Now I’m not going to jump up and down and scream that this is the first time that someone with mental illness has ever been published. I’m sure that’s not true. What I am sure about, however, is that this is the first time in history that people with mental illness have really, as a whole, had access to publishing.
Think of how, in history, publishing and getting printed has always been very strictly gate-kept. For something to be printed, it had to be something that people would think would sell, something that, quite often, had to ‘make sense’ and be considered socially acceptable. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, if women from the victorian era had been able to write or even blog about their experiences in the asylums, it might have turned heads and made the whole thing grind to a miserable halt faster than it did.
So what’s my point? This. That indie publishing is not only a chance for the marginalized to write and find each other, it’s a chance for the mentally ill to express themselves and find each other. This, I think, has a large part to play in the perceived ‘low quality’ that pervades the indie publishing scene.
I’m definitely not saying that people with mental illnesses can’t write. That’s not it at all. I’m saying that we speak uncomfortable truths, weirdness, and occasionally gibberish. None of this is suitable for large publishing industries. Just looking back on my own writings, I’m quite sure it’s too ‘bizarre’ and ‘out there’ and mentions suicide and death far too easily for a traditional publisher to even approach.
The thing is, mental illness is taboo. Our experiences and thereby, our stories, will be taboo. We frighten people, our experiences frighten people, and so our stories will be silenced.
But for once, for once, we have a chance to write and express ourselves. For once, we have a voice. This is extraordinary! This is a first.
And yet, this outlet, instead of being lauded for its diversity and potential for the mentally ill community, is being branded as ‘low quality’ and ‘sub-par’ and seen as silly.
There is a stigma related to indie publishing, one that I find to be very similar to being mentally ill. The fact is that indie publishing has some incredible authors in it, and some bad ones, just like traditional publishing. One is just a system that is mentally ill friendly. The other is incredibly gate-kept and, by virtue of being the way it is, is gate-keeping at its best.
I’d like to say that indie writing is the future, but that’s not necessarily it. Gate-keeping tends to keep itself very much alive, and is adored by the masses. Those who succeed at traditional publishing will probably be adored by the masses. Furthermore, there is a whole host of neurotypical people who are exploiting the indie industry for their own uses. This isn’t a bad thing, but they are, whether they want to or not, bringing the ‘normal’ into a space that, in my opinion, could be dedicated to the ‘abnormal’. They are ‘normalizing’ what could be an ‘abnormal’ space.
I find it incredibly hilarious, in an ironic and sad way, that the only publishing method that is available to the mentally ill is being judged and used by neurotypicals. Now, granted, it wasn’t a dedicated space for the mentally ill. No one owns the indie publishing industry. But, I do have to say, I wish there was a space for the mentally ill to publish their stories without being crowded out by the neurotypicals.