Strive to Thrive

Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2020. It’s too quiet all around; too quiet in the neighborhood, in the world, in my own world, as if all my efforts at connection, even my little handful of book sales, have gone unnoticed.

April sales in the U.S. and France

The above represents my three Kindle sales for this month. What happened to the hardcover and paperback sales I had at the beginning of the month I don’t know – the paperback, purchased on Amazon, should have been printed and shipped (and therefore recorded as a sale) long ago and all I can think is the buyer cancelled their purchase when they realized it was going to take weeks to get the book. Perhaps they bought an eBook instead? I hate to think folks are scared to buy a printed book now because they think it may be contaminated with the virus – God help us if folks are that paranoid. I have one paperback sold this month per Ingramspark – was that a bookstore or a B&N sale? And that hardcover from Amazon, since disappeared, ought to have appeared likewise in the Ingram data and it doesn’t, dammit. Without further detail, I don’t know anything for certain. Argh. That I’m so obsessed with such tiny numbers might be embarrassing if I didn’t know that I’m hardly alone. We writers who are struggling to establish themselves, we’re legion, I know. Hell, it’s still embarrassing. Most books never sell more than one hundred copies…. One hundred copies, at this point, seems an incredible success.

What I need is a review to spur sales. Knowing full well that when you get what you wish for you get everything else that comes with it, too; namely, things that you don’t want. Like a bad or mediocre review. Which might kill sales forever. I just need to see the book gathering readers even if it’s one by one, I don’t care, rather than languishing. It’s yet to completely languish – I’ve had at least a sale in each of the three months since its release but I can’t help but fret that without an enthusiastic review forthcoming it means people don’t like it and word is not spreading. And now next month looms, ugh. God, how I wish I had some confidence, some damn faith in things. Don’t obsess, right? Let it go. Just keep writing the blog, editing TC2, tweaking the Amazon advertising and otherwise focus on what I’m  in control of, right? It’s all easy enough to say but to do?

What I try to come to terms with is the long haul. The very, very long haul of having to complete the editing of TC2, earn the money to professionally edit it, indie publish it and meanwhile hope for some oomph from the TC1 audiobook. I have to build a brand, as they say. When it doesn’t strike gold right away, when a thing doesn’t hit a perfect zeitgeist and take off then the only option is endurance and perseverance and determination. And the spending of silly amounts of money. In spite of it all more resembling self-delusion, desperation and financial idiocy – a fantasy versus a legitimate strategy. The alternative? Giving up. Artist-craftsmen of all types have worked their whole lives away with nothing to show for it, after all, so be it. That’s the norm, statistically, by a long measure, clearly. Meanwhile, we have to try our best to accept what the process bestows which is whatever sliver of individuation that comes to us by way of the work for its own sake and our pride in it.

But the quiet. The dead calm of it all. The sales, yes, they’ve kept me going. But it’s as if I’m selling into a void. Feedback, for those who sell quantities of books is of course merely more work to manage. Fending off the fans and all that. But frankly, I can’t imagine ever regarding fans as a hassle. Annie Dillard makes a point of telling you not to contact her because she’s not going to respond. Because she can’t and still find time for her work. Well, that’s one way to regard success. Namely, as getting in the way of your work. But I’d say you’re an asshole for being that way. Because we were all wannabes once. We’ve all been fans and we all have heroes and guides and people’s work that we admire so much that it’s all that kept us going in the hard times.

Artist-craftsmen create out of isolation, mostly, and I understand that getting attention can destroy the single-minded focus and the power of yearning for connection that fuels creation. But not all of us who write do it out of desperation. I believe there are energies available during the course of a career that replace those lost to success at whatever level. When the bliss cuts off, as Campbell suggests, try to find it again. And sometimes the bliss lies elsewhere. Follow it. I don’t know, for instance, if I’ll be capable of transforming TC2, let alone TC3 and TC4 into something even as serviceable at TC1. It seems to me that I’ve got a good start but who knows? TC1 might be all that the muse allocates to me. Meanwhile I plug away at the editing and it seems to work. I take refuge in the work. Which is to say I always feel better when I’ve managed to edit at least my two pages in a day.

