I'm writing a novel. There. I said it. I, Blake Reichenbach, am writing a fantasy novel.
It's about a healer, Alia, who has spent her adult life busting her ass to prove to herself that it wasn't a waste that she was the only member of her family to escape her homeland's occupation by Acotia, a hostile foreign power. In her new home, Novara, she strives for normality and the income needed to buy her husband the farm he has always dreamed of having. But when the same foreign power that brought her childhood to an end marches toward Novara's southern border, she's thrust back into a place of fear to which she had hoped she'd never return.
Desperate to protect the sense of safety she spent the last two decades building, Alia's frantic scrambling for a plan lands her in the company of the only woman with the power to save the country. The only problem? She just might end life as we know it in the process.
Caught between nearly-assured domination at the hands of the Acotian army and a work of magic so risky it could tear the world in two, Alia has to make a choice. She can undermine Novara's best chance of defeating Acotia or she can help her and face the unknown risks of being part of a work of magic powerful enough to wipe entire countries off the map. Alia realizes that there are no good options, but by the time she realizes just how deeply entrenched she is in the outcome of Novara's preservation it's too late to back out. Everything she has worked for over the better part of twenty years hangs in the balance of the choices she makes.
Why Am I Telling You This Now?
This isn't a blog about my creative projects or writing or what it's like to write a novel. So why do I find it relevant to tell you about this novel that I'm writing?
Well, it's a big fuck you to shame.
It has been an intentional decision to not talk about my novel much. In fact, I'd say that I've felt like I didn't have the right to talk about writing a novel. After all, I'm not actively writing and pitching short stories to magazines or an active part of a local writing group; my platform isn't built upon my creative forays into fiction. Instead, it's built upon men's lifestyle blogging, tech, marketing, and dogs.
To talk and write about my novel filled me with a deep sense of imposter syndrome. I felt a sense of shame because I didn't see myself as having a legitimate voice to speak about writing fiction.
But, after re-reading Big Magic and having the opportunity to sit in Elizabeth Gilbert's presence and bask in the glow of her light, love, and wisdom, it dawned on me that my sense of shame that came with discussing my fiction was rooted exclusively in how I assumed others would perceive me. I don't see myself as a sham or an imposter– I write because I absolutely love it and frankly I'm pretty damn good at it– but I didn't want others to see me as an imposter. I felt like I had to prove myself before I could show my work.
What kind of backward paradox is that? I felt like I had to prove myself before I could show my work, but I can't prove myself until I show my work. It's a self-defeating cycle that has no basis in logic.
Unfortunately, I doubt I'm the only person who gets stuck in cycles like these. I see it all the time. Many of us have passions and interests that we feel the need to keep concealed because we fear that our passion and curiosity isn't enough. There's some benchmark we internalize that sets the standard for what we see as "valid" even though these barriers are entirely self-imposed.
It's easier to confine ourselves to prescriptive barriers than it is to live visibly and authentically in a way that embraces our passions. Hiding emotions like excitement and curiosity are ways that we shield ourselves. Men are particularly inclined to put up a facade of stoicism or disinterest or practicality, but each of these is just another form of fear. To show our excitement about the projects we're working on or to speak about our hopes and dreams open us up to the potential of letting ourselves down or letting someone else down. It requires vulnerability, and men, frankly, suck at being vulnerable in a culture that demands they only show strength.
And yet there is so much joy in showing that kind of vulnerability. Do you know how many times someone has mocked me or discouraged me after I told them about the novel I'm working on? None! Not a single person– even people who aren't writers or creatives themselves– has told me that it's not worth pursuing or that I'm wasting my time on something frivolous by devoting part of my time to living creatively.
The voices telling me that it's futile or dumb are entirely of my own making. As much as there is to say about self-sabotage (or, if you're RuPaul talking about one's inner saboteur, Emmys to win), I'll refrain from dipping into that diatribe too much and leave it at this: if we are the source of the voices that hold us back, we can also be the source of their silence.