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!

The Devil’s Details: What’s in a Spud?


A good friend of mine became a father for the second time recently, and when he shared the name, I pointed out that the initials spelled SPED. As interesting a word as this is, it couldn’t fail to remind me of the phonetically similar spud.

As a languages student and inventor of a (poorly-constructed) fantasy language, etymologies have recently become fascinating to me. For example, the word butt comes, through Middle English and Old French, from the Old High German word bōzan, which means to beat (bōzan > boter > buter > beten > butt > beat). It’s use as an abbreviation of ‘buttocks’ is of course something else entirely.

So where on earth did the word spud come from? Well, the interesting thing here is what exactly spud meant to me in the first place; growing up, it was always synonymous with potato. If you were a surgeon, however, a spud would be a small spade-shaped utensil for digging material from a body. If you were a gardener…

It turns out, interestingly, that a spud used to be (still is, in fact) the name of the spade-like tool used to dig roots – such as potatoes – from the earth. The word spud itself appears to come from the Middle English word spudde, which apparently was a kind of dagger or short knife. The origin seems lost from there, but I could imagine that, in the dawn of human communication, *SPUD* was the sound a dagger made when you jabbed it into someone’s back.