In an effort to do all I can to communicate and market the book I tried a couple of things this morning. First, I loaded a video of myself on my Amazon Author Central page (and on this website – click on “About Me”) – very, very brief, no audio, just a blip of a clip, really, with the framed cover of the book on the wall behind me. Lame? Pathetic? Well, I’m no charismatic video star and why try to be something I’m not? Should I rather rent a proper video camera and set up lighting and powder my face and wear something special and go all out? I’d rather just be me to begin with and see if the idea grows on me. I get it that some of us authors are incredibly uncomfortable with even posting a photograph of ourselves – it’s as if we fear that we’ll ruin any chance of connecting with readers if they have to look at our unattractive mug. But, hell, I like looking at photographs and the occasional video so as to learn something more about somebody I’m curious about. Hence, it’s just a way to become more alive to folks who may go to the effort to click on the author page link. Why not give it a try?

Second, I started Amazon ad campaigns in Germany, Spain and Italy and went to the trouble (it wasn’t much trouble) to load the German, Spanish and Italian translations of “science fiction” and “time travel.” Those are the only “keywords” that have reliably generated clicks and sales. It occurred to me then to do the same with my France campaign, entering the keywords for the translated terms. My negative “keywords” – the keywords for searches that I don’t want to associate with Time Crime remain “young adult” and “YA” and a few variations. Why do any of this if the book is in English? Well, I goddamn sold a book in France and even if the buyer wasn’t French I venture to assume that a fair number of French, German, Spanish and Italian folk read English. Again, why not do my best to cover all the bases?

DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST: The following reminds me, as if I needed reminding at all, that failure hurts like hell. Failure is ugly. But here it is nonetheless.

Thrive vs. Survive

Me and Mark H. got snarky with each other over that damn commercial freezer in Union Hall. I knew I never should have agreed with Paul to share it – I had my own plan and allowed myself to be convinced otherwise, but hey, it’s up to me now to rise above. But first I sunk low enough to giving Mark a piece of my mind about his dirty kitchen and his big-business-man attitude. He offered me $250 for my half of the freezer, which cost me over $1500. Asshole. Then he says “Always a fight with you” and references some bullshit about “the agreement” I signed which probably has language about me leaving shit behind and how he can withhold my deposit, blah, blah. I told him, “I don’t give a damn about your agreement or your money. It’s the principle.” The principle being the fact that at the beginning of the first cart season, he had no freezer space at all and it forced me (and Paul) to buy our own. Mark ends up furnishing residential freezer space later in the year because the County required it and now the County wants him to provide half a residential freezer for each of his carters, so he’s fucked. (How the County allows him to use residential crap vs. commercial freezers is beyond me). Anyway, to end the back & forth, I told him I’d sell it on Craig’s List so I don’t have to deal with him. So we both basically told each other to fuck off and he wins because he’s owns the space and that’s how business ends badly and people end up disliking each other. Ugly. I’d like to be capable of taking the high road so to speak but then again the truth, ugly as it is, sometimes needs to be heard. In this case I’m convinced he deserved a kick in the ribs and something to think about before he rolls over another bunch of naïve folks with stars in their eyes like I had. I’m glad I’m done with that scene, what a mistake. I at least considered what to do with my anger before I allowed myself to “snark” out. I thought about it, paused, before I went off. I consider that pause to be some selfology progress, but the lousy feeling in my guts is the price I pay. That, and the energy and time I’ve just wasted thinking and writing about it all.

Better things. Yesterday, I took care of the unpleasant requirement of informing the USDA and Mark H. about my clearing out of Union Hall (I told Mike at USDA that I’m essentially out of business after zcob passed on my h-cheese). Admitting abject failure to the wide world sucks. It’s embarrassing to admit I couldn’t cut it. It brought me down. But as soon as I sent the email, I got one from Ari, who very rarely initiates an email, he usually just responds to my “notes” as he calls them. (Which is more than perfectly fine, he’s a busy guy and I’m always pleased that he responds at all – I can’t imagine the amount of email traffic he has to manage). He asked me if I’d be interested in being a part of the “open forum” panel of zcob employees that answer questions about visioning from the zingtrain class members – I think the visioning training is a two-day seminar.

