Hemming the Bone Veil

Yannick Bouchard

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed in my years of blogging that once an author snags an agent, the focus of their blog usually changes. Once they sell a book, it changes even more. Once their book is close to its release date, they start to seem distant. They talk about publishing a lot. Their posts contain carefully planned honesty. Something seems like its missing, and more often than not, that missing piece is never shown after they are published. A sort of veil goes up. A wall, even, and thus we come to the division between the published and the unpublished.”  ~Michelle Davidson Argyle

I was going to blog today. No, I mean really blog. Not whine and then take the post down less than 24 hours later. But, then I read my dear friend Michelle’s post and realized that she’d eloquently laid out what I wanted to talk about today. We’ve been talking in-depth about this subject for days (months really), so I suspect that it is keenly present on both our hearts.

Here is that post. And I want … nay need … you to read it and even if you’re not where we are right now, at least if you’re destined to wind up there, you’ll understand what’s in your future. Then, come back and let’s talk about it a little. I think there might be more truth in that post than in anything else I’ve read in years on what it truly means to be a career author. And it’s worth a discussion.

Yes, I’m not kidding. Go read it. I’ll wait.

OK, do you understand now why I wanted you to read it? The analogy of the veil is anything but mere analogy, and I want to expound a little on it in a personal context. Or rather, how I see it beyond the beginning stages of its placement … the “why” of the veil, if you will.

We’ve taken an artery, a thing that feeds our hearts and minds, and we’ve made its homeostasis a public matter. We’ve taken our somewhat protected world  of alpha and beta readers (whom we trust) and blown it all to hell, by introducing a third party. The Public. And to me, it feels like the equivalent of introducing a third person into my marriage bed.

In other words, it might sound to some of you like a blast in the moment, but the long-term consequences are reprehensible when you consider how they affect that initial relationship. Nothing is the same. Nothing will be the same, and if you’re going to keep your ‘marriage’ solid, you need to know this going into things. You are, in effect, taking another lover.

The veil is your only protection. Imagine it, if you will, as a separation of your lifelong commitment and your illicit affair. No, you can never fully reconcile with your soul mate, but if you must exist in this way, then do your best to devote 100% to each when you are with them. It’s the only thing you can do. I liken it to an affair for a variety of reasons, but the most important of them is this: The unspoken rules of your affair will change dependent upon the participants, but your marriage vows never will. If you are a wholistic writer, as I suspect a great many of Asylum readers are, then you will always be true to that first relationship. You will always be tied to that fiery love of writing and that dogged determination when it was all about the story, that Michelle spoke of so beautifully in her post.

But, like me and like Michelle and so many others, once you’ve changed the dynamics of that relationship, it will change you. How it will change you, and your craft, is entirely dependent upon you and your intimate details. But, don’t ignore those subtle shifts in the flow of your creativity. They can, and have in some cases, proven fatal and I mean this literally.

Why do you think so many authors suffer from depression, anxiety and why so many creative individuals wind up taking their own lives? Because this one thing … this private endeavor, is not something many of us can afford to lose to public scrutiny. To many of us, this relationship is the very fabric of our beings. It is in a sense, our truest God. We would never seek to harm it or do something to dishonor it. Yet, the world and especially the media and the consumerism of that world, forces those of us who are not independently wealthy to do so if we are to write full time.

I’m not saying that getting published is wrong. Or that I regret it. Physically, financially and realistically, it isn’t. But, to my real soul as an author, it’s more than an abomination, it’s disillusionment at its core and regrettably, has shown me for what I really am. Human. It was bound to happen, but did it have to happen quite like this? With this symbiotic of a relationship? For me, and for a good many of you … yes. It’s meant to be this way.

We don’t live in the world of Dickens, or Tolstoy or any of the greats who had to purposely go buy a paper to hear how people responded to their work … to be reminded of just how crudely commercial the literary world has become. They didn’t know what a book trailer was, let alone a blog or book review websites or the soul-sucking darkness that is Goodreads. Their veil was firmly hemmed to their being. I’d even venture to say that it might have been a tad easier to read reviews in some cases because once you walked away, assuming the author didn’t keep the review, they could really walk away from it.

We can’t. It’s blogged, cached, eternal. That infiniteness of our criticisms does not escape our subconscious. It festers and works at moth-holing that veil. So, the bottom line is this: If you find yourself there … with a wad of fabric in your hands and no clue what to do with it … start sewing it to your foundation. Hem it firm and keep the remnants. You’ll need every last stitch because this fast-food, instant gratification society that we exist in, will require you (if you’re to stay sane) to mend and patch those weak places.

