Exhibitionism For Success
This, my dears, is going to be an uncomfortable post. Not because of nakedness of the literal sense, but of the emotional kind. (Oh fuck, she said emotions. Run.) Why do people feel better in jobs with a name? How about the uniform? How many jobs allow you to hide in a role instead of asking you to be real, fallible, and imperfect? Guess what; self-publishing is not one of those jobs. Being an artist, in general, is about as vulnerable as someone can get.
If you’re a well-adjusted person who has never had anything twisted in your mind and psyche that makes you feel you don’t belong, that you aren’t allowed to succeed, that the world is stacked against you, this post is not for you. Congratulations, btw. I have no idea what any of that feels like. This post if for the people that struggle to find their place because they saw the signs, saw the ones that came before them and they know the world pushes back to keep them down. Even as adults who know the world can be anything they mold it into, they can’t break out of these inner messages telling them they can’t be what they want. This is for the people that fight themselves and can’t understand why they keep losing when they are trying so damn hard.
Writing can be fun, but it’s not always easy
Here’s the deal; anyone who ever said writing is easy was a cocky son of a bitch. Anyone who ever said writing erotica is easy is a fucking douchebag. Just write a lot of porn. Do this, this and this and your life will be set. Make money as a writer and have fun. Just ignore reviews—better yet, you don’t need reviews! Reviews are for novelists and professionals who write ‘proper’ stories, not you. You’re anti-establishment. People will just read your stuff and give you money, and they won’t judge you.
There’s a reason I go into the actual art of writing erotica. One, because I couldn’t find anyone talking about it and I wanted to. Two, the few who did were really vague; write in genres, or write the kinks people want, write better, or god help me, gloss over sex so the reader can use their imagination. Hello, sex is glossed over everywhere; the whole point of erotica is to get down to the dirty fun. But isn’t that an easy answer to someone who goes ‘I want to make a buttload of money writing sex, but sex makes me uncomfortable.’ Hmm… just don’t write sex? Ugh. You know what else these books don’t talk about? How fucking soul-crushingly painful it can be to do this job.
I’m not even talking about the bad reviews, or the freakouts from the unaware who foolishly didn’t read your warnings, or the book banning, or the fact you didn’t make a million bucks your first book (or tenth, or hundredth). To write erotica, you need to get naked. You need to put all the weird shit in your head in a book. You need to share with the world that you have desires that are unfulfilled in the real world and channel them into stories of epic exaggeration. You need to have an answer ready when someone asks you how you spend your days since you don’t have a ‘real’ job. You need to get the fuck over every goddamn insecurity you have all the fucking time.
It’s okay to like Twilight. There, I said it.
I haven’t read the Twilight series or seen the movies but I remember this one controversial thing that was brought up a few times among my circle of friends and really stuck with me. One of the male actors stated it felt like he was living in a young girl’s unrealistic sexual fantasy. There was a level of disgust and cruelty in that statement whenever I heard it referenced. Something that made an actor millions and brought him into fame, he chose to distance from and shun on a level while millions of women and men loved those movies. This didn’t stop Twilight from being huge, it didn’t stop him from being in it–it didn’t have any effect but to sour some shit and give fire to people to point and go I’m allowed not to like this because the cast doesn’t either. I’m allowed!
You know what that statement could have easily done and I have no connection or communication with the author of Twilight to ask or confirm? Send her into a shame spiral that might keep her from creating again. Because someone who was a part of that movie shamed her creation and her because they felt the need to judge her reasons for writing. Twilight is the representation of a young women’s sexual fantasy and who the fuck is anyone to say that doesn’t have a right to exist and be popular even if it’s not your cup of tea?
Writer’s block isn’t in the hands, it’s in the brain
I have never experienced a writer’s block that focused on a physical limitation. To illustrate, when I started writing I was living in a moldy apartment and suffered from arms that became too heavy to lift. My fingers were so weak I couldn’t hold knitting needles (yeah, I knit. Suck it.) I spent most days in bed—not having marathons of sex—and my brain was so fucked up from the inflammation, I could literally lose and not find my train of thought for ridiculous spans of time. I slept a lot. I also did a ton of writing during this time. Not watching TV, not reading books. Nope, I wrote. When I look back, it’s because I was motivated by death. Mortality really puts into perspective all the stupid shit that doesn’t mean anything.
Getting healthy suddenly added in levels of my psyche I was allowed to ignore when I was going ‘it doesn’t matter what I write or what people think, I’m sick and probably going to be dead.’ Suddenly, I cared. (Quick note; don’t do this. Don’t care. It sucks.) I decided I was going to be a legit writer and make money off this shit and I needed to join the ranks of promoters, marketers, and business-oriented authors and put my smutty books next to theirs and say ‘hey, buy my stuff too. It has value. Even though it’s full of incest and shifter dog dick.’
You’ll notice a lot of how to write erotica books don’t go into promoting your books. The above is why. Because dear fuck. There is Hollywood naked where they airbrush and photoshop the fuck out of you after that spray tan and vaseline covered camera lens, and then there is real naked. Raw, cellulite, hair, bruises, weird moles, scents, moisture, and jiggly bits. Welcome to my fucking world of what the hell am I doing with my life.
