Cognitive Dissonance & Fighting the Mind

One of the difficulties for me as an author is the deep-seated belief that I cannot be successful. As odd as it sounds, I find myself unable to comprehend the success of authors such as J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. There’s a disconnect in my mind between sitting down day after day, week after week, typing word after word, and the multi-million dollar revenue of someone whose words are devoured lovingly by millions of people across the world. (Not that money necessarily equals success, but you get the point.)

Cognitive dissonance is a strange phenomenon, and one I’m all-too familiar with. In essence, the concept is that an individual person can hold two contradictory beliefs, and can’t come to terms with the conflict. An example would be that one believes sea levels are rising, but also believes climate change is a hoax.

A more practical example in my life is my medication. Sometimes I run low, and I don’t have time to get it refilled. In my mind I know it’s bad to run out of medication, so I stop taking it … so I don’t run out.

People have a lot of cognitive dissonances in their lives, and often are unaware of them until forced into a position where they have to consider both sides of the argument. With writing, for me, I used to simply not believe that people like King and Rowling were real. Despite reading (and enjoying) their words, I simply couldn’t attach the words to an individual, to a person like me or you.

When I started writing myself – seriously writing, writing tens of thousands of words and ordering them into something called a novel – it helped my cognitive dissonance a little. When I wrote the final words to The Redemption of Erâth: Consolation (“And so it was that, unknown to him, Darkness followed behind and laughed.”), I realized that it was actually possible for a single person to write over 100,000 sequential words. And when I published it – not the disastrous 2014 publication through iUniverse, but rather when I republished it myself in early 2016 – and people started to read it, it connected the dots just a little more.

But I still find myself in a place of dissonance nonetheless, be it less than before. I liken my fantasy work to Tolkien, in terms of scope and style, and it is a pipe dream for me that my books might one day be adapted for the big screen. I would absolutely love to see my fierundé rendered in high-quality CGI, blood sunsets descending behind dark storm clouds, the sweeping devastation of a world on fire on a fifty-foot screen. I wonder if it will happen in my lifetime, or if, like Tolkien, the fame of my works might come after my death.

Or perhaps what I write is doomed to obscurity for all eternity, like so many others. Perhaps I will never get more than a handful of reviews, and my readers will dwindle as interest slowly wanes.

I believe that I can write just as much as just as well (at my best, perhaps) as the literary giants of the world. I also believe that I will never be recognized for my writing. I believe such a thing is, quite literary, impossible. That it has in fact never happened (to anyone), and therefore cannot happen to me. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and Tolkien, for all I know, don’t actually exist.

This dissonance is something I have to fight daily, in my writing, in my mental health, and in my everyday life. It’s a strange phenomenon, and it’s frustrating as hell.

What dissonances do you have? What exists, that you can’t quite believe? Let me know below!

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