This post will probably be more of a venting session than anything because right now I feel frustrated by circumstances. At what point does a person have credibility? Is it through sales figures? Is it based on awards? Reviews? Experience? At this point, I no longer know. To some extent, I still believe in my abilities as a novelist, but mostly, I feel irrelevant. I love my books and characters, and so do a decent percentage of the people who’ve read my work, but mostly, I feel like a nobody in the wilderness, trapped in an educational system that drains my creative energy, dulls my skills, and crushes my spirit. My hope of ever escaping the system through my books wanes with each passing day.
I accept full responsibility for my circumstances. I did, after all, choose to enter these professions. I knew I would never get wealthy as an educator, and I knew the odds of ever being successful as a novelist. What I didn’t know when I began my teaching career was that the system would be overrun by business mindsets that view education as an assembly line process and purposefully seek to burnout educators. While I didn’t expect to become wealthy, I also didn’t expect to earn less than a fast-food manager while working more hours. I thought I’d be able to teach my regular load and write at night, and for the first several years, that was possible. Today, as more and more crap gets piled onto our plates, it’s impossible to find the time to write daily on a book. I can barely squeeze in a couple of blog entries a week. Every single day, I feel my skills eroding.
I also accept full responsibility for not doing a better job of shameless self-promotion. So many others are much better at reminding everyone they meet that they are an award-winning writer or a best-selling novelist or whatever other tag line they use to identify themselves. I’m simply not comfortable telling others how great I am, and that has held me back. I’ve remained mired in obscurity because our culture rewards sensationalism, not humility. I’m foolish for not beating my own drum harder and louder, but honestly, the handful of times I’ve tried it, I’ve felt like a complete jackass. While I may be one, I don’t like feeling like one.
In the mornings, as I drive to a job I’ve grown to abhor, I look for a little flicker of hope that maybe my books will catch on. Every time I write a blog entry, I hope that maybe it will draw in enough of the right people. Each time I get a sale on Kindle, I hope that maybe I’ll cross some threshold in Amazon’s algorithm that triggers an avalanche, but honestly, at this point, I know that’s just a fantasy that keeps me from spiraling into a deep depression. The flicker of hope fades a little more every day. It’s a hard way to live, especially when I can still remember a time when I loved teaching and believed with all my heart that my books mattered.
Irrelevance is one of worst feelings I know. Back in the early days of teaching, I went into the classroom feeling as if what I did truly mattered. My students wanted to learn. They pushed me to teach them how to improve their skills. Now, the vast majority of them do not care. I’m an obstacle to get around, not a bridge. The bureaucrats in charge don’t understand or care about writing as a skill for the masses. If they do care, they express it like an abusive spouse. My books have a loyal following, but the numbers are simply too small to sustain me, and I’m completely out of ideas for how to spread the word more given my current circumstances.
Perhaps, I need to accept that I’m simply not talented enough. I’ve never won an award or even been nominated for one. After 22 years, I still have virtually no credibility in this industry, at least not enough to matter. I’ll finish editing book four and write book five because I’ve made the commitment, but after that, if nothing has changed for the better, I’ll have to examine closely whether or not I want to write another book. At some point, I have to make a positive change in my life because I can’t continue to live in the absence of hope. I can’t continue to live without time with the people who matter to me or the things I want to do. The sacrifices are no longer worth it. At some point, I have to see some kind of a real return, or I can’t justify continuing with either of these careers.