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!

Book Launch in Two Weeks!

Hi everyone,

The Redemption of Erâth - Vol 3 - Ancients & Death (Cover)I want to take a moment to remind you all that the  third book in the Redemption of Erâth series, Ancients & Death, launches in just over two weeks! Following the ongoing story of Brandyé and Elven as they make their way through the fierce and Dark world of Erâth, you’ll discover that even the lowliest can rise to magnificent achievements – and that some despair is too deep to ever overcome.

To prepare for the adventures of this third book, the price of books one and two – Consolation and Exile – has been reduced to $0.99 on both Kindle and Apple Books. Even better, if you head over to Voracious Readers Only, you can even get a copy of the first book entirely free!

So pick up a copy, cosy up, and settle in to a world of Darkness, danger and adventure!

Brett Kavanaugh and the Proliferation of Rape Culture

I learned last week that Brett Kavanaugh is going to be voted into the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

I felt sick.

Picking my wife up from the airport, we briefly discussed it, and I had a minor revelation as to the importance of this controversial decision. My wife wondered aloud if teen boys would see this confirmation on TV, and think to themselves that it is totally okay to sexually abuse women without repercussion.

I think the damage is far more subtle, and far more wide-reaching, than a few kids watching it on television. I don’t think there are very many teenage boys who have the self-reflection to consciously – or even subconsciously – think this gives them the go-ahead to rape women. I think ‘those’ boys will try it anyway, and unfortunately, they’ll – for the most part – get away with it.

No – I think the deeper problem is the judicial bias against women reporting sexual abuse in the first place. The precedent here is that women are not to be listened to, not to be believed, and that they are to be held wholly responsible for whatever heinous acts are committed against them. Our own president openly mocked Dr. Ford, claiming that her inability to clearly remember the events indicated they were largely fabricated.

There are countless statistics indicating that rape is already grossly underreported in the United States. According to a DoJ study in 2014, 66% of rapes go unreported, and women who are frequently assaulted are less likely to report than women who have never experienced sexual assault at all. And 1/4 of all women will be raped at some point in their life.

These are numbers that are utterly unacceptable – and appointing Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is – literally – making it okay. What is the likelihood that Brett Kavanaugh will rule for the condemnation of a rapist, were the case to be brought to him and his peers? What are the odds that he would side with the rapist – perhaps suggesting that the woman ‘had it coming’, or ‘asked for it’?

The problem here is not that there are a few young men who will think it’s okay; the problem is that there are tens of millions of women who have just been told that they might as well suck it up and take it. Tens of millions of women who for decades have been turned away and dismissed, and who have now been told that at the absolute highest level of law in the country that this is what to expect.

There are a great number of men who will never understand the trauma of sexual assault. There are men who absolutely cannot comprehend that non-consensual sex leaves indelible scars in the psyche of the victim. There are, as sad as it is, men who believe they are the victim for having been caught. Men who will defend to the death that they did nothing wrong, all the while knowing that they used their privilege and their strength to take forcefully what they wanted.

So yes – I am sickened that a man like Brett Kavanaugh is now one of the supreme lawmakers of this country. I am sickened that he was even considered. And I am sickened that the testimony of a victim was considered by the highest powers of our country to be worthless, attention-seeking lies.

Is there are fix to this? Sadly, it may require women to continue to report their assaults. Because so long as men refuse to believe them, women will need to persist, to fight, and to show that they are as worthy of trust as anyone. So long as men continue to be taught that there are no consequences to their actions, women will need to defend and protect themselves.

And so long as women are raped, men will continue to to think that sex is their right.

It isn’t. No more than owning humans is a right, sexual contact is something that must be consensual. And if it isn’t – at any point – then the person forcing themselves on the other must be held accountable.

Dr. Ford – I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t listen. I’m sorry that a few despicable men overpowered you – both then and now. It isn’t right. But thank you for speaking up. You gave a voice to millions who’ve been silenced for generations.

It’s time for those voices to be heard.