If I had to choose a title for this post it may likely be “I Have Not Been Cancelled”, but fortunately, I’ve standardized these titles.
I’ve been writing actively again and that comes with a lot of emotions I’m not done processing yet. Feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal from stuff that happened in 2020, what caused me to stop writing and submitting properly for the past two years. I’ve not had an acceptance since 2020.
Still, I have not been cancelled, but more of, pre-emptively cancelled myself because I banned two problematic people (the main problem was one of them, with the other, I’ve already made my peace with him and accepted my fault) from my Slack. I shut down my magazine, I stopped writing short fiction, I killed two, three twitter accounts. I focused on healing and on other aspects of my life.
In the interim, every now and then I’d get emails from editors. Not solicitations, but more of people checking in on me.
I don’t want to rehash the painful particulars of what happened. I know where I was to blame, I know what I could have done instead of what I did. I know I shouldn’t have ranted on twitter after what happened, happened. But the other party was far from blameless. But in the grand scheme of things I know *I* wouldn’t want to cancel the other party, and really (with the gift of time) couldn’t care less about whether the *other * party would want to cancel me (probably yes, knowing the nature of the other party). But the past two years had me reflect on the toxic nature of publishing coteries and how I had internalised some of that toxic behaviour and become toxic myself, and paranoid, like the rest of those individuals.
In this new life I’ve carved for myself in the midst of the pandemic, I’ve done my best to address those toxic attributes in myself, to work on becoming a better human being, for the sake of myself and the people in my life. To not be so paranoid and judgemental, to be kinder to myself and others, and to not shut people out and bang the door at the first sign of pain and betrayal. Although, this also includes knowing WHEN to set boundaries EARLY, and never let in people already known to be problematic. I made many such mistakes in the past when, I went against my better judgement to allow myself to be befriended by people who — well, I’ll leave that thought there.
I’m old and tired. I turn 47 this year. I’m unsure if I’ll ever have a book published before I turn 50. I’m unsure if I’ll ever have a book published at all. If the intention was to bring me low, people have succeeded. The more interesting question now is — where do I go from here?
I’ve already confirmed that I’m happy not to teach Creative Writing next semester as I’m taking on board four courses including some exciting new courses next semester (although for one course, I included a Creative Writing component). I have a full teaching portfolio and 13 PhD supervisees plus many other important duties. Along with that thought came this recurring thought since last year, “So what if I never have a novel published? So what if I never have anything accepted again? It’s not a great loss. I have a good and full life.”
That’s a scary thought isn’t it? That my internal axis has shifted from writing become the central axis of my being to something on the periphery in a very interesting, if quiet, life.
But still. I’m not ready to set writing aside, not yet. Not when I am deriving so much joy and pleasure out of writing new things every night, not when I feel so much freedom now to turn Watermyth into the story I know it has in its bones. I do know that if I want to be actively published again, a lot of things have to change. I knew this in 2020 even before things fell down. The irony was that I was already drawing away from SFF and my online presence as an author before what happened, happened. I talked about it in slack. I talked about all the reasons I was drawing away (inc. regional rivalry and colourism, ideas-poaching, and what happened to Is*b*l F*ll). It was fashioned into a weapon, those confidences. It was turned against me in a clever and brutal little game. I had witnesses. If I had the hindsight, I would have just stayed away from slack until I felt better about it, given I was already unwell because of my raging blood sugars and the pandemic prolonged lockdown working a real number on me. But in that difficult time, the cruelty felt unbearable. But like I said, it’s easy to tell yourself you could have done something better than you did. In the age of twitter, one misstep means that your writing career is over forever.
But in this instance — I was not cancelled. The misdemeanour I did of banning someone from MY SLACK (which was a kneejerk act of self-protection/protecting my slack), did cause some people to block me, (inc. an editor of mine — I removed that publication from my bibliography and threw away the contributor copy) . In the long run, if I’d continued writing and submitting, at some point I would have been published, even if in a token market. But the toll it took on me psychologically and emotionally was far more detrimental. I cancelled myself because I had no choice. I had to go on living my life, being there for my actual career that pays the bills, that gives me the medical benefits I need to stay alive, especially now that I am back on insulin and taking 8-9 types of meds per day. I took care of the things that mattered first.
As for the rest? The future is unwritten. But my terms of engagement remain the same as what I drew up in 2020 post that whole traumatic (yes, actual mental trauma) event. No more social SFF events, no more Conventions. I couldn’t care less if I get listed or nominated anymore. I had a glorious year of not worrying about those things in 2021 and it was such a palate-cleanse. It was healing and freeing. I do still have friendlies in SFF and I will continue chatting with and enjoying their e-company. I retained my insta account but only very few people will be allowed in. I continue a light and friendly email correspondence with less than a dozen people from the industry. That’s really good enough for me. I don’t need to commodify my life or who I am just to get more views on my fiction. I’m interested in living a good, quality and authentic life — of being true to myself. I couldn’t care less if a certain in-crowd looks down on me. Get in line. Nothing new in my life. And I don’t require respect from people I have less than zero respect for, given their complicity with certain hateful elements.
To those people likely still hate-stalking me, I have this to say: Go on with you, live your best life while I do my best to live mine. I don’t require your lives to be impacted. Some self-reflection and remorse would be nice but that’s really for you, not me as I’ve no desire to interact with you anymore nor would I accept any apology from people I find unforgivable and beyond the pale in my books. What you did to me and my writing career will never be forgiven by me. I may not have been cancelled, but the mental anguish and trauma cancelled me. That is something you need to be accountable for, but I suspect you lack the capacity for that, so I will just say, God bless you.
And now I have the freedom of not needing to teach my creative writing course. The future is mine. I can define my writing career on my own terms. I was never going to make bank with it anyway. And here’s a SUPER positive: Not having any publications or revenue from publications last year means filling in my income tax form this year will be that much easier. See? I’m already winning!