact, I know no one. The other Filipino authors I know (not personally) are all traditional. They have publishing houses, books with their names on the shelves of book stores, and even adoring fans who await their every social media appearance. I’ve yet to encounter another one to whom I can talk about bastardised genres, writing techniques, local influences, and even the loneliness that the career brings. I’ve no one to confess to that “I killed my friends and it thrilled me.”
The three-year journey bringing my debut novel “I Killed My Friends and It Thrilled Me” wasn’t easy (the last sentence of the previous paragraph was a shameless plug or a play on words, whichever way you look at it). There were obstacles galore: never-ending balancing of the day job and the dream career, passionate angst that drained energy, undoing three-decades worth of fear-based mindset, and even financial difficulty. To give birth to my baby, I channeled all the negative energy from the frustration brought by the obstacles to dive deep into writing. It paid off. Three years after I met Tracey online, I dropped the adjective “aspiring” from my social media profiles’ description and christened myself as a legitimate author. I did it. Achievement! What’s next?
Like a mother who had just given birth, I was out of energy. The book was up for sale on Amazon but I had neither the preparation nor the drive for the next phase: promotion. I poured so much of myself into finishing the book I forgot that its life didn’t end there.
What did I do? I returned to being an addict.
I returned to a former addiction - planning. Listicles, how-to’s, blueprints, plans, timetables, redundant motivational articles, and even memes. I returned to them in the hope that somewhere buried under all that bale was the saviour for my creative slump. To be fair to all the things I was addicted to, they had helped me. In the years I was reframing my mind to obtain the mindset I needed to pursue the writing dream, listicles and company provided me with hope and motivation, even if that sounded a little absurd. In the absence of people who could mentor and guide me, listicles and company became my odd educators. However, just like some students, I outgrew my teachers.
But I was terrified so I came back to the things that helped me before, wishing the magic would happen again. Of course, it didn’t and because of the abundance of those planning tools, I kept trying. A Facebook strategy didn’t work as I expected, I binned it in the trash and tried another one. The second plan turned out to be useless, I went for the next. The cycle went on and on and on. I accomplished very little, I think it’s fair to say I achieved ‘nothing’. Promotion sucked and didn’t help my book at all. Thus, I learned THE PERILS OF PLANNING. Because so many planning tools and ideas are within our grasp nowadays, it’s easy to get trapped inside a whirlpool of them, with us tricked into believing they’re our safety net when the truth was the exact opposite.
Then I got tired of worrying about promotion altogether and my mind was yanked off towards something different. The climate of Philippine politics in the last two years was similar to that of the US. We have a president the majority didn’t vote for. In the air lingers a sense of unease.
I suppose I can attribute it to growing up. Though, I should just be focusing on my writing career, I could not turn a blind eye on what’s happening in the world around me. I became “woke” and in the last year started expressing my political concerns and thoughts on social media, Facebook in particular (a different Facebook account than the one I’m using now). But the social media platform became toxic. Invisible lines were created between family and friends. I ran away and went back to another platform that used to be my haven until I gradually neglected it - Twitter.
If you asked me then if I knew I would be standing at one of the crossroads of my writing career, I would answer ‘no’. I had no inkling. You see, I didn’t want to associate my political views with my public writing image. But there are some things we feel strongly about even our hesitations regarding it couldn’t stop us from taking action. Reminding myself of Nike’s slogan “JUST DO IT”, I smashed the wall between my political views and public image.
Something unexpected and magical happened. People who share similar political views and values entered my life. Some of them I had lots in common, some only a few. Some I met in real life. Some became friends, some even fans.
Their presence in my life pulled me out of my creative slump, not because some of them bought my books, not because some of them became friends, but because they made me realise that dynamic my writing career needed - meaningful connection. The planning tools allured me with a myriad of methods and blueprints on how to achieve my goals that I allowed myself to become a cold and calculated online promoter who just wants prospective customers’ money. I ignored one of the most important and powerful RESOURCE I owned - my authenticity.
Creativity runs in my blood once more. I’m back to writing. It’s raining ideas in my head. That isolation I felt, it has diminished. I found a tribe. I’m still not as successful as how others define success. But I’ve found something that warms my author soul and indirectly feeds me creative energy, an invisible friend that’ll make the journey ahead a little less lonely. You know what I’m glad for? I’m glad I took ACTION.
Up Next: Ch. 6 by Patty Young