The Moon, the Stars and the Limits of Humanity

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The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,

Now, voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.

Walt Whitman, “The Untold Want,” from the section “Songs of Parting” within Leaves of Grass, 1855.

The blurriness of aspiration. The messiness of life. How things never turn out according to plan. How our predicament is never really anything but. And how the experience of being properly alive is perhaps the only reliable thing in this world.

It was a difficult week of part-time turned fulltime employment, enduring a Christmas Eve shift, then two unpaid overtime days following the holiday. A day off, then another full shift (almost) and now five days in a row off. It comes as a blessing because as much as anyone spending the kind of money I’m spending on trying to be an authorpreneur needs cash to cover it all, I’m frankly too old for this shit. Not to say I can’t hack it. But the body tends to rebel. And the psychology becomes tenuous; which is to say, one begins to lose oneself in the paying work at the expense of the… well, the dream, let’s call it. A house divided eventually isn’t one.

So I did my best to keep up at work and to keep the writing alive in my heart. How I wish sometimes that I was the type of gifted talent that writes through their paying work, balancing things, doing it all, making it happen rather than continually skirting the shores of ruin and despair. It’s not that bad, I must admit. I’ve had far worse, far more demanding jobs. Which is a crazy thought because the home improvement can be demanding enough. But I’ve learned the hard lesson over the years and the careers that for me at least, it’s better to keep moving both physically and psychologically – to have a job that’s on the ground, in the mix, at the front lines, as it were – than be relegated to a desk and a computer screen and the chores of management. To say nothing of business travel, ugh. So, again, if it feels like progress, it is and that’s what I’m going with.

And after a few days of no sales and the inevitable angst that accompanies it, whereby entrepreneurship seems a senseless folly and my sales an insignificant and irrelevant asterisk within the annals of authorship, I discovered this morning a paperback sale in Canada, yay! An Amazon ad click-through, only the second in Canada but, again, anything beyond zero is to be regarded in the indie-publishing universe (or any publishing universe) as a heartening achievement, a worthy measure of beachfront secured. Because a sale is a sale and a reader is perhaps a reader for life and an influencer and if nothing else a connection, hence something special and a treasure that feels like a gift. Every time.

Why? It just is. It’s a feeling of wholeness, selling a book, just a single copy of a book to a stranger. And if you’re like me, it cannot be competed with by way of any other so-called success or achievement in any other endeavor, any other avenue of life. So that a little victory like winning a bronze service star award yesterday – a badge – while it’s a good thing (honestly, I believe it is) and offers a measure of vocational legitimacy and in a word helps to keep me going on all fronts, remains tangent to the plot, let’s say. For as much as I oftentimes feel as if I’d be better off surrendering (or, more accurately, re-surrendering) to a workaday life and committing once again to fulltime employment either here or there (another recruiter contacted me about a $100K EHS job yesterday), well, I just can’t. It’s a success that belongs to somebody else, somebody like my father, say, or anyone seeking the conventional, otherwise bourgeois comforts. We all enjoy the comforts of a good, steady paycheck, I get it. But enjoyment is not fulfillment just as bliss is not pleasure.

Meanwhile, the idea that one may be making a mistake, a tragic one and a mistake that snubs its nose at the achievements and aspirations of others and thereby tempts fate and ultimately makes its own deserved mess of things never quite leaves a person. Perhaps I’m really just another silly dreamer and I ought to know my place and stay within my means and tow the line and shut up about it all, too. Perhaps I’m one of those sorry souls who are best at things they don’t like and terrible at the work in which they seek to succeed. It happens. But I’m convinced it only happens when we fail to discover and then fail to surrender to who we are. Hence the underlying theme of Time Crime: be who you are.

The organizer of the latest Bookfunnel promotion I entered – the theme was strong female protagonists – queried me prior to accepting Time Crime:

Is Vixy a proper protagonist in her own right, or more of a sidekick of Mr. Z? If she’s a sidekick, does she have a will, agency and agenda or her own?

