(Disclaimer: I’m wearing my angry writer pants. I employ many italics. You’ve been warned.)
No one can take me seriously. Or rather, no one will take me seriously.
This lovely invective has been slung at me a handful times since Lunatic Fringe debuted last September, and it’s gotten to the point where I need to sling back.
No one will take me seriously. . .
It is, of course, always attached to a clause. No one will take me seriously if. . . I self-publish. No one will take me seriously if. . . I go through a niche house.
No one will take me seriously if I:
. . . hire an unknown editor
. . . do my own publicity
. . . allow typos to make it into the final draft
. . . keep teaching strap-on classes
. . . tweet about my sex life
. . . pose nude on the internet
And goddess knows plenty of other folks have been on the receiving end of such bullshit.
No one will take you seriously if you. . .
. . . write books about women.
. . . have an open relationship
. . . date men
. . . date women
. . . sleep around
. . . write erotica
. . . have your author portrait taken on a bed
. . . have visible tattoos
. . . publish before you’re 30
. . . publish after you’re 70.
You show me a woman who’s making fierce art in the world, and I betcha she’s had these canards slung at her for all sorts of bullshit reasons, too. Most of which, I’m betting you, have more to do with her gender and sexuality, than her talent. (The Playboy argument, anyone?)
Of course, what the speaker means when they say “No one will take me seriously” is that they don’t take me seriously. And they want me to do something to convince them that they should. This probably looks like apologizing or pleading mea culpas. Claiming naivete or stupidity or wrongheadedness. Asking for their forgiveness and guidance on how to live my life and make my art.
Telling me that you can’t take me seriously is an attempt to shame me for my perceived faults, whether they be architectural (misplaced hyphens) or lifestyle related (non-monogamous relationship with a queer cis dude).
Seriously, if you can’t take me seriously, fuck you. Seriously. That’s your shit. I’ve got plenty of rad folks who take me seriously even though my tits are on the internet and I write about fisting (sometimes because of those things).
If you hate my book, groovy. That’s awesome. Literature should evoke strong feelings. I’ve gotten some bad reviews that stung, but shit that’s part of the deal. I revel in the pain just as I do in the joy of a glowing review. But hate is serious. So the people who say it probably don’t hate me or my book. They may, if they read it, feel “meh” about it. That’s cool too (less cool than hate, but it’s all good. Thanks for giving it a try). The people who tell me “no one will take me seriously” likely saw something in Lunatic Fringe (or me) that they couldn’t take seriously, so they decided to use their voices to tell me what I’m doing wrong and how I should appease them.
But seriously, fuck your ideas of propriety and access. The notion that I could kowtow to a system that demands I behave in a certain manner flew out the window when I self-published an unapologetically political, erotic novel about lesbian werewolves. So can we just agree that I’m not taking communion at the doors of academia or Broadway? Can we also agree that ideas of propriety on Broadway and in academia fly out the window when they see mega talent and/or dollar signs? I don’t see anyone groaning about bell hooks’ tits, so step down and let me grow as an author, alright?
I’ve gotten plenty of unsolicited advice since I started down the path of professional novelist. Not one of the serious, smarty-pants professionals who weighed in said shit to me about being “taken seriously.” They gave me advice for negotiating contracts and collaborating with the right talent. They’ve questioned my need to go niche and suggested I find a solid publishing house. They don’t tell me how to run my career to be taken seriously. They know (because they’re professionals) that the work speaks for itself, that talent can be nurtured, cultivated and refined. That if I’m where I’m at professionally at 30, I’ve got a long, crazy road ahead of me full of growth and refinement.
Meanwhile, it’s always the amateurs, the wannabes, the “I’m not a feminist, but-“ people who love to tell me what I need to do to have these invisible jurists deem me worthy of respect. These people who’ve never written a book, never had a nuanced conversation about the changing publishing climate, never deconstructed gender and sexuality in the framework of professional working artists. They’re the ones telling me what I need to do to be a “real” author.
If “important” people (i.e. the purveyors of seriousness) read my book and dig it, I’m chuffed. But I care way more about that queer kid in Montgomery who’s just looking for a mirror. But the haters don’t like that. They want me to want the same things they do. They want me to be their mirror, making the choices they would if they only had the guts.
I’m going to keep writing books. I have a draft of Lunatic Fringe’s sequel nearing the finish line and another outline waiting for my attention. I’m proud of how I’m evolving as a writer. My work is getting tighter and my storytelling is improving. Hungry Ghost is going to be way better than Lunatic Fringe, and I’m PROUD of that fact. Don’t tell me to feel shame for my misplaced commas. I wrote a personal book with very little professional guidance, published it on my own, spent my own money to get it out into the world and I’m doing this in public. Shame? Fuck that. I’m a motherfucking superhero.
I’m thrilled that people get to bear witness to me, a real live human being that decided to write books, become better. I don’t believe in cloistering the artistic process. Hiding out until you reach perfection washes off the viscera and the earth. Novels do not spring fully formed from writers’ skulls, but some folks might prefer if they did. No, books are slimly, unwieldy things. Sometimes they crawl into being with scars and dangling participles and I’m sorry I didn’t trim all the hangnails and I’m sorry that I didn’t wash behind its ears, but it’s fucking alive now and I can’t change that. And if me letting my book baby crawl into the world with dirty ears and raggedy nails told you that you couldn’t take me seriously as a writer, well shit, I just lost a reader. I’ll have to console myself with the badasses over here who love me because I’m fucking trying and they see my worth.
Here’s the TL,DR for all you folks that thought my book was TL,DR and still wanted to tell me about my failings as a woman and an author:
YOU DON’T GET TO SHAME ME.
I’m writing books, people all over the world are reading them, and every once in a while, they touch someone deeply. And that’s serious.