The Existential Author Syndrome

emo-dark-wallpapers-10So there’s been this empty space in my heart for the past few months. I hit a point where writing and publishing had lost its vice grip on my soul and instead of feeling passionate wanderlust I felt bitter annoyance.

I didn’t like it anymore, none of it made me happy.

I had no inspiration, no desire to tell readers about my books, no excitement about my latest release, no rush of pride when fans asked me to sign their books, no curiosity or motivation to read another book, nothing. I was an emotionless void of apathy. And when something you used to love stops making you happy and it’s not something that pays your bills, you really have no choice but to stop doing that thing.

Months went by, I wrote my second non fiction book, went on a family vacation, dedicated myself to three days at the gym to feel something — anything (pain, fatigue, and chemical highs for the win) but none of it restored my love of books. I attended my first two events as a Word Fire Press Author, Emerald City and Dallas Comic Con, the latter of which was the beginning of being shaken out of my perpetual book void.

Days before taking off to Dallas I bought my first hard cover book in ages. It was an off the cuff young adult book about a girl growing up in a cult and her liberation from said family lifestyle. It was an interesting, easy read by an author who has done nothing but dedicate her life to literature.

Shortly after that I found myself in Brandon, MB. for a Rock and Mineral Festival where I spent too much money and ended up at the bookstore. In the months of the void bookstores made me miserable. I’d walk into one, wonder why my books would never, ever, ever be on the shelf (like, ever) and I’d look at the books that were on the shelf and wonder how their books ended up on the shelf and mine did not. There’s really no good explanation to this because for all intents and purposes the people whose books are on the shelf endeavored to write great books and succeeded to some degree and then there’s me whose books are bestsellers and just as well written and popular as the books on the shelf.

The only difference is that Barnes & Noble does not stock my publisher’s books.

Bookstores always ignited this sort of sanger (sad anger) that would choke me up and force me to buy nothing because it was impossible to buy anything once the eternal debate began in my brain. However, when I was in Brandon I returned to a Coles I had once done a book signing at. The signing was during my first year as a published author, and it was so charming that a kid with a large McDonald’s drink asked me to watch his drink so he could go look at the Manga section. He left it on my table because he wasn’t allowed to bring it into the store. I wended through the aisles to the back of the store and bought two John Green books. Paper Towns because it’s becoming a movie soon and Will Grayson, Will Grayson because it had a new cover and looked interesting and because I really like John Green and David Levithan.

Paper Towns was incredibly insightful, but it was also just a book about teens doing stupid teen things and philosophically analyzing the stupid teen things they were doing so that in the grand scheme of the universe, those silly things actually meant something and helped them come to epic conclusions about their small existence in the giant universe.

And that’s when I realized that’s the sort of author I want to be.

My issues with writing and publishing stem from becoming a monkey in a box, churning out meaningless novels in a pointless attempt to keep up with the demands of the publishing world. I know the landscape of publishing is changing and that readers are demanding a book every nine months. I’ve listened to various talks on the state of the publishing industry and how authors can navigate these choppy waters. I’ve felt pressured to fall in line with every other author out there, chain myself to my computer and write until I bleed. The only problem with that is that when my heart isn’t in it, I can’t write. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that authors must write everyday, and that to truly be successful you have to get your butt in the chair and write.

But writing requires thinking, and thinking takes time.

I thought that since I didn’t want to be the mold, it meant I wasn’t cut out to be a published author. I’ve been withdrawing because I’m not like the other folks, I don’t like crowds, parties, people, promoting, and I don’t celebrate the small successes because things like bestseller lists mean very little to me. What matters most to me are reviews, fan feedback, support, and admiration for the actual book I wrote (not the cover or the bazillion copies I sold or the thing I posted on tumblr or the vlog you watched, but the booooook you read and loved).

I’m quiet and comfort. I will never have a youtube channel or post a lot on twitter or facebook. I will never be the kind of literary leader a fan base needs because I am an incoherent introvert.

Paper Towns made me realize that I could easily be a paper author living in a post apocalyptic publishing landscape, or I could be me and I could think, dream, and be.

The types of books I’ve always tried to write were the ones that made readers stop and think about the frailty, beauty and imperfections of life, told through the eyes of young people who haven’t been tainted, jaded or turned apathetic by those same imperfections.

Strip away the mystical island, the hidden abilities, prophecies and magic, and you’ll find behind most of my books is a startling central philosophy. If you like so many others were swept up in the romantic fantasy drama, you may have missed these messages, but they’re all over my website like testaments to the actual importance of the books.

“Life DEMANDS your participation”
“Your destiny will ALWAYS come for you.”
“You cannot know JOY until you know SORROW.”
“Sometimes it takes evil to DESTROY evil.”
“Sometimes the villain is YOU.”

I will never be a commercial author. I won’t write for the sake of writing, for the bonus paycheque, or the glory and fame. I will always write because I have a story to tell and wisdom to share.

I’m a bit like George R.R. Martin in that I frequently kill my main characters and it takes me forever to release a book, but if George R.R. Martin is my author patronus, then John Green is my spirit guide because my books will always carry an important message about life, love, and what it means to exist in this chaotic universe.

And right now I have no stories I want to tell, but I can tell you this — the next story I write will be treated differently because my stories were meant for bookstore shelves and literary awards and international tours and one day I will write something worthy of those things.

– Rhi

Comments ( 1 )

  • Patti Garcia-Jobe says:

    I think You already write bookself/bookstore worthy books. I tell many people who love the fantasy genre to read your series The Ferryman and the Flame. But If you feel you need to take a break or go a different path to make you happy then that is what you need to do. I am a crafter, I try different things all the time. I find something I love to do one thing then a couple of months later I am off trying something else to fill this need I have to create. I think it should be the same with you. Try writing something else (even just for yourself) a kids book, a romance, or whatever you want. I think it would be a shame for you to stop writing all together just because you are a talented storyteller and I think the world should hear you.

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