That is the definition of Monachopsis: the subtle yet persistent feeling of being out of place. It's a feeling that I've known very well for the last few years. It's also a feeling that has, for better or worse, motivated a lot of my decisions over the last year.
In 2015, I tried a lot of things I'd never tried before. I did my diligence in efforts of being a Professional Author and tried to secure an agent. I signed a book deal with a hybrid publisher. I started a podcast on comics and pop culture called Comics Squared. I attempted to make the leap into more established comics writing and journalism by writing for ComiConverse for a while. I even wrote a few articles that I was pretty proud of at the time, such as Image Comics and The Female Experience, Starve and America's Relationship with Food, and Why Midnighter is So Important for Queer Fans.
You might say that I did well for myself this year. My podcast had some loyal listeners. I garnered some attention for my critical writing. Comics opened up the doors to a lot of interesting conversations with creators and journalists alike, and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with people in the comics community. Most of all, a lot of people seemed to legitimately enjoy and look forward to what I had to say about comics and media.
But the reality is -- as terrible as it sounds -- that I hated nearly every waking moment of this year. I hated doing the podcast. I hated writing about comics. Not because I hated the work, or that I was being forced to do it, or that pop culture writing was somehow beneath me. In fact, I loved what I was doing. For a long time, I even thought I had some kind of future in it. However, I was unhappy because every minute was fraught with the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.
I had no home in the world I had made for myself, and it was killing me every single day.
I was an unnecessary element in an otherwise fruitful ecosystem. There were writers out there doing vital and meaningful work with their writing. I was puttering around with formalism and half-useful ideas. Other writers were dealing with important issues. I was hung up on aesthetics and allusions. Other writers had a niche. I was constantly terrified that I would be found out as some kind of fraud and excused from the community.
This may not be true. It very likely isn't. That's just my anxiety talking, I'm sure. People have told me for years that criticism is an art in and of itself. I do, in my heart, believe that. But it doesn't change the fact that I felt unwanted, unneeded, and ultimately out of place in that world. So, I quit the podcast. I quit writing about comics, after three years of being known for just that. It was the only way to feel like I wasn't just wasting everyone's time -- including my own.
In my own way, it was the only way I could protect myself against my own grim, insular thinking. It was the only way I could get a bit of peace and quiet.
Sure, very polite and supportive people have offered me space on their websites to return to longform criticism should the desire strike me. I do appreciate it. Deeply and truly. But I don't think I can. I don't think I could, even if I wanted to. The feeling of alienation is just too profound sometimes, even in the face of helpful voices. Perhaps one day, when my decisions aren't motivated by fear, I can enjoy that part of my life again -- but not today.
So, in the spirit of progress, I'm workshopping projects for 2016. At the moment, my podcast co-host Blaine and I are just beginning to assemble a semi-narrative comedy podcast in the style of NPR's RadioLab. Think a thoughtful liberal discussion show, but set in a completely absurdist world where language can literally be turned into a weapon, cannibals are petitioning to be recognized as a legally protected minority group, and Nicki Minaj is running for President of the United States. (Her plans to improve education and the space program are looking really promising, by the way.)
While I've been known for fiction and comics writing for the last few years, I've actually been writing sketch comedy for quite a while now. Without the resources to shoot sketches properly, this part of my life has always been on the back-burner. Blaine and I plan to collaborate with several local comedians, writers, and actors to put the show together. I have no idea when it'll be ready for public consumption, or if anybody will even care, but I'm feeling really good about it. I want to work on things that make me feel good, if nothing else.
2015 may have been the year that I quit, but hopefully 2016 is the year that I begin again.