Good news is, we are all hemming the veil together and once you’ve reenforced a hole, it’ll never tear in that exact place again. That’s why I’ve called it the Bone Veil. It isn’t just fabric, since I firmly believe it’s a part of our being. And once torn, the fabric threads back together like a bone, ever stronger for the strain.

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13 responses

  1. JS, I know what you’re saying. I’ve been on the receiving end of the veil — authors who needed me to read their stuff until they got Traditionally Published and then suddenly couldn’t be bothered to read my e-mails or answer them because they were better than me. We all got published together before, so I haven’t figured out why they were suddenly so much better because they got lucky and I’m still writing my novels. After thinking about it for a while, I realized it was their issue and not me. They still love my work, still “can’t wait” for my next novel to come out, but they don’t have time for me? Hmm.

    My Dream is still intact. I can only really live, really breathe, when I’m creative.

    A guy I know on LinkedIn asked a two good questions: What are your [writing] goals and how do you define success? Lots of responders put that success would only come if they had so much money or readers or whatever. For me, I think following the Dream, being creative, and never letting it go, no matter how much buffetting comes, defines my success.

    It’s not always easy to let the cruel comments go and to find the Dream again, to sew a Bone Veil around yourself, like a second skin. If you can do it without losing your kindness and humanity, then you are truly a person to admire. Many authors can’t or don’t know how. I’ve appreciated your willingness to give back to those of us who read you.

    Sounds like it’s been a hard week for a lot of us. I wish us all beautiful Dreams, strong Bone Veils, and loving hearts.

    • You know, that’s a good set of questions: My writing goal is fairly straight-forward: Create a life that sustains writing full time. And success, means achieving whatever goals you’ve set for yourself. 🙂

  2. Both yours and Michelle’s posts are along the same lines of what I have thought in the aftermath of what I had hoped would be a positive, helpful experience. It wasn’t. Nor was it my fault. But I had pegged my hopes on it. Thankfully, not my happiness. I recall learning some time ago that pegging happiness upon an event or person only creates misery. Unfortunately, I cannot recall who/what taught me this. S/he/it must not have mattered much.

    It is still painful to experience. The learning curve is never quite over, not even if you’re the multibillionaire like those few authors we seem to cherish. That is okay with me. I call myself the perpetual scholar for a reason.

    I would like to think that I can turn that negative energy that comes my way into positive energy that drives me forward to success. I would like to think that by harnessing this energy, I will achieve my DREAM. Will I ever be ready for it? No, never fully, but I hope to be cognoscente when it happens.

    But in the event that I forget myself and where my happiness truly comes from, I know that I have you and Michelle to kick my pants, not to mention my biggest friend and sidekick, the husband.

    Great post, Bree! I try to keep what you say in mind for now, and for the future.

  3. I tell you what girl, we have had a hell of a week already haven’t we? I’m glad things are looking better for both of us!!

  4. OK, so … Michelle’s blog post caused something of a shit storm over on a Kindle forum, where everyone and their sister suddenly felt inclined to comment and some were overly optimistic (shock … awe). Being the instigator that I am, I had to comment in return to set the record straight. Here is what I said:

    For anyone who doesn’t understand where Michelle is coming from, you should read the book, “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield. He gracefully explains the delicate balance of what it means to be successfully published and how that can affect your creative flow. It builds a force he’s called, Resistance. Yes, with a capital R. It’s a separate force and the closer you get to your goal, the stronger its ability to hinder you.

    In other words, instead of feeling sorry for Michelle or viewing this post in a flat, emotionally distanced kind of way, take a few minutes and think beyond the business model. It isn’t about where we find our happiness. It’s about motivation and why we started writing in the first place.

    For example, in many ways, my writing “dream” has been fulfilled and exceeded. My personal expectations have been surpassed and then some, but the act of taking your private passion and leaving it in public hands, doesn’t always feel great and wonderful. I’m happy for those of you who have had nothing but feelings of wonder and joy, and I hope you stay that way … I pray you remain that bright and cheerful. Someone has to, because the reality of consumerism and commercialism doesn’t rest well with my soul and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with my happiness. It does however, since we’re talking about selling our art, have something to do with my writing and since my writing is keenly attached to my soul, I can’t just “be happy” when I think about being so vulnerable in public. I’m more analytical than that.

    Capote likened finishing a book (publishing it) to taking your child out back and shooting it.

    In fact, many of the greats had moments just like this one … Michelle’s … where they’ve realized with stark intensity, that a life of a writer is oftentimes one of constantly fighting the tides of depression and misery.

