Independence and what it means... by Cally Phillips
We all know it’s American Independence Day today. I’m not an American. I’m a Scot. And an indie writer – so I want to look at ‘independence’ from a number of angles today.
Firstly let me consider what I think independence means to Americans? The 4th of July. Flags. Day off work. Fireworks. Is that it? Getting rid of the British by throwing tea into the river or some such. I’m not up on American history (they’re not old enough to have a history right?) or even American culture (though I could sing all the way through the Star Spangled Banner – but I hate the ending, I’m sure it should be the land of brave and the home of the free. It just sounds so much better.) Despite my ignorance of things American, I am, as of this month, the holder of a US TAX number. Thanks Amazon. It’s something that makes me feel quite sick actually. I don’t want to have anything to do with the IRS, even though my number just entitles me NOT to pay tax to them. A real live Catch-22. No tax number, you pay 30%, tax number you pay zilch. It doesn’t comfort me that it’s not about me at all. Nothing personal. Just business. It’s all to do with Amazon not paying tax in UK. It doesn’t seem quite an equitable deal does it - I don’t pay US tax and Amazon doesn’t pay UK tax- I think it’s obvious who has the better deal.
On another matter. I am an independent Scot. You might have noticed we are engaged in our own independence debate at present but I don’t want to go into this Politics thing. For me it’s about as much of a turn off as business talk. I’d rather talk about what being an independent Scot means to me. And for me it’s tied up with freedom. Personal freedom.
I cite as my source one John Barbour a Scottish poet and the first major named literary figure to write in Scots. His principal surviving work is the historical verse romance, The Brus (The Bruce), and his reputation from this poem is such that other long works in Scots which survive from the period are sometimes thought to be by him. (He kicks Chaucer’s ass by the way!) His dates are c1320-1395 and he’s credited as Aberdeenshire or Galloway. That’s weird because I used to live in Galloway and now live in Aberdeenshire. Hmm… anyway, he said:
‘Ah Freedom is a noble thing’ (although when I read it at University I’m sure it was: Ah fredome is a noble thyng (which would never have passed a decent editor/proof reader now would it?)
As someone who has on several occasions been an exiled Scot (no they didn’t throw me out) and has always been miserably unhappy whenever not living in Scotland, for me my Scottish independence, is everything to do with a sense of freedom in the environment around me and the language that I speak (if only in ma heid) as much as anything political. I feel free in Scotland. I feel that I belong in the rain, the wind, the cold. I am comfortable with soft rolls and Irn Bru (the only national drink for those like I who detest whisky) and butteries and pan drops and caramel wafers. With the language of blethers and havers and scunners. I have learned to live with having (put your own word in here, I can’t bear to) **** football and rugby teams. I like haggis (but I don’t like stovies). I love the skirl of the pipes and the strathspeys and reels and jigs of the fiddle. I’ve never managed to exchange my Presbyterian work ethic for existentialism or hedonism though I’m not religious in any way conventional or otherwise.
|Me.. being independent. In rural Scotland|
I feel the textures of the granite and the sand and the haar deep, deep inside me. I feel at home in the mountains and by lochs and in the glens and the braes. I’m a rural rather than an urban Scot it’s true. But being Scottish just IS a part of my basic identity. It may not show so much on the surface but it is deep in my soul. I can trace (part) of my family back to Culloden (we didn’t wear the red coats by the way and we was robbed) and if I was ever inclined to kiss soil it would be Scottish soil I kissed. The closest I’ve come to date is aged 14 when I collected peat samples from the various Hebredian Islands I visited on holiday – I was taken on the holiday by some nice Americans by the way! And I don’t still have the peat, I grew out of being a ‘collector’. All in all, I just love Scotland. It’s my country. It’s part of who I am. For me, being an independent Scot is not open for debate, it’s simply a statement of what I feel. It’s not rampant nationalism it’s just a deeply held belief that you can’t be free unless you are independent. I am Scottish, I want to be free and so I want to be independent. Being Scots is something that is important to me on a fundamental level. I can’t do anything about it – Nelly, I am Scottish (to misquote Wuthering Heights!) and I don’t want to. It’s me. Three words to describe me: Scottish. Writer. Independent. (others may pick a different three words!)
|STAGES OF INDEPENDENCE|
Of course this is bringing me to the (or a) point of relevance (I hope) to writers, and in our forum, specifically ebook publication. There are long winded debates (nearly as boring as Scottish independence ones) all over the place at the moment about whether people are self/independent or just vanity publishers. (What is it about the modern world, people just love arguing – sorry voicing their opinions- all over the place as if anyone cares?) I think we need to wake up and realise that the world is a big place. That everyone can have their place in it. And that what we call ourselves is maybe less important than what we ARE (and by extension what we DO).
For me the simple thing is: if you publish work and you are independent of any other commercial entity in the creation and publication of this work, you are independent. If you can choose your content, your price, your distribution platform and the like you are an independent publisher. I think that independence is very important to writers as well. For a much lengthier diatribe on this issue click HERE.
Arguing over what we mean by a word or a name is much less important to me (but seems to absorb a lot of peoples time and energy these days) I know what I am. I’m a Scot (even though the voice oot ma heid may sound English to some) And I am now an independent publisher – no one tells me what to do and my reputation is in my own hands. I am also an ‘indie’ writer. I have finally realised that I have always aspired to this status. In fact I realise that many of my ‘problems’ during a 20 year industry ‘career’ (for me the word career means running with abandon and out of control down a hill and I cannot say my professional writing career has ever been that exciting – there were far too many meetings and rewrites and disappointments and arguments for that) were that I always considered myself ‘independent’ and of course as soon as someone was paying me money to write I lost that independence. I expected to be treated equally in an industry where the writer (sometimes laughingly called ‘the talent’) is quite far down the food chain.
|I can't help myself, I even review independently!|
But as an indie publisher I have the responsibility for promoting writers I believe in (including myself) and I have the freedom to choose what work I publish and in what format or across what platform I do this. It’s not vanity. It’s not primarily about some debatable concept of the ‘self’. It’s about independence. Freedom to make choices and decisions. Freedom to embrace personal responsibility and live up to my own personal and professional set of standards. And I’m not ashamed of it. Being truly independent is something I’ve aspired to my whole life and I’m happy to say, nearly 50 years in, largely achieved. I do appreciate the importance of interdependence too (but I’m keeping clear of the ‘self’ debate remember)
Independence is not just for Independence Day... or for Americans.
Happy Independence Day, folks.
Coming soon, something to get under your skin in a new way
|The Guerrilla Midgie is coming your way soon!|