CW: This article mentions gaslighting and ableism.
The other day on Facebook, I posted:
Me: *writes a thing * Ahhh… I love my career. I get to make up stories. It’s lovely.
Also me: *visits Author Twitter* Holy crap, Writerland is a cesspool of opinions from privileged tools who think they know everything!
Also also me: *goes back to my aliens* Ahhh, writing is lovely.
Now, I know a ton of amazing, friendly, and encouraging authors on social media, especially Twitter. But I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m at the stage of my career where the “rose-coloured lenses” are off, and I’m able to perceive the ugly side of the industry a bit more.
I published my first novel at 47, so you might say I arrived late to the party. Or later than most. It was thrilling, and I felt so enthusiastic to enter the realm of published authors, to attend conferences, gain new friends in the field, and learn a whole lot. One established author a few years my senior said to me at my first conference, “Aw, so it’s all new for you. That’s a special feeling.” Looking back, I half-wonder if the kind expression in his eyes was also mixed with an “Oh, my sweet summer child” sort of pity. Perhaps he knew what was up ahead for me.
Because stuff would hit me.
Fortunately, I love my publisher and my fellow authors at Renaissance. We’re like a wee family. There’s a lot of support in that microcosm. But over the past 3+ years, I’d learn that there is enough gaslighting, gatekeeping, privileged humans in WriterWorldLand to give me great pause. There are also cliques and exclusive treatment. I’d go as far to say there are outright snobs, too.
Then of course, there are those who constantly spew their command: “You must write every day!” Yeah, shaddup. (Refer also to: You must write every day—my favourite BS notion.)
And whew, there is much cluelessness about how to treat disabled creatives. Not only are we not represented much in fiction, but we’re also considered problematic for calling out ableism and inaccessible spaces.
In 2019, I learned even more about the dark side of Canadian speculative fiction markets when publishers were called out for mistreatment of authors and/or late payments or just not paying them at all. After reading about all the people who came forward and some of the callous comments in support of the publishers, I felt pretty ready to give up writing altogether. But only for a moment.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my path lies along the fringes, with the marginalized creatives. More often than not, I find an inviting and inclusive atmosphere in those spaces. I will not deny that having a publisher like Renaissance whose motto is “Diverse Canadian Voices” really helps. That’s how Nothing Without Us even happened!
Way too often, marginalized creatives get pushed to the side. Especially when they intersect with disability. Our stories often don’t sell to mass markets, but they are such important stories to be told. We need to band together and support each other and share our stories.
We need to be the Jedi!
(Hey, Yoda was a Spoonie Jedi. He used mobility devices and could handle that lightsaber like a pro.)
My nerdship aside and back to the topic at hand, the dark side can be really distracting. The stress of it can affect my neurodiversity, mental health, and physical symptoms of my disability. It can prevent me from being creative. That’s not good. So, I need to turn away from the Dark Side (yeah, okay, still nerding). I need to focus on what I love, and that’s writing.
Whenever I dive into my stories, I feel such joy. Writing has even helped me through the aftermath of severe panic attacks. I’d written my second novel during a year of chronic panic attacks, and it soothed me greatly. Writing is therapeutic, cathartic, and a whole lot of fun for me.
No, there’s no way I’ll give it up.
Instead, I’ll follow Mr. Roger’s mother’s advice and “look for the helpers” in bad situations. Because it’s true. Even when supremely awful stuff explodes, there are always people who show up to offer support and encouragement. I want to be one of those people and to hang with them, too.
So, if you’ve been slammed with the dark side of WriterWorldLand, know that you’re not alone and that the Jedi are still out there. Hopefully, the Spoonie Authors Network can be one of those safe spaces for you. I also hope you connect online and in person with all the cool kids who just want to share their love of writing and cheer you on with your projects! The cool kids are still out there, too. You’ll recognize them by their awesome, welcoming nature and lack of blickiness. They use the Force for good and not evil.
Here’s to the Light Side of WriterWorldLand!
*lifts cane, which transforms into a lightsaber*
Cait Gordon is the creator and editor-in-chief of the Spoonie Authors Network and is author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. Her short stories appear in Alice Unbound Beyond Wonderland, We Shall Be Monsters, and Space Opera Libretti. Teaming up with sensitivity editor Kohenet Talia C. Johnson, Cait is co-editor of the Nothing Without Us anthology, a collection of short stories that feature protagonists who identify as disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness. You can follow Cait on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. She also has an author website, and if you need editing services, visit her biz, Dynamic Canvas Inc.