Do you know the story of Icarus? Better yet, do you know the song from Kansas: Icarus – Borne on Wings of Steel? This happens to be one of my very favorite songs my mother played when I was young. It’s perfect to sing really loud in the car.
Icarus is a myth I have always liked, one that I remembered from when we studied it in 5th grade. The wings of Icarus were also my favorite present to open on the classic Toe Jam and Earl game.
In short, Daedalus and Icarus were imprisoned on an island. Daedalus, being a pretty amazing inventor, constructed wings to escape. But he warned that flying too low near the ocean would get the wings damp and flying to high to the sun would make the wax holding the wings together melt. Staying right in the middle was ideal. And we all know, or can guess what happened. Icarus, being exhilarated by flight, kept flying higher and higher until yes, the wax melted, and yes, he plunged in the ocean and drown.
My author/editor/publisher life is like this. The highs are addictive, but the fall to the water from such a height – the impact, the shock, and the depth . . . is crushing in every word.
In this devastating drop, I got a good look at what I’ve been doing for the past nine years, figuring out this strange world I’ve discovered on the other side of books. I experimented a lot with different avenues to get my books in the hands of readers. I tried several expensive ways that have failed, and some very inexpensive ways that worked.
I became a freelance editor, an indie publisher, a typographer and formatting expert, a marketing publicist, an events director, and most recently, a novel designer. Every finger was in every pie. This is an exhausting way for anyone to exist creatively.
. . . and the wax began to melt.
As an Indie author, you are all these things, all the time. And in being all the things, I started to lose sight of what mattered. I was so focused on being successful and helping others become successful, I didn’t see what was breaking around me. I didn’t know the wax was melting.
. . . and then I plummeted into the ocean.
When I first published, I was feverishly excited about writing and celebrating my accomplishments. My debut novel did well at release and about four months later, it won the Diamond Quill, which is the top honor in the League of Utah Writers. I was really on top of the world. Slowly as my author world grew, a reputation also grew – one with expectations, one with exciting opportunities, one that pushed me into a spotlight that I didn’t know how to handle. I started to feel some of the anxiety and pressure.
. . . and the ocean is full of sharks.
I am friendly in nature, and believe the best in people. My writing voice is candidly flirtatious and inviting. My general ease with people is welcoming to others. I can make myself at ease in any situation and I can get others to have a good time when I’m there.
But my generous nature is often misconstrued. My believing in the best of people has come back to me several times. I have been called gullible and naive. Even when I think that I’m doing what I think it right, others take advantage of it.
When this has happened within my writing career, I have been able to move past it, for the most part, but not always.
Early in my career, when I felt most on top of the world, I was persuaded to become a chapter president of a newly formed writer’s group – a position I held for six months before I resigned, and without meaning to, killed the organization. This turned out disastrously in every way. Not only was I clueless on the specific expectations placed on me by the organizers, but was bullied, publicly shamed, and later threatened by the founder himself to the point that I worried about my personal safety. I had inadvertently taken down his entire organization and it was not pretty.
This experience shook my foundation as an author, and started a cycle of PTSD when dealing with people within writing organizations and conferences. Even though I may feel accepted within a particular group, I have never felt safe and have never taken a leadership position since. There have been several other experiences as well that have trained me to be aware of my candid flirtatious nature, my niceness, my vigilance for being a fierce friend, and my lack of boundaries.
. . . and there is no air at the bottom of the ocean.
This year has proven to me that I am not as strong and as invincible as I thought. Though I feel I patched up the cracks made in my foundation, they are not solid. And it didn’t take much to push it right over and send my life toppling. I have had multiple deaths this year, my severest depression to date, online bullying, expensive marketing failures, a devastating falling out with a friend. I am worried again about my safety. I realized that I can’t do everything. I can’t have a finger in every pie. My anxiety skyrocketed and my creativity vanished. Is writing worth all this?
. . . and then I see life boats.
The writing world isn’t a bad place. It’s a beautiful place. The community is so encouraging and inspiring. The gardens are very green. And to be a new, fresh author again would be a treasure. But I can’t do that.
Writing used to be therapy for me. Why isn’t it now? Because I have let my writing world distract me from my physical world. I let my manuscript deadlines give my children papercuts. I let a red pen scribble all over my marriage. I let bottles of ink smear over my closest friendships. Writing was what I always wanted to do, but really, all I wanted to do was influence others and writing is a way to do that. I wanted to prove to my 9th grade teacher that a girl with dyslexia and very little self-confidence in her imagination, could write a book that could inspire people. I’m proof that anyone can do this. I am also proof that not everyone can handle this.
Admitting that I couldn’t take on everything was the first step. Talking with my family was the second. Backing away from the world of writing to take time for me . . . is the third. It doesn’t mean that I am walking away from a rewarding author career, but it is taking professional advice that admittedly sees my broken pieces and wants to help me fix them.
I’m not writing this blog for self-pity, or even advice on how to heal, I’m writing out my feelings because that is how I heal. Words are my closest friends. I love being wrapped around words, like being tucked in at night. Words are how I find peace. Words are my allies. I love the art of language. And I want to love it again.
Being silent doesn’t mean invisible. It’s healthy for my life to still write. I have a lot of plans and I need to see them out. I will continue to publish on Medium and continue sharing my voice, but not as I used to.
Taking time for yourself is healthy. Admitting you need help is healthy. Looking at the stars is healthy. Singing in the shower is healthy. Mental health is important and should be taken seriously. Please examine what you value and what you fill your time with. Make sure it is what’s important. And don’t let other things distract you from your point in life, because you can inspire others quietly as well as publicly. Search for your version of happy and be your own sunshine. Take care of yourself and those around you. You’re important and have a purpose. Seek it.