An indie believer creation story

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Note: The identity of the first named indie believer who walked the earth is not certain, but here is a story of how things could have started. 

As I entered the coffee shop, I saw a lady sitting at the counter with a T-shirt and the words “indie author” printed on it. Now, what was that? I wanted to approach her and ask but thought it might be looking like a lame attempt at finding a reason for chatting to her. My old friend Josh was running late as he had to take Paste to the vet. It was either his dog or his cat. I could never remember whether Cut was actually the cat, or was it the other way around? It was all very confusing and Josh thought it ignorant of me for not remembering such a basic thing, so I stopped asking. The lady stood up and passed me on the way out, and with it went my chances of finding out what the indie author slogan was all about; from her at least. I was about to look it up on my phone when I saw she passed Josh as he entered the building. He also saw the slogan and had no problem asking. Typical! There they stood talking for what felt like a lifetime while my coffee was getting cold. I was actually the one interested in writing and there he was, chatting to a self-proclaimed author; whatever that meant. He was probably telling her about his spiritual crisis or the problem with his pet called Paste.

Then there was a dramatic development. Josh managed to somehow convince the “indie author” to join us. Only he could pull something like that off. He thought I would find it interesting. It was so nice of him to use me as an excuse to flirt a little longer.

She introduced herself as Kait, but Josh was already calling her Katie. She only had five minutes to spare, so I inquired about the words on her T-shirt while Josh ordered something to eat. Indie author referred to “independent author”, I learned. It was the preferred term in the industry to self-published, which still had a ring of “you did not make it” to it.

“There had been so many changes in the publishing industry, it is hard to keep up with it all,” she said but then added: “It’s all very exciting.”

“Do you want to hear about the issue with Paste, or my chat with the priest?” Josh asked as he returned to the table.

“I want to hear this indie author’s story,” I said.

“Then you’ll have to ask her for her number,” Josh said and started telling us about his decision to leave the church.

“What made you decide that?” Kait asked, clearly more interested in his story than mine. Did I have a story? Perhaps that was my problem.

“It is too restrictive and prescriptive. I’ve had it. They even want to have a say on who I date,” Josh said.

“That’s exactly how I felt about the publishing industry,” Kait replied, “except for the dating part.”

Josh had a complicated relationship with the church he was a member of. He grew up in a conservative congregation, the son of devout believers who were the pillars of their community. They lived and breathed their faith; the proverbial salt of the earth. The problem was that Josh simply could not find his fit. Being quite spiritual in his own way, as he grew older, he started to feel fenced in. He particularly disliked his family’s subtle judgment of those who were different, as most of his friends were “different”. He felt they looked down on the sinners, in a loving sort of way. The problem was that every person who appeared to be different could be seen as a sinner.

Josh was working as the teacher at a school, run by the church. He loved teaching and it made it so much more difficult to leave, for that was his real passion. He also loved music and was the conductor of their church choir. He always described himself as a believer but could not articulate in detail what exactly it was that he believed, even though he could talk for hours about it.

Josh was busy telling us about the issue with Paste, while I wanted to learn more from Kait. The dog had some socializing issues and behaved strangely. Something was wrong. He started eating the cat’s food and lost the muscle memory he picked up from all the potty-training Josh did when he was a puppy. It was not only a crisis but a mess as well.

“What did the vet say?” I asked, but Josh was too involved in telling Kait all about the socializing school they go to twice a week, he and the dog. Fortunately, the cat was antisocial from the start, so he did not even try getting her to adhere to the human conventions regarding politeness.

It was interesting what Kait later had to say about the publishing industry. I once read an essay on all the social developments the introduction of the printing press in 1436 (more or less) was responsible for. The move from written copies of texts to printed material in time turned everything upside down and opened up the world in unprecedented ways. It had a huge impact on science and religion and also changed the way politics was practiced. Centuries later the development of technologies like the internet and communication networks is arguably already causing similar changes with much more to come. For one thing, everyone with access to the web can now have a blog or publish a book.

“The vet said nothing. He thought I was the crazy one, so I took Paste to a dog whisperer.” Josh continued and looked as if he suddenly remembered something. “Don’t tell my parents!”

“Seeing a dog whisperer?” I asked.

“Can dogs sin?” Kait wanted to know and we both burst into laughter.

“It is serious, they say no one knows where that information the dog whisperer conveys, comes from. It could be from evil sources,” Josh said.

“His parents see dark forces in everything, but they are very nice people,” I told Kait.

“I also know people like that,” she said and then asked Josh: “So, what did the dog whisperer say?”

Josh rolled his eyes: “Depression.”