I was completely on board with being questioned because I think too many book promotions amount to worthless giveaways – there is a readership, it seems to me, that seeks freebies for their own sake and the marketing value is zilch – and frankly any opportunity to discuss the novel with an interested party is worthwhile to me.

Mr. Z. and Vixy are more co-protagonists (though he is her official mentor) and it is her transformation from stubborn, impatient, overly ambitious and self-determining youth to selfless, world-wise, self-determining woman that is a major character arc in the book and forthcoming series. Case in point: she is overpowered in an attempted rape, is saved by an alien and finishes the brute off with a knife in an emotional catharsis. She’s tough and capable but not a cliche so-called badass or overbearing feminist. Rather, the limits and humanity she learns are the limits and humanity we all learn: “be who you are” is an underlying theme. Thanks for asking.

I didn’t generate any sales on carnegieolson.com out of the promotion but then I never have; again, only when I offer a giveaway does anyone avail themselves of “purchasing” an eBook on my website but I’m convinced there is a marketing value to getting the novel in front of folks in as many contexts as possible. Bookfunnel does drive a handful of folks to my website, I track the data, and because you never know who might be compelled to seek it out a copy, electronic or print, on Amazon or elsewhere it seems a worthy experiment.

Why all this talk about sales and marketing? Why not just write and indie publish and devote all my energies to my art-craft? If I really wrote authentic prose from the heart and I was a real artist-craftsman then I ought not care about the money, right? Right. And wrong. Right, that is to say correct, because I indeed write and pay to publish anyway, despite the challenges and the relative obscurity. So that Time Crime represents everything I have to give, unselfishly; for its own sake. But for some of us the idea of vocational destiny to say nothing of vocational sustainability is a natural, intuitive and entirely authentic personal vision. I am one for whom a book sale does not dimmish the experience of authenticity and valid expression; of wholehearted communication.

I rather find authorpreneurial success intriguing in its own right. First, because it is rare and all rare things are inherently interesting. Secondly, because I intuitively identify with the art-craft lifestyle; with its entrepreneurial aspect as well as its creative autonomy. Autonomy, complexity and commensurate reward, the Gladwellian trinity as I call it, is for me only attainable by way of my proper work, the work I have come to understand as my calling. We have a calling and it doesn’t have to go against the grain, so-called. It just so happens that to write novels and publish them is a calling that millions of other people have and they express this calling by way of millions of books being published every year and the market is appropriately tough. Some authors don’t give a damn about making a buck. Or even selling a book. Publication is an end in itself. For me? No. Being unread is a disappointment that borders on disapproval.

Yes, validation is part of it but there is much more to it: when people buy a copy of the novel, as I’ve said before, I feel as if I’m encountering a member of my tribe. It’s a sense of belonging; of community. We all need it, we all seek it in our own ways. Success is a curse and fame is fleeting, yes, blah, blah. I’ve no interest in fame. (It’s not about me, remember, it’s the myths). Success to me is merely economic sustainability; namely, quitting my day job. Because I’m just  a guy who can’t write worth a shit when I’m busy earning a paycheck for its own sake. It makes all the editing take two or three or four times longer than it has to. Not that getting out of the house and moving my ass and getting out of my own head on a regular basis doesn’t help. It does. But I’m keen to keep things truly part-time in 2021.

I write all this out and risk boring people to tears or coming off as a self-involved prick because, well, it’s my story and I’m convinced my story is akin to somebody else’s story and we like to read about ourselves and also read about who we are endeavoring to become. Because we’re all endeavoring to become like somebody or a combination of somebodies we admire or with whom we identify, however experimentally. Such are our guides, such are the hats we try on and such is the way of the world. If any of this helps, even if it only helps me, I’ve done my work. Otherwise, I expect this is the last journal entry in the DOP and the last blog post on the website for 2020. Heck of a year, as usual. Meanwhile, here’s to the tribe. Happy reading and writing, happy New Year, pass it on. See you in 2021.

P.S. And if you get a chance to see Now, Voyager, the 1942 film starring Bette Davis… well, it’s worth it.