It’s just like Ari to be tuned in to my state of mind and to consider me for some zingtrain help – he probably knows I’m smarting from another zcob brush-off so it works to get me back in the positive zcob frame-of-mind and to not dwell on my failures. As he said, “given all your experience with visioning, I thought you might like to do it.” What’s great about Ari’s favors is they aren’t your typical favors – he’s not kidding when he needs you to do something for him – he doesn’t just make work, he’s fucking got plenty of it. It’s a privilege to be asked and I wouldn’t think of ever turning him down. And at this point, it might be that I can speak to the situation where your vog appears to have failed you. Because I need to figure that out myself – why indeed has my latest vog fallen completely flat? I’ll try to answer myself:

Having re-read it and pondered it for a couple days now, I can see at least a couple of things about it that are questionable. First, the time frame is probably closer to fantasy than strategy. Somebody said that a fantasy consumes energy where a vision engages it, or something to that effect. Being as specific as you can in your vog, which includes being specific about time, is tricky and one of the most difficult things for me to try to “get right” when I write a vog. How long should my vision take to come to fruition? How many hours, days, months, years, even decades? Ari addresses this stuff and suggests 2-3 years for a small start-up but maybe five years for a biz that’s more well established. One of the challenges with time in a vog is that a vog, as focused as it might be on your biz, is necessarily connected to your life. Therefore, you must be very mindful of how your mind and your heart work together to manifest your vogs. Your mind – the rational part of you – is concerned primarily with survival. Whereas your heart is concerned always with the most true and pure essence of who and what you are – it wants to thrive, not just survive. Your mind wants to survive, but your heart wants to thrive is how I say it in a nutshell. They can work together, but it’s not necessarily easy, especially for those of us, like me, that have lived many years with an emphasis on our rational mind – that part of us that’s too concerned with what others think we should or shouldn’t do. As Joseph Campbell tells us, these “shoulds” and “should nots” become the scales on our personal demons, the dragons we must confront sooner or later in order to move forward effectively in life.

“My VOG is broken – it’s not working!” You’ve put all this time and effort into this shiny new powerful vog – you’ve drafted and re-drafted all the while speaking from your heart and expressing the things that mean the most to you. Like the folks at NASA, you’ve done the engineering, you’ve worked and re-worked, you’ve gotten on the launch pad and you’ve lifted off – the universe is the limit! Fantastic! It feels great, it feels powerful! Right on, this was easier than I thought! Then later (days, weeks, months) you might look around at your business and your life and be thinking “This isn’t working. Nothing’s happening.” Or “It’s not happening according to my vog!” This stuff doesn’t really work – that seminar was just another waste of my time and money – it’s just another program of the month.

The folks in the space shuttle might say “Houston, we have a problem.” You’re saying “This sucks, this is bullshit, what the fuck?!” You bring out your vog, re-read it, maybe go over and over it and it still sounds good. Maybe it even still jazzes youl. But as far as you can tell – things are definitely NOT working – the vog is a dream that isn’t coming true. But does it really FEEL good? Does it make you as jazzy, scared and energized as it did when you wrote it? Or does it maybe just indeed sound good, like it might sound good to somebody else who’s reading it; like maybe somebody who’s reading it that you admire and that you want to impress or somebody that you want to be proud of you. Or maybe you want to impress yourself and be proud of yourself? Maybe it’s your ego reading it.

Let me remind you, as I try to remind myself, how hard this can be. This business of expressing who you really are and who you really want to be, what you really want to do – a vog is a call to action after all – is an expression of yourself. It has to be each and every time you create one and each minute of every day you’re living it, no matter how trivial the particular circumstance is for which you wrote your vog. Even if it’s just for the big meeting you’re in charge of tomorrow. Which is to say that you have to be careful each time you write a vog to make sure it’s connected to your heart – ALL of your heart, which might include things, actions, deeds, wants, desires that you might be suppressing or might be scared of or don’t think is right, or that won’t impress your dad or might disappoint your friends or co-workers.

