I've seen a lot of stuff coming out recently from traditionally published authors that are really Debbie Downer pieces. These folks aren't happy with themselves... I'm picking up that there are an awfully lot of them who are putting on a face for the world, and it's eating away at them. I wonder how many others do the same? This seems to be a particular affliction of Fantasy and SciFi authors, and I'm guessing it's because they still are a little bit ashamed of their interests. They're nerds, and even though they're hugely successful nerds, they still want to keep some distance from themselves and that identity.
I'm a nerd too, in case you didn't guess that from the fact that I write Fantasy books. When I was younger, I played D&D, my friends and I brought Magic: The Gathering cards to school, on the weekends, we'd pack up our desktop computers, and all go to someone's house for LAN parties - basically every weekend. We literally couldn't be nerdier if we tried. We didn't do well in sports (I did track to get sports credit in high school. High jump, dead last in literally every single meet). We didn't have a lot of success with the ladies, and we didn't go to the cool parties. We didn't care though, because we went to OUR parties. Those were the ones we wanted to be at, because that's what we enjoyed, and we owned it. We didn't hide, and that made the difference. I'll admit, I benefited from a good group of friends who reveled in nerdy-ness just like I did, so my journey was easier, but I think that's the missing piece that triggered the Debbie Downer authors I started talking about. Even today, after having incredible success, they still don't OWN it.
Want to know the secret to being cool? Be yourself, and don't care what anyone else thinks about it. Walk your own road, and that my friends, is cool.
That's it, that's all you need to know. That's how you get to be 'cool'. Jocks like sports, they're good at them, and they don't care who knows. If you like D&D, be good at it, and don't give a shit who knows. Don't hide it. OWN it. Worried someone will make fun of you because you're a nerd? Who cares, you're doing what you want to be doing, and someone pointing that out only cements the fact that you're walking your own road. When someone says "Hey Nerd, you like Fantasy!", you respond, "Yeah, I do, it's awesome. Did you catch the last season of Game of Thrones? More people watched that than your average NFL game last year... If you watched it and liked it, let me tell you which book series is going to be the next smash hit on HBO." (Benjamin Ashwood, pleeeease let it be Benjamin Ashwood). My point, own your interest, take the conversation right back to them.
I'm fortunate that I learned this early in life, and I'll admit, I was in a community where it was easier than others. But, owning that nerdy-ness has changed my life.
Instead of playing the normal sports, my friends and I started a (somewhat joking) bowling team. We didn't have anyone to play against but each other, but 20 years later, there is an actual high-school league formed from the ashes of what we did. In high-school, I ran for President of the Student Government, made it funny and true to my personality, while my competition - the pretty, popular girl - was incredibly serious. I won. I married a former cheerleader who'd never read a fantasy book in her life, when we were dating, she thought it was funny that I did. I convinced her to watch Game of Thrones and she loved it. She didn't mind me tooling around with a fantasy book as a hobby, because from the first date, she knew I was a nerd. When I published that book, we told her yoga pant-wearing, luxury suv-driving, soccer mom friends. They didn't read fantasy books either, but they tried mine, and found out they love fantasy books. They're reading books I'm publishing from other authors now too, and messaging me about them at 11 o'clock at night. They're husbands, who also didn't read fantasy, are into mine. Some of those guys were named and brutally killed in mine... They tell others. So many people have been told now that I WRITE FANTASY BOOKS FULL TIME.
You can't get much nerdier than that. We have friends who are accountants, plastic surgeons, in oil and gas, run hedge funds, work for huge banks, do sales for projects worth tens of millions of dollars, more people in oil and gas (hey, Houston), and guess what? At cocktail parties and back-yard bbq's, everyone asks about what it's like to write fantasy books full time. They ask me what they should read next, what they should watch, what I think of whatever... They want to know about FANTASY stories.
Tonight, I'm meeting with some of my old co-workers. These guys are from all over Europe and their job, like my old job, involves traveling the world. They work for one of the 5 largest companies on the planet supporting international oil trading. They travel in style. Business class airfare, 5-star hotels, ridiculous expense accounts (not buying drinks tonight!). But guess what, after they tell me about their last trip to that bar in Singapore/India/Manila/Krakow/Rotterdam/Hamburg/London that we went to last year, they'll tell me how jealous they are that I write FANTASY books.
This post sounds braggy, and I apologize for that. My point is that all this cool stuff is only cool because I OWNED it. I'm an unapologetic nerd, and that's what has gotten me to where I am. There's no shame in being a nerd, for liking fantasy, for making elves or dragons a central piece of your life. There's no shame in whatever other interests you have. The only shame is what you keep inside. Whatever you're into, put it out there, own who you are, and amazing things are possible.