I have a novel due out this year, called The Nero Protocol. It’s probably my best work yet. It’s a novel about the value and meaning of life. It’s a book about what it means to live and love, in a world where those things have become less important.
It might also be my last novel in the LGBTQ space, as things stand right now. I haven’t written a word in weeks, and haven’t seriously worked on anything since before Christmas. This is my longest break so far. I feel demotivated in a way I haven’t felt before, and it goes beyond the normal wax and wane of my life caused by lapses of depression, a condition with which I’ve struggled all my life.
I want to explain to you what exactly has gone wrong, why my mental voice has fallen silent. I want you to understand the struggles I’ve been going through, living between a rock and a hard place for so long. It feels important that I do so, that I don’t simply vanish into the ether until such time as I feel ready to put pen to paper again (if I ever do).
When I came to LGBTQ writing professionally, I carried a flame of hope in my heart, both for my community of LGBTQ people, and for my future as a budding writer. I’d been writing for many years before then, giving away my works for free on the Internet. I’d written another novel and thought that maybe – just maybe – this one was good enough to sell. That book was Written In The Stars. I commissioned art for the cover and let me tell you, I was so proud when I held the finished product in my hands. I felt like the world had fallen at my feet, that I could literally do anything that I wanted. My readership was tiny, but I was learning how to run a business with no prior experience. Every day felt like a new adventure. The rejection letters that came from publishing houses were only a minor blip in the road. I wasn’t good enough yet – but I would be, with time and practice. I applied myself each and every day, filling all my spare time with writing and writing-related activities. There was little time for much else, besides the odd video game and a little reading.
The proudest moment of my writing career came when Wings of Destruction was picked up by Less Than Three Press. I felt like I was walking on air. That moment goes down as one of my greatest hits, one of the top 10 moments of my entire life. I started to see some sales, though writing has never made me more than pocket money. I simply don’t write mainstream romances. Contemporary fiction tends to bore me – I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with this world and would rather escape from it than immerse myself deeper into it, hence my love of science fiction and fantasy. But I was happy. I was fulfilled. I’d crossed something off my bucket list and it felt amazing.
But something else was happening, too. We won the fight for gay marriage. To me it was a huge relief, even though I knew there was still work to be done. After all, I wasn’t out at work as bisexual – I’m a private person. Nobody knew about my writing career. From comments I’d gleaned, it was clear that being out and proud and a writer of LGBTQ novels with love scenes might be a bit controversial, so I left it at home. For all intents and purposes, everybody working with me figured me to be a straight person – I present myself to the world as female, and the love of my life is a man, after all. Secrets are heavy – even more so when you cannot take credit for your accomplishments without outing yourself. But I figured it was a small price to pay to keep politics, drama and bullshit out of the work environment.
The Internet, however, was becoming a different beast. Some loud, angry voices were demanding to be heard – those who felt gay marriage wasn’t enough, those who felt women’s rights were still lagging, and those who felt trans rights had been left behind in the march for LGBTQ equality. I listened a lot during these times. I’m the first to admit I knew nothing about trans issues until I looked into them. A friend of mine came out as trans, and I supported her in her transition. I even came to understand things about myself – that I’ve never really felt comfortable in women’s spaces, and that I feel as though I live between worlds, still a woman, but very much interested and invested in things considered masculine. These days I’m loath to apply a label to that, for many reasons.
The angry voices seemed to grow, and with it a tendency to “shut down” the voices of people who disagreed. One bad joke or sentence out of turn could derail someone’s entire career – regardless of the intent behind it. There was a slew of people labeling the smallest things as “problematic” and “sexist” and “racist”. I hated all of this, but I kept my mouth shut. I’ve never wanted to rock the boat and the same applied here. “Keep your head down”, I told myself. “Just keep writing and this outrage fad will blow over like bad weather”.
Only it didn’t. It got worse. Trump got elected and I had to mute half of my Twitter feed – not because I liked the idea of Trump as President, because I didn’t – but because the collective rage was so loud and so overpowering that moderate voices were now getting trampled. Suddenly, not wanting to punch people for racist beliefs was akin to believing in them yourself. The smallest “microaggression” could lead to a dogpiling so intense no sane person could handle the amount of hatred and abuse that came for speaking out of turn.
I never thought the people who wanted to save the world would become instigators of violence and despair.
It’s an impossible environment in which to create stories. Never have I felt so stifled in a writing world which is trying to demand we only write about our own experiences and that we hire “sensitivity readers” to make sure what we write doesn’t offend anyone (might as well publish a book with blank pages, then). In a million years I never realized that the thing I’d fear the most could come from the left-liberal side of the political spectrum – one I’ve believed in all my life. The authoritarianism on display now, the “with us or against us” collectivism of those who want to dominate the conversation is something I cannot abide by. Worse still, I feel like the people in my life that I thought were friends have started to buy into this bullshit. Words like “problematic”, “microaggression”, “privilege” and such – nothing more than untested social theories – have become accepted as truths without any pushback. The media and corporations are using identity politics to market and clickbait – after all, people seem to click like nothing else on stories of oppression and marginalization, and everyone seems to have bought into fake statistics like the gender pay gap (look it up, you’ll see the numbers were rigged to include women who *choose* to stay at home or work part time in order to be caregivers).
I don’t feel like I belong in my own community any more, and it’s heartbreaking. I felt like LGBTQ used to be about love and celebrating that love. Now it’s about highlighting how many people hate us and trying to shame anybody who steps outside of the realm of collective thought. I reject that singularity of thought, even if it means I must sit on a beach alone the rest of my days.
Neither do I feel like I belong in “normal” society. There will always be this secret standing in the way between myself and everyone I meet. Recently, I let a manager at my company know about my book career. He thought it was the coolest thing ever, and the LGBTQ thing wasn’t a dealbreaker for him. So maybe there is hope, but it’s a hope that will be squashed if we march into the “normie” world with pitchforks and start burning shit to demand the world plays by our rules. Change will come, but it takes time, and it seems like too many people have ran out of patience.
So here I am, caught between a rock and hard place. Writing used to be the place where I belonged when living the life of a chameleon was too much to bear. It was the place I could share all those ugly little human failings I encountered and destroy them over and over again with the healing power of love. Now it’s become the source of a pain so intense I’ve cut back on my internet usage and retreated into video games full time for an escape from my escape.
Until I feel like I can breathe again, I’m taking a break from writing. I’ll still post the occasional thing on Twitter, but I’m dialing back my social media usage as well. I don’t know if I’ll be back – only time will tell. Maybe I’ll try my hand at general fiction, and pop up under a different name somewhere – or maybe the pen has written its final word. I don’t want that to happen, but I don’t call the shots – inspiration does.
Farewell for now, then. May peace and love fill your lives.