Shame for daring to try
I bring up the shame-based culture I live in a lot because it comes up all the time in my work. I exploit it for my darker stuff; shame can make sex poignant and memorable… if the characters don’t commit suicide first because they hate themselves. The real world is not a novel. We don’t solve our problems with a fuck scene. Although BDSM does try, and I appreciate their every attempt.
Shame of judgment is the biggest fear of being vulnerable. It’s such a human emotion. Animals don’t walk around wondering if they’re fat or if their fur pattern is ‘right.’ Do you know how alarming it is to see a dog experience shame? The level of empathetic intelligence I saw when a person yelled at a dog that pissed in the house made me want to cry for that animal. Shame is unique, and humans have this amazing ability to put shame on others. It never raises a being up, only pulls them inward into a spiral of self-hate and frozen fear. The more we strip our protective layers away—something needed when you put yourself out there to write and share—the more likely you’re going to come across this really shitty emotion and freeze.
For whatever reason, people feel shame. It can be as simple as being embarrassed because there’s a stain on your shirt and you’re worried people will think you’re a slob, to saying the wrong word and wondering if people will think you’re an idiot. Maybe you really want to have a job with a uniform because you spent your life being told those jobs have real value. Maybe your parents think making art is a waste. Maybe you do too but you can’t stop from wanting to. Maybe someone hates the stuff you write and feels the need to be vocal all the fucking time. Maybe you’re told you’re stupid for even trying. I know so many people that define their self-worth by their intelligence and they are a fucking mess because of it. Gold stars fuck people up. Achievement based culture is dangerous to the soul.
This is the main reason why ‘smart’ books don’t sell mass market, btw. It doesn’t matter how much you love yourself and your elaborate vocabulary when the person who picks up your book automatically feels shame and self-hate because they don’t understand the words you’re using. For that reader, you just attacked them and made them feel stupid (without knowing they exist.) It’s not your fault; the achievement based school system made them feel to not achieve intellectually was to be a bad person innately. Their parents maybe went through the same shit and probably sent a message that smart people are condescending assholes. And really, this person knows what they like and they don’t want to have to learn a new language to read it.
Why readers hurt writers
Don’t think they’ll be nice about it after their self esteem took a hit. Some readers will attack back with defensive reviews. Others shame books that seem ‘dumb’ to their level because how dare they exist and be popular when they feel ostracized for their high level of intelligence? Those reviews tend to have a push back from the lovers of those books who don’t want to feel judged for liking what they like. Cuz why the fuck should you be judged for liking a book? The most frustrating reviews? You realize the reader isn’t even talking about your book, they’re talking about the book they wanted to read. The one they didn’t write but they are really fucking angry you didn’t write either. It was SUPPOSED to be this way and what a bitch you are for not writing to their standards. It’s the only way to write so you better get with their level of giving a fuck.
People don’t want to be judged and in their quest to rise above it, many judge the fuck out of everyone else. Welcome to humanity.
It’s the playground. You either choose to try and fit in and jump through the stupid hoops the popular kids set up, or you walk away and do your own thing while wondering if you’re going to be hassled. As an adult, it’s harder to walk away because it comes down to cash. The popular tropes make money you need to conform to, and the outcasts have to have ‘hobbies,’ not legitimate jobs. I read a how to write erotica and make money article by someone who claimed to have made six figures, and they managed to not make it sound like they worked their ass off writing and facing their fears but that they knew how to work the system. You know, like what they did wasn’t really legit but a subculture of writing. Just throw magical words out there that hit the right kink and you win the lottery. Even the people thriving don’t seem to understand the value of their work to the people that read it. They don’t want to get into it cuz then they’re getting into why they really write this stuff. Naked.
Being naked sucks
To be clear, I do not write erotica to make money. That’s just the goal for what I’m doing along the way. I write this stuff because I love it. Every story. No matter how sick or depraved or immoral or sweet or sappy or weird. I love what I write. There is no other opinion out there in this world that will ever compel me to do what I do the way that love for what I do does. And in the same breath, there is only one person that can keep me from doing this gig. The stupid fucker writing this blog post. Being naked sucks.
As someone who grew up and still struggles with PTSD, I know all about ignoring emotions. Dissociation is a wonderful coping tool that can lead you to a blade if you don’t deal with your shit eventually. And damn, I have watched many an adult die never facing their shit. It can be done. Writer’s block comes from the unresolved shit inside you. It’s the parts of you ashamed about what you’re doing, or afraid to be judged, or just can’t cope with a new identity as someone who writes. Reality has nothing to do with the things that freeze you from going after your dream. Everything can feel like death to face those inner fears. This is not easy.