“My vog is malfunctioning!” If you don’t express all of your heart, it can betray you. You must re-read your vog and have a conversation with yourself about how good, how right, it really feels when you read it. Do your engines roar? Do you feel like the gas pedal might be stuck to the floor? THAT’S GOOD. Scary too. And maybe in conflict with something you’re hanging onto when you add that thing in your vog about that amount of money accumulated in that amount of time. Money. Time. Ambition. Just be careful that your vog doesn’t contain too much of the things that you might think impress somebody else. And I’m telling you from personal experience that that “somebody else” can be the person you used to be, or the person you’re used to being.

Gloom and doom is always a warning sign that your vog sucks. A sinking feeling, feelings of being trapped, of being forced, of worry – any grinding in your guts means you’ve got it wrong. If your vog is malfunctioning you can fix it. Which means you probably have to change some parts of it that you might be clinging too a little too tightly. Maybe the fame and fortune part. Maybe all you really want is an apartment with a dog and a space to write your book. Maybe it’s not that multi-million-dollar juggernaut of a biz that consumes your life. Your heart knows and it’s always telling you if you listen. That’s your job here. To listen. Then to write it down as best you can. Then re-read it often and change it, fix it, make it better. Your heart, like your guides, will not abandon you. It’s a vision of greatness, not a vision of goodness. It’s a vision of what YOU think is great. You may be good at many things, but you can be great at probably only a very few or even just one thing. That’s o.k. You’ve got your whole life to work on it and that’s what your life is for.

Vision of Greatness for Zingtrain Visioning Q&A Panel Invite:

Prouds:

  • I’ve done a hell of a lot of work with vogging – I’ve lived it and know what I’m talking and writing about.
  • Visioning has been essential to getting to where I am now, which is a good place, though not what I had “planned” so I know I need to heed Campbell’s advice of discarding the life you’ve planned….
  • I’ve kept up an inspiring and essential correspondence with Ari and it’s expanding towards more folks within zcob.
  • I’ve run the h-cheese through zcob tastings and though they passed on it, I’m jazzed that I got the chance and that Ari was interested in it because he knows his shit.
  • I’ve been invited to attend this seminar wrap-up.
  • I’m keeping my feet moving and I feel good about where I’m at.

VOG:

It’s my day off and I’m excited and happy to be a part of this visioning team. The room is filled with folks who are on the same page with this stuff – it’s being among friends. The questions that come to me are interesting because I get to express my ideas about visioning, my experiences working directly with visioning and I get to hear how other folks are working with this stuff and it’s helping me get through this rough patch. This isn’t a stage and I’m not required to put on a show or to be anybody or anything other than I am. That’s the best part. I can just surrender to my myth because this is part of it – of being who I am. Folks here today find this part of me useful and worthy and legitimate and I return the sentiment. I’m getting as much out of this as they are – the back and forth is just what I like about biophycomythology. I’m helping Ari, which is important to me, and I’m finding my place within zcob and within my life.

Update. I’ve returned from the panel gig and I wasn’t impressed with myself. Nerves again. I didn’t like the vibe, which was sales pitchy from everybody, except Ari of course. Pampered clients type stuff. I’m sure Ari will handle everything adeptly with a combination of honesty, professionalism and charisma, he can do that. Me, I just pretty much speak my mind and I don’t often make the best first impression. I don’t want to attribute intention, but it seems like I’ve always been a dog picking up the energy in the room and I’ve never done well when there’s an expectation. Ari’s the exception – he can connect with folks like me and also with the corporate execs, probably because, even if his personality doesn’t jive with them, they can’t deny his success.

Anyway, I’m writing to diffuse my anxiety from the whole experience. Maggie B. seemed like sort of a nervous wreck, like me but in a different way and I picked up on it and it didn’t help me. She sucked. I sucked. I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say eloquently – I very rarely do – and she seemed impatient with everything and everybody. Maybe she’s actually great at her job, but when I tried to ask a question at the “debriefing” she cut me off and said “Wait a minute!” making me wait until she blabbed about something to her assistant Elnia. She seemed cranked up, irritable and nervous to me. She finally turned back to me (the guest speaker, remember?) and said “Sorry, go ahead.” I thought to myself “What the fuck, what’s so damn important about what you have to say right now that I can’t ask a question?” Then, during the panel discussion, she interrupted me and said “You have to speak up.” Again, I thought, what the fuck? It’s a small conference room, there’s not a fucking soul in here that can’t hear what the fuck I’m saying and you just made me look bad. Maybe she just didn’t like me. Argh. It just didn’t go as “planned” nor envisioned. I wasn’t jazzy positive and neither was anyone else. I got started on some good stuff with the audience but then we got shuffled out the door, given a zcob gift card as some sort of compensation brushed aside. Sometimes I feel in zcob like most folks look at me with the same competitive, skeptical, and unwelcoming eye that peered at me from around the corner in so many corporate environments. Like I’m a threat.

