Writer’s World Episode #136: As Cold as Space

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The final month of my first year as a published indie author – the adventure of it – will end with a dud. No surprise, it’s post-holiday and all that, after all. I consider myself fortunate, then, to have indeed sold my one copy per month each month (including this one) of the first year of publication, thereby realizing my modest minimum goal and, on top of that, achieving an average of 7.5 sales/month.

Is it respectable? No. Is it better than a string of zeros? Yes. Did my sales meet my expectations? Funny, I can’t say that I had any expectations. Besides that of a dreamy, fantastic vision-of-greatness in which I saw TC1 arriving in some tangible manner, mostly to do with at least a legitimate critical reception; namely, some kind of welcome into the field by somebody, at least, already enjoying some manner of a platform or, short of that, by way of a handful of fine reviews from readers. But none of that happened. Outside the handful of copies read by my family, the one person who bestowed a comment about the book on Goodreads, the two ratings on Goodreads and the two ratings on Amazon, I can’t be certain anyone who purchased the book or received a gratis copy ever read it. Or finished it. Which, in the end, is probably the worst part, so far, of this experiment. Which is to say that somehow, foolishly, I expected a response. Why?

I suppose it has to do with my impatience and my yearning to finally escape the sense of exile from myself and the world that has plagued me forever. It’s not about being liked or having my ego stroked. It really isn’t. It’s not me, as Campbell was keen to declare, it’s the myths. Keith, after all, isn’t Carnegie. That is, C.O. is a persona that allows for the expression of K.E.’s personal mythology without the baggage and idiosyncratic psychological nonsense – my unsightly history and fraught visions – of too much identification. What am I saying? Well, I’m convinced I chose to use a pen name, for instance, because I had to. It was an intuitive, otherwise unconscious personal mythological necessity and now I’m glad I did it because it has helped to establish a healthy (or healthier) distance and bestow a sliver of objectivity to the whole crazy enterprise of authorpreneurship.

Which is to say, it could have gone the other way: I could be sitting here lamenting my decision to publish under a pen name. I could be staring at the cover of TC1 and chewing glass or cringing at the sight and sound of Carnegie Olson. To say nothing of my website and blog persona. By now it all could have seemed a contrived mess. But it doesn’t. I’m not in love with my pen name, I must admit, but that in itself – my indifference to it – is mostly what I wanted to achieve by way of it. In other words, the name came to me by way of intuition and neither before nor since has any other name seemed at all conceivably appropriate or even tolerable. The letters themselves contain all the roundness, both by way of their appearance and their pronunciation, that my given name does not. It’s impossible to mispronounce Carnegie Olson. It’s also impossible to be accused of contriving a moniker that is merely all trendy drama or silly, attention-seeking nonsense. I’m not calling myself Leafy Green or Shocking Pink or what have you.

I could have done better. I could have nailed it and I didn’t, I get that. But my pen name sounds like a real name, something that may indeed be a given name. It maintains a certain humility and familiarity while conveying, I think, a modest quirkiness that perhaps lends itself to being more memorable than what I started with, that’s all. And very importantly in a strategic sense, it is (at this point in time at least) unique. My given name, besides being impossible for the uninitiated to pronounce properly, is not unique by any means. To date, by way of the internet, at least, there is no other Carnegie Olson in existence. This is an advantage regarding websites and search engines and all that garbage. And nobody confuses me with any other author. Not that any of this so-called strategy of mine has paid off at all. I’ve discussed pen names elsewhere in the DOP but here, a year down the road from my decision which, for some folks, apparently ends up being interpreted as a disastrous or at least perpetually aggravating mistake, well, let’s just say that I’m happy to report that I don’t feel as if I’ve fucked up that part of the experiment.