There is never a legitimate excuse for not doing the things you love. People spend hours in front of the television. They make it to work usually doing shit they hate. They manage not to starve to death or have their bladders explode every day. There is no excuse to not get to your writing unless you’re dealing with some internal, emotional bullshit. It’s easier to run from it when you start out. Practice. No one judges you the first time cuz you don’t judge yourself. But the wall always comes up and it isn’t your friends, family, or the strangers on the street. It’s you holding you back. All that nakedness you can’t face. All you.
You can’t be vulnerable with a bunch of people on the Internet and then refuse to be vulnerable with yourself. Or more, you can, but that’s where this shit gets more broken. It’s dangerous to put your self-worth in other people’s hands. Depending on how you feel about yourself and how critical you are, it can be dangerous to not realize self-worth comes from you and you’re crushing what little you have. It’s your job to feed your self-esteem. If it’s bad, you got to get on that shit. If you don’t like what you look like naked and can’t change how you look, you need to learn to like what is there.
Feeling ugly is pretty fucking common no matter how you look
This is not easy shit. People seem to have perfected how to destroy themselves while creating beautiful things at the same time. Your fear, shame, and pain are not unique. We can all feel this way at some point. When you pursue a living where you strip for an audience and put your thoughts, emotions and sexual desires out there which are not considered ‘the norm’ (even if they are ‘the norm’) you are damn likely to feel this way more than others. It’s a process. Knowing it needs to happen and that you will grow stronger is the way you get through it. At your pace, because there is no instruction manual. There is no one size fits all to being a writer on the edge of acceptable culture.
This is a real problem for artists—and not just the ones that delve into sexual fantasies. Anyone that delves inside themselves to create something outside of them opens up for the possibility of being judged, ridiculed, questioned, shamed and shunned. This is reality and the brighter you shine, the more likely those disenchanted and bitter masses want to tear you down to feel better about how they are stuck. Name one popular thing or person out there that doesn’t have a list of people who tear them apart whenever they can. I can’t. Part of being seen is understanding that people will come at you and put their personal shit into the words they say to hurt you. You are you but you might represent something else to a total stranger and there is little you can do but prepare.
Do you know how many people don’t share their practice, only the final results? They don’t want to be burned by showing it didn’t start perfect. It’s why I spent years posting every sketch, every crappy attempt when I was growing as an artist. Even then I forced myself to recognize my growth instead of focusing on my feelings of fail. We can’t see growth if we’re ashamed we haven’t reached our goals.
When I used to sing, there was never a wall or computer screen; it was literally being face to face with people who were going to decide if my ability was worth their time and ears. Naked. And when I sing alone in the car, I still hesitate when I pull up next to another car. I think I sing okay but what will they think? Naked in the car. We do this to ourselves. One little thought can crush our self-esteem!
Your self-esteem is your personal responsibility
Knowing vulnerability is going to come up and preparing for it (as in, learning to love yourself no matter what the fuck anyone says) is part of a creator’s job. I’m sorry no one ever told you when they said being an artist was a quick way to make cash. And the ones who say being an artist isn’t a real job? They don’t fucking even know the work it requires. Nothing demands this of you the same way. Maybe if you went out to save people by being a therapist, you would need to face this internal stuff. Maybe leaders of countries or amazing parents that want to really not fuck it all up go through this. When it is your job, your livelihood, and everything is riding on it from money to artistic integrity, you are taking on yourself and every insecurity you have. It is not easy but the rewards of who you can become and how you see yourself can be worth this journey.
This is the shit you need to walk this path. Bravery. A willingness to be naked and let the world beat the crap out of you. Knowing your strength comes from within. Forgiving yourself for not being perfect. Falling on your ass and taking a photo of it to share. Letting yourself fail and then get back up and try again.
Margaret Cho is a naked goddess
So back in the day I caught this amazing stand-up of Margaret Cho who went into this whole bit of how she ended up crapping her pants in her car. No one would have ever known she was sitting in her own shit mortified. Then she embraced it, called her friend to tell the crazy story, and then tells a fucking audience where she later broadcasts on television. She made laughs and cash out of one of the most embarrassing moments of her life.
I’m not saying you need to embarrass the life out of yourself or defecate your pants to be an artist. But you do need to embrace your imperfections and get over being human. And no, it is not easy, and I won’t bullshit you, and you might think you got it all figured out only to one day face this all over again because you want to run and hide.
The lucky people get over shit right away. The well-adjusted. I am not one of them, and I know there are plenty out there who are the same. It’s work. And it’s okay. You are a work in progress. I am a work in progress. I may never be the writer I dream of being, but I will never question if I’m a writer. Every step I share—even the shitty ones—prove to me and the world that I am on this journey. If I didn’t do it from the beginning with those years of making (let’s be honest) bad art, or questionable fanfics, or humming in my car, I don’t know if I’d be able to do what I’m doing now. You can’t expect it to happen overnight. But take each step for what it is, honor it and your horribly uncomfortable emotions, and know that you will be ready to take another step soon enough.
You will level up! It happens. You might not grow a foot or sparkle with inspirational gaming music, but we reach taller and gain goals when we push hard enough. Even if you feel like most days are scrambling just to get out of the pit. We grow.