So yes, here I am bitching when it was just me fucking up and bringing bad energy. But I can’t for the life of me sometimes figure out where I fit and why I just can’t be the best version of myself when it counts. I’m usually the best version when it doesn’t count, which is the sign of a loser. But that doesn’t feel like a true statement either. I’m actually glad I suck at that shit. If we were going to start with a good vibe and not the uptight freakiness I experienced, then maybe my vog would’ve played out. If I was better at making a great charismatic first impression, then we wouldn’t be talking about being me at all. I don’t make a great first impression verbally. I make a great first impression with action, not talk. Ask me to write it out and yes, fucking fantastic. Ask me to get up and be entertaining and engaging and make folks feel at ease and you’ve got the wrong guy. I tend to cut to the chase. Too blunt? Yep. Can I get better at this shit? Yep. A lot better? Nope. I go back to that Strengthsfinder book. I could spend many, many, many hours, days, weeks, months and years trying to get better at making myself into a fine, charismatic speaker. And compared to guys like Ari, I’d still suck. Because that’s not my strength. I just hope Ari doesn’t regret asking me. That he’s gone out of his way to help me out and put his neck on the line for me within zcob is a great thing – he’s risked the failures that I’ve created for him. Like putting me on the back cover of his new book to help support my business and having to endure the annoyance of my business now being out of business within a few weeks of the book release. I feel bad about that. I fucking feel like a fucking heel and a fucking loser. I tried to hang on, which is damn pathetic in itself. Ari’s said that most businesses are in fact going out of business either quickly or slowly and hh was one of the quicker ones I’m sure.

What to do now? I’ll never be able to work for anybody and I can’t run my own business. What a fucking great combination of talents to have. Fucking fuck and hell. There’s the “hero with a thousand faces” and there’s the “loser with a thousand fiascos.” My current state is the result of my past efforts, it’s 100% my responsibility. What does that tell me? I’m a fucking fuck up. Look at this shitty fucking excuse for a “book.” Rotten. Worse than that? It’s fucking boring as hell. It’s just a fucking journal of mediocrity and struggle without redemption. It’s an exercise in the continuity of dullness. Of how not to do shit. Of how to keep striving without the talents to deliver anything of value to the world, at least anything they don’t already have. Whaw, whaw, blah, blah, who the fuck gives a shit about my fucked up self? Not even me right now. Listen to this whiny negative worthless rant – what repulsive trash. This journal won’t see the light of day because it fucking sucks. It’ll stay right here in this hard drive and end up in a landfill someday. Unread. Not even by me. Its purpose? Therapy? Biophycomythological investigations? A purge of anxiety to keep me from punching my fist through the fucking wall? WHO THE FUCK CARES? Why can’t I stop typing? Habit? Insanity? Unwillingness to shut up? Unwillingness to accept my fate as a fucked up working stiff that just needs to fucking quit dreaming and go schlep shit around for somebody else until the timer runs out? Creativity. Ambition. Dreams. Self-actualization. AAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

I am not doing well today. I don’t feel like myself in my head. A business dies in stages like a person. Maybe I’m experiencing biophycomythological death. In Finding Joe, one of the authors says “When death appears in a myth, it is a symbol of change.” My heart seems silent. Ever since my embarrassing performance at zingtrain, I’ve felt like I’m going sort of nuts. Like I don’t recognize my surroundings or myself. Rachel at zmo asked if I was “alright.” I said yeah. She said “You seem upset about something.” Freaky if it’s that obvious. I could barely concentrate at first at work. Stop, drop and listen to your heart. I feel disconnected from everything and everybody. Numb.

We’re going to the Detroit Opera House to see a “show” with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. Kev bought me and Angie tickets quite a while back, when I still felt like a fucking entrepreneur and not a fucked up loser freak like I do now. I don’t know what to expect. I hate Detroit. A completely dead town. But maybe getting out of A2 will do me some good. I have tomorrow off, then I wrap cheese all fucking day at zmo on Sunday – a job I wouldn’t wish on anybody – you stand in the cheese room, or outside of it, and just wrap hunks of cheese one after the other in deli paper for like eight fucking hours. I’ll be brain-dead and tired after it.

I walked to zmo for the first time today. Just over three miles, it takes exactly an hour one way. I felt like a stranger in a strange land there and back. And at zmo. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I can’t tell if I’m just becoming a new better version of myself – leaving hh behind and beginning a new adventure after my mythical “death” – or if I’ve just run every fucking part of me out to the end and I’ve reached the vanishing point of everything. Everything besides going back to a better paying job if I can get one somewhere – ‘don’t have a clue as to where I’d even try to work. I’m too old now to get hired easily and in Michigan especially, jobs are still “hard to come by.” Gads. What a mess on the ladder of success (Replacements.) I can’t even find a sense of humor about this whole fucking embarrassing situation. My brother said to “keep building the rocket; the launch pad will follow.” He advised going on a pig-oriented road trip. The rocket is a good analogy for how you do a vision of greatness – you don’t worry about strategy, you express what your heart truly wants and only then begin to figure out how to get there. It’s meant to sort of take care of itself. I think it works. It’s how I got to hh in ann arbor. Except the adventure has become another fiasco. Another fucking fiasco. I don’t know what I was thinking except that I was desperate, like so many other fucking desperate fucks, to just engage with something and a small biz is what folks try and fail at time and again.

Saturday, February 18, 2012. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this hole this time. Shitty things about my reality right now:

  • I feel like a an abject fucking failure.
  • I feel like I let Ari down.
  • I feel like I don’t know myself.
  • I feel like I’ve wasted time.
  • I’ve wasted a shitload of money and not all of it mine.
  • I feel out of place in the world again.
  • I feel lost.
  • I feel baffled as to how, after so much honest, heartfelt effort and work on myself, I’ve ended up right where I fucking started.
  • My guides seem distant.
  • My heart seems closed.
  • I seem to have become the worst example ever of biophycomythology – or the best example of how bad you can fuck it up. I wanted to be the poster child for biophycomythology, to show how well it can work and here I’m a car wreck of schism. “Look folks! See how well all of this works? Look at ME, I’m so fucking successful in so many ways that I feel like walking in front of traffic.”
  • I feel the need, in the form of a creeping dread, to get a job, make money and otherwise go back to earning a respectable living.

Better-than-shitty things about my reality right now:

  • Ari’s reaction to my bumbling attempt at helping him was important to me – he didn’t abandon me in front of everyone even though they all must have wondered what the fuck I was even doing there I was so bad. Giving folks a hug is something he probably does a lot but I didn’t know I needed one until he gave me one at the end.
  • Angie sticks by me even though I’ve virtually nothing to offer anymore. That’s what my mom would say at least.
  • I’m not destitute.
  • I’m healthy as far as I can tell.
  • I don’t have to run a food cart this year.
  • My brother Kevin is super supportive.
  • I feel free despite the fact that I have no reason to.

Stop, drop and listen to your heart? How about stop, drop, curl into a fucking ball and tell the world to fuck me running? I’m pissed too. So how to manage that anger? I can choose to remain pissed, to use the anger in some productive way (‘don’t know how) or I can choose to not be angry. Or frustrated, which I know is a form of anger. How to escape this? How to not let anger and frustration and disappointment send me onto the biophycomythological rocks? I do feel right now like I’m approaching the clashing rocks. My biophycomythological “fairy boat” is certainly not in a good place – it’s about to be wrecked. It’s a good analogy because I don’t feel like I’m out to sea as much as approaching land – an ugly, nasty wasteland – and I’m just going to break up on the rocky shore and that’ll be the end. The end of the adventure, as pathetic as it sounds. No bliss, just fiasco. A sad, embarrassing and fucked up fiasco. A mess.