Meanwhile, in terms of sales, what else to expect post-holiday season? That is, anyone who’s ever worked in retail of any type understands the inevitable seasonality of sales. For most retailers the holidays inspire perhaps 50%-75% of their annual revenue. So be it. For TC1, November plus December sales comprised 37% of my business. If you can call it that. Christ, this authorpreneur shit is difficult. We know this, all of us trying our hand at it, but living it still hurts. We understand that, statistically, the numbers are all against any kind of success in publishing, let alone indie publishing. We witness the special cases, the statistical anomalies, the exceptions that prove the rule and, while we’re not foolish enough to allow ourselves to get carried away with silly fantasies of being those folks (call them fortunate, call them cursed, say what you will), of being “chosen” as such in this manner (by the world-of-action, by readers, by the cosmos, what have you), we nevertheless struggle to swallow the pill of reality. At least I do.

Orna Ross of ALLi suggests that we ought to measure our success as authorpreneurs in financial terms and, while she apparently suffered a great deal of negative feedback from members I happen to wholeheartedly agree with her. It’s easy to say we write and even indie publish for its own sake, for the sake of the art-craft, on behalf of the muse, yadda, blah. Let’s face it: we all write to get read and publish to get paid. So that we can have the experience of being properly alive, that’s all; so that we can individuate ourselves. So that we can be who we are. Making a living, as good a living as we can, is part of life. I won’t harangue the issue. If you’re the type who likes to consider art-craft as some sort of sacred realm, some divine otherworld that ought to remain free of all economic and otherwise material tarnishes, well, keep it to yourself. If you really write for its own sake and possess no inner voice that seeks to be heard, well, I don’t understand a thing about you. The rest of us wannabe authorpreneurs are meanwhile trying to communicate and connect, to find our tribe, in economically sustainable terms, too, so that we can quit our day jobs and while achieving the legitimization that sustainability naturally bestows. Really and truly, I believe that if you’re trying to convince me that you indie publish without heed to getting paid, without regard for the idea of becoming professional (which by definition means you get paid for your work) then I think your writing probably reflects that. In a bad way. Go ahead and write privately, I do that, and refer to yourself as a private writer (I’ve tried that). But if you intuitively write to an inner reader, like I do, that for all intents and purposes sounds like and amounts to an outer reader (for lack of a better description), you’re in the majority and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Here’s to writers who write to be read. We can’t help it. Enough said.

I’m off the job for a couple of days and frankly, after yesterday, when I discovered to my dismay that my co-worker, whom I was fairly desperately expecting to lend support within our department, had called off so that I was now staring a ten-hour solo shift in the face, well, I don’t know what to say except I was once again wrecked by the effort. Which only expresses the hard fact that, in the end, I’m merely a mediocre employee. A good, let alone great employee,, in my opinion, would respond to the challenge as such. Whereas I merely endure and don’t manage to manage the energy well enough to surpass being overwhelmed, consumed and otherwise used up by what I cannot help but experience in miserable terms. In brief, I allowed myself to skip my hour “lunch” break, only managing two fifteen minute breaks to consume, each time, a bottle of water (the first one thankfully improved by of being infused with a packet of electrolyte powder that I was intelligent enough to bring along in anticipation of the slog) and to get carried away by by the demands, by the demands upon me. When somebody else, a more balanced and ultimately talented employee, would have rolled with the punches and even thrived. And that wasn’t in brief at all, sorry. But I’m convinced I’ll never be capable of properly pacing myself on the job. And it amounts to just another frustration of working outside my VAPM.

I recall Robert Richardson, the biographer, describing Emerson at one point attempting to edit and publish his brother Charles’s journals or writings, posthumously, and finding them all so impossible gloomy and self-defeatingly, unflatteringly – I forget how he described them – pitiful that he couldn’t. Which only points out that some of our journals are indeed merely autotherapy and not meant for readers. Such self-work is, to me, better described, then, as a diary which is almost by definition a private confession.

And I oftentimes have admitted that the DOP fails to achieve the necessary reader-ready journalistic stance I seek to produce. I in fact recall beginning the DOP in Hawaii, during a family vacation financed by, who else, my parents, on their 50th wedding anniversary if I’m getting it right. I had already been writing my way through my struggles post-firing in Texas for six months or so as acknowledged auto-therapy but the trip to Honolulu and Maui inspired me to experiment with literally documenting things in storytelling manner, ostensibly to see if I could produce anