When I was young my parents called me awkward and stubborn because I would only do what I (sometimes misguidedly) thought was right. I’ve never really lost this trait and as a result I sometimes make things harder for myself. Sometimes, though, making things harder for myself has rewards in other areas of my life.
A big part of my life is Buddhism. I would not call myself a Buddhist as I think this would attempt to label and stereotype what Buddhism is. To me, and to lots of others who have bothered to examine in depth, it is not a religion, but a way to live life, like a set of instructions designed to make you think about your intentions and how to live an enjoyable life. In particular, I have learned that a lot of suffering comes from attachment.
Connected to this is dialectical thinking. Over the years I have learned that because everything has an opposite on the axis of life, there is always choice, and moral choice is doing things that don’t harm yourself or others.
So, I have decided not to sell out. In certain area of my life I have been subject to the kind of oppression that tries to force someone to do things by outright cruelty, control, or violence. In other parts of my life I have been subject to a more implicit manipulation with omission of the facts so I cannot make an informed choice has been the weapon. Even more implicit is for someone/thing to manipulate another so that they ‘sell out’, the end product being their gain and the other’s loss, through what I call a ‘smoke and mirror’ approach.
With my life becoming more and more peaceful due to my increased spirituality and hopefully insight, I have realised that any it just isn’t worth it to sell out. In Hamlet, act 1 scene 3, Polonius gives advice to Laertes:
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man
I’ve been true to myself first in my job in safety, maybe naively thinking that I am a cog in the wheel that keeps the world safe, but I stayed true to that. I wanted to help people so I became a chartered psychologist and my interest in that endures.
But writing. I totally understand that each opinion is subjective. I also understand that very few people actually earn a livable wage from writing. I also know how much time and effort a writer puts into writing a novel. Whilst I really enjoy writing, I am beginning to work out the dialectic path. I started writing novels as an extension of my work in psychology. I, again perhaps naively, thought they industry might ‘get’ what I was doing and like it. I was wrong. I don’t write to template narratives, with cliched characters. My writing is informed by real life stories, connected by a related commonality that we all share.
As a creative writer who isn’t published (apart from chapter in psychology books and quite a few short stories) and doesn’t feel the pressure to produce to deadline, I am working for myself, happily churning out stories and loving what I do. The moment money enters the equation, or validation from another, it becomes a source of anxiety and suffering.
Now, this doesn’t happen in my day job, where I am paid a fair price for bringing my considerable knowledge to my job. It doesn’t happen in my private psychology practice as we all know what we expect from the outset.
So, I wonder once again, why put myself through it. Going back to Buddhism and attachment causing suffering, if I am honest I have attached myself to the validation that comes with being published through the ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach which promises fame and fortune yet offers small reward for big effort.
For the time being, I choose not to sell out. That doesn’t mean that I won’t still try to get published. I will, from now on, be submitting my work, articles, short stories, novels and non-fiction on my terms to organisations who I feel are in line with my ethical thinking. And it’s certainly not a comment on any other writer who partakes in the mystified world of publishing, as everyone has a choice to make which is entirely their own based on their unique identity.
So I’ll keep what I want to, I’ll change what I want to, I’ll bend with the wind, but I won’t be subject to the attachment to the material rewards of writing. If it comes, well it does, but if not, I’m not any worse off than I was before! The manipulative seduction that comes from that attachment is, as it always was, a constructed illusion. I’m not selling out – my integrity is worth more than that.
If this sounds bitter, it isn’t. It’s true, I am a little angry that it didn’t all work out that way I wanted it and sure, if I put some pink fluff and more sex (although there is quite a lot already!) in my books then maybe it would. It’s just what it is, a considered decision and I feel better now the weight of expectation has been lifted from me!
Keeping it real …..