    Dramatic? Maybe. So is life and my love of writing. In other words, not everyone can shit Lisa Frank stationary.

    I love writing. I LOVE my publisher (as does Michelle, clearly). I love my loyal readers. Hell, I even love my cover artist and my editor. Everything else, however … the technicalities of turning our blood-rendered works of art into commodities, makes my stomach turn. We can’t just check out. The internet has not only made people unbelievably rude, but accessible. At one point, an author had to buy a paper to see what people were saying about their book. Now, every asshole with a laptop can log on and pound away.

    Distance is impossible.

    So, by all means, if you’ve somehow managed to find a way to pretend like this constant scrutiny doesn’t exist, or you’ve distanced yourself from your art to the point where you no longer find offense at the thought of its commercial value or lack thereof, then feel free to write a book and share your thoughts on the matter with the rest of us. Don’t just feel sorry for those of us who have had the bravery to be introspective. Do something about it.

    The reality is, most authors never have the chutzpah to talk about this in public. Part of it is because it’s seen as bad business. Part of it is because they don’t want to offend unpublished authors who take offense at damn near everything, and part of it is because it’s just plain tough to talk about. We know in advance we’re going to hear about forging our own path and choosing our own happiness and making our own destiny and cultivating a practice of defecating unicorns and glitter.

    Thank you Richard Simmons of the literary world. I’m tired of the jumping jacks.

    Anyway. Loved the post Michelle. You’re brave and awesome and I love you more than you know. Such a kindred soul. Thank you for having the guts to say this stuff out loud.

  5. Love the reply!

    My analysis of this whole thing: I’m very good at writing, at being behind a screen. I am REALLY not good with the public and where I have to speak. I could do with a publicist and a marketer — not that I can’t market my own stuff, I just hate it, because I have to deal with people again. I’m one of the reclusive writers you hear tell about.

    I do appreciate your vulnerability and willingness to share this topic. I’d love to say I’m never affected by anything people say about my writing, but that isn’t the truth. As much as I realize not everyone will like what I write, it still bugs me that they don’t. It makes me question where I could have done better, but in the end, I know I did the best I could at the time.

    I now have my rights back and a chance for a do-over. I plan to seize that opportunity and keep this bit of my Dream alive because I still believe in it, still think it’s worth the effort. And I’m still willing to face the rejection, hard as that is sometimes.

    My Bone Veil is not as strong as it once was. Life has thrown me some unexpected curves, so now I’m more careful with myself and my Dream. When I know my Veil is well in place, I send my writing out. You’d think it should be the other way about, but maybe as I age I see the world differently and caution, at least for me, is good.

    I’m facing the end of two new books and with those endings comes that deep breath moment of excitement and terror, getting them ready to send out again (and again and again). I sometimes hate writing “The End” because then I actually have to be willing to let go of my baby and send it out. Will other people really think I’m as brilliant as I believe myself to be? Or should I hide it away, now, and go do something else?

    I love the Dream, hate this precipice.

    Love that someone else talks about this and I don’t have to feel this all alone.

  6. First of all, this is some really deep stuff. I suppose I had a dream a long time ago when I was writing my first book, not knowing a damn thing about the reality of the publishing clockworks. After I was published by a small publishing house- no advance, no marketing help, no tours or publicity- the previous naivete dropped away and I was left with the knowing that this is just another business. The art of it is quickly stripped away when an author transfers themselves from the art of the writing to the business of marketing; becoming, instead of an artist, a salesperson of sorts. I’ve spent way more time trying to hawk my four books than I have on doing what I felt born to do: write great stories. And as time goes by and I find I am a small fish in a big pond of bigger and better storytellers, the love I once had for the art has become so jaded that I now find it hard to write at all. After all, I have shared my very soul with this world; put my heart out there where it was judged just not good enough. That’s enough, I’d say, to have reason to put up a thousand veils. I just ain’t the sales type. But, hey, I still love every bit of what I’ve put down on paper. And I have to believe, nay KNOW, that that is enough. Because in the end, that’s where the only real happiness lies.

  7. You know, you have to be the sassiest, most honest-say it as it is and kick them were it counts-person that I’ve ever had the honor of reading.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and your feelings about them. They’re invaluable to guys (writers) like me.

  8. What a beautiful reminder to remain true to our first “love”. Thank you for that, Breanne. The social media hustle and bustle makes it so easy to forget why we took these writing vows in the first place.

  9. As badly as I want to be a published author one day, I know it will be hard. Definitely since I am someone who generally doesn’t like too many outside forces weighing in on my life. But, I figure, as long as I have you and Michelle and my boyfriend and others who understand this, I can at least cope. ^_^

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