Being an indie means you can’t hide behind a publisher or an editorial department or an agent. You can’t blame a bad ending on an editor or mediocre sales on a marketing department. You can’t blame your career on a mismanaging agent. You are everything, you are in control, and you are responsible. You aren’t, however, alone. Lady Luck is in the airship with you, and if she’s feeling generous, she won’t be lighting up while you’re tooling about in a dirigible full of flammable hydrogen gas.
But–the airspace is yours. You’re 100% the pilot, and a lot of times, you’re also the crew (and the ground crew, too, so you’d better figure out how to be in two places at once). Not every airship crew is the most skilled–many of us are earning our wings during in-flight training. The big news articles talk about the lucky ones–who struck gold with instinctive talent, or surrounded themselves with people who knew what they were doing and weren’t also doing anything else at the time, and who found the single municipal airstrip that had a crowd of airship jocks waiting around to help a lead zeppelin take to the skies.
For the vast majority of us, we tote the gasbag to the local airfield under cover of night, or under the noses of people who don’t really give two shits, and then use our own hot gas to inflate the envelope. We struggle with the guy lines of our dreams and expectations, our own limited understanding about the massive airspace that is The Reader or Your Reader, and a navigational map that’s been hand-drawn, not-to-scale, and Here Be-Dragon’d until we get that flying’s mostly done by looking at where you’re going, with the occasional glance back to make sure you’ve really been where you’ve been, and whether or not you left your tail engines there.
We unload the ballast of our insecurities, maybe take on passengers and alter our course because other airships in the area reported a thermal updraft over a soybean field and we might be able to gain a little altitude there, but then the field passes by beneath us and we find the aft crew took on more ballast again while we weren’t looking, because ice might get into the engines if we soar too quickly. But one thing we never fail to let on board right alongside the exhilaration is its traveling companion, fear.
We look down to see how high we’ve gotten and exhilaration makes the people look like ants while fear says we’re getting too far away from our comfortable roots. We look up and see the gorgeous sky and the exhilaration shows us the pride we have in having created this majestic envelope, while fear notes the slight crookedness of the seams, or the flimsy feel of the fabric, or the thin skin and hollow framework of a bulky, heavier-than-air contraption that should never have left the surface of the earth, suspended by something as ephemeral as our words.
We wonder if maybe we shouldn’t have paid our buck and taken our chances on the commercial airlines, following a cattle-car path to something close to success and sharing elbow room in too-small slots in an industry whose routes are shrinking daily and counting on routing all passengers through a few giant hubs with no guarantee those hubs will want your kind passing through, because hey, at least we’ll be together in the same metal tube, and don’t those things look so much more aerodynamic, and even if you don’t get free drinks and peanuts anymore, you can still tilt your tiny seat back instead of having to fly the thing yourself.
But we hear nothing but the wind. We feel the gondola beneath us, the thrum of only our own engines. We hold the stick in our hands and we can look right out the cockpit window to see what else is in the air with us.