Self-publishing, Impatience, and a Writer’s Sin

Did you know biologists often store samples in -80°C freezers?

These frozen giants are a massive source of stress. Sometimes they stop working during the weekend and happily destroy years-long experiments. Or they just decide to crash your Friday night plans by sounding the alarm the minute you’re about to leave the lab.

A trip to the -80°C is like going to a battlefield. You need to know exactly what drawer you’re going to open, exactly what box you’re looking for, and pray none of the students happened to misplace your precious samples.

And then there are the gloves. Layers and layers of protection to ensure you don’t get serious burns during that dangerous trip to the freezer.

They look cool, in a geeky way, but if lab life was a Role Playing Game, protective gloves would put you at a terrible disadvantage, useless you’re fighting against a Boss you know you can’t beat.

I always thought they make for pretty pointless weapons, boosting your defense power through the roof but seriously hampering your dexterity.

One day, I went to the -80℃ freezer to pick up one of my precious samples. I unlocked the door, opened it, took out my sample, and started banging the tube against the bench to speed up the defrosting… all the while, I explained an experiment to a colleague of mine.

A few minutes later, I noticed she had a funny look on her eyes.

“Ana, can I ask you something?” She said. “You were born premature, weren’t you?”

I stared at my bare gloveless hands, red from holding the frozen tube, and we both started laughing.

I never learned how to wait. Not properly nor orderly at least.

I came into this world a few weeks before scheduled. But instead of your typical welcome, the nurses decided to let me starve.

My mother had no breast milk. It is not that uncommon, but in the late 80s, the world had yet to learn how to deal with the fact. Unfortunately, I am not sure the world has already learned how to deal with it.

At that time, my mom’s dry breasts were insufficient to convince these nurses she couldn’t possibly breastfeed me, so they just kept squeezing and squeezing until her breasts turned purple.

All the while, I starved.

My father told me my grandmother was the one to put an end to this madness. She stormed through the hospital door screaming and refused to stop until the nurses relented their fruitless attempts and gave me the formula.

You shouldn’t mess with a woman that gave birth to three children and raised them through poverty and misfortune.

My grandmother always told me that story with a warm smile on her face. She was a warrior who wouldn’t take bullshit from people, at the same time, she never stopped fighting for the weak and homeless.

Kindness and strength shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, she was the one who taught me that. And I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.

I could blame my upbringing for my impatience. But that would only make me feel good for an hour.

A trait that has been imprinted in me, perhaps since birth, has been both a blessing and a curse.

It makes me agonize over the things I can’t control and scatter my efforts across so many battlefronts it becomes bone-tiring.

But this impatience also taught me to search for answers in unconventional places and listen closely to unorthodox people. If I could start this life all over again, I probably wouldn’t change a thing.

Knowing most traditionally published authors invest years of their lives to finding the right agent and publisher makes me shiver.

I can’t bear when doors close in my face. So I prefer to wander among paths with fewer doors and more windows.

I often see other self-published authors echoing those same fears and doubts. I can’t help but wonder if we all share that fear and impatience. I wonder if it’s the freedom to fail that brought us together on this unconventional path.

But alas, self-publishing may have fewer doors, but it often feels like climbing with no holds left to grip

You need to learn how to be a good writer, a great publisher, and an unconventional publicist. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.

But if you’re impatient like I am, that fear comes infused with wonder and hunger for the great unknown. Because as long as you keep moving, everything will be well. As long as you keep pushing, trying, and experimenting, you’ll feel fulfilled.

I still send my short stories to literary magazines. I still research publishers. I still wonder if the traditional path isn’t better than this constant stream of failures. But alas, as long as I’m learning, as long as I’m writing, all will be well.

It’s been a while since I last published a personal essay. I hope you liked it! Are you an impatient being like me?

Image credits: Hu Chen on Unsplash

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