“Yes, Paste struggles with depression, brought on by the Covide-19 lockdown. He also gets freaked out by people wearing masks. He does not like it at all!”

Again, Kait and I were cracking ourselves as tears came to our eyes from all the laughter.

“It is a serious matter,” Josh said, but eventually found it just as funny.

“I think your condition is worse,” I joked.

“And I don’t even have a diagnosis,” Josh lamented.

“Go and see the dog whisperer,” Kait suggested.

“He can’t, it’s a sin,” I laughed.

“It was great meeting you, but I have to go,” Kait said as she rose from her chair.

“Wait, wait, wait, quickly tell us about being an indie author?” I asked.

“Then you’ll have to walk with me to the subway station.”

While Josh waited at the coffee shop, making some calls, I had a nice chat with Kait, a person clearly on the way somewhere. She wrote a book and sent it to several publishers, but did not get any response. When the same happened with a second and third project, she got discouraged. The traditional publishing industry proved to be an immensely difficult world for a newcomer to access. Besides, everything happened extremely slowly. She knew someone who had a book published. It took him more than two years to get the book out and hit a dead end after that. She even tried making use of a literary agent, but the process would cost her an arm and a leg. In the meantime, she started blogging and enjoyed the exposure, but wanted to publish a book.

“Do you have to do everything yourself?” I asked.

“No, that’s the nice thing. I still make use of an editor and a graphic designer, but I manage the whole project. I took control of the process and it such a liberating experience. There are so many options, so many services one can make use of. It is a steep learning curve and you make mistakes, but it is so empowering. I just love it.”

As I walked back to the coffee shop, memorizing Kait’s email address, I was wondering what Josh was going to do next. Like Kait, he felt stuck, dealing with a religious system that was overpowering and slow-moving. For years he has threatened to venture out on his own, spiritually speaking. He often said he felt as if he could not breathe, but his dilemma was that he deeply believed in the basics his faith taught. It was not that he was doubting the core of his religion, but there was no way in his congregation to discuss issues like evolution or how old the earth was. The answers to these questions were fixed and to protect the community, no debate on these kinds of matters was tolerated. Still, the questions remained. Furthermore, Audrey, one of his best friends from church, had to deal with so much hurt since she started to come to terms with her sexual orientation. She left the faith altogether since all she experienced was shame and condemnation at a very vulnerable stage in her life. There was only one way to be and that was to follow the mainstream. Josh was stuck.

“I still believe, but I don’t know what I am,” Josh said when I pressed him.

“You’ve been feeling like this for years.”

“I don’t know what to do, but leave. I don’t see a way out. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“You need a diagnosis, like Paste,” I joked, trying to cheer him up, but I was serious. “Now that you know the dog has depression, you can do something about it. You need to identify and name the place where you are right now in your life.”

“The place I am at is not seen as a legitimate space. It is seen as being disobedient. It is seen as a sin just to question the ways of the tradition, no matter how archaic. The people are leaving in droves. One day they will realize they’ve become irrelevant. But I don’t want to be irrelevant. I don’t think religion is irrelevant.”

“What about joining another group?”

“Just to have the same experience? No, I’ve already tried that. I should simply leave and see what’s it like on my own.”

“Like Kait did, with the publishing industry. She is still an author, she just took control of the process,” I suggested.

His face lit up for a moment: “Yeah, she looks as if she is in a good spot. Meeting such positive people gives me hope.”

Josh had to leave, he still needed to find a pet-friendly facemask the help Paste with his Covid-19 separation anxiety. We talked a lot over the next few months. He found a teaching post in a different city and moved away from his family. It was traumatic for everyone, but Josh was taking ownership of his journey. He joined a church choir, but not the church in his new neighborhood, and took things very slowly. He did not want to upset his family but needed some space of his own. Even Paste was doing better.

Six months went by before I saw Josh again. He gave me a call to arrange a meeting, for he planned to visit his parents. I suggested the same coffee shop. From what I could gather, he was in a much better place in his life.

“Do you remember that girl we met there?”

“Kait, yes, we still have contact, she is helping me with a project,” I said.

“I sure hope that’s not all she is helping you with,” he joked. “What was that slogan on her T-shirt again? Something about independence…”

“It said ‘indie author’,” I knew, for I also was wearing one.

“Yes, now I remember. Yes, that’s a good idea,” Josh said.

“What’s a good idea?” I wanted to know.

“You’ll see.”

We met a couple of days later. I was waiting at the table. Josh entered and as I stood up to greet my old friend, I saw he also proudly wore a T-shirt with the slogan: indie believer.