Sometimes, I need to push the walls out.
Not go all Big Bad Wolf and huff and puff and blow the house down, but push the walls out. Give myself room to breathe and think and be.
This doesn’t necessarily look right to others, who might see me as dismissive, disrespectful, proud, rude, superior, whiny, isolationist. I don’t mean to be. I just need them to step back.
Think of animals who might allow a stranger to scratch behind their ears or they might snap at the friendly hand. It’s not necessarily ugliness on purpose. There’s often an underlying reason for the two responses.
It’s a strange push-pull: I want to help, want to be friendly, want to share and be with people — people, not crowds — but there are times when the air is sucked from the room and the walls lean too close and I need to get out. Now.
The same feeling sometimes happens when I’m alone. It’s one reason I closed the book review list and limited the editing projects.
There’s weight in editing the work of strangers, people whose voices I never hear, whose faces I never see. These people exist merely as words on a screen, as avatars on social media, nothing more, yet they are real. And the burden of getting the work right for an author who sees me as unreal, as nothing more than words and avatars? Who can either send more work my way or burn my reputation in an online rant?
I entered this biz because I loved stories — reading them and writing them — but that joy slowly bled away and left behind anger. I hated reading. No longer did I select books for their heft and promise of a good yarn. I went for the quick reads, the light fare. Rarely did I sink into books and let their worlds absorb me. Now I edited them as I read.
I resented books.
The same with writers. If they weren’t from the publisher, they were freelance clients. If they weren’t clients, then they knew people who knew other people who knew me, and they were looking for free advice. If they weren’t looking for free advice, then they had found my reviews online and wanted me to review their work, too. Yet when I asked for beta readers, book reviews, or other help in similar vein, only a few responded. Nearly everyone I’d helped before was suddenly too busy to help me.
This may seem whiny and foolish, and I’ll concede that point.
Consider this: If a hotel housekeeper comes home from a busy day of making beds and cleaning toilets, how much physical or mental energy remains to clean her own home? If a mechanic spends his hours fixing other people’s cars, how much energy or time will be left to repair his own?
Where do we draw the line? Where do we stop the encroachment and say, “Enough. This far, no farther”? When do we stop putting ourselves at the mercy of everyone else?
I am a Christian. As such, I am instructed to serve others. However, when does everyone else’s version of service stop being the standard? Where do we stop “serving” them and start doing the other tasks that need doing? When does the housekeeper tell the kids to clean their own bathroom? When does the mechanic tell his wife to take the car to the quick-lube place and have the oil changed there?
I don’t know.
But the walls have come too close and the air has grown too thin, and it’s time for me to move on.
If I came across as angry, I was.
If I whined and whinged, I apologize.
If I seemed rude, dismissive, disrespectful, or otherwise ugly, I didn’t mean to be.
I still want to help my fellow authors get reviews, but I also want to love books again. I want to wander among the shelves of secondhand paperbacks and come away with long-out-of-print old friends. I want to revel in new adventures.
I want to help my fellow writers craft their work, but I also want to fire my own imagination. I want to regain the joy and the wonder of creating the kinds of stories I crave.
So if I go missing from the blog or from social media once in a while, I’m not necessarily gone. I’m just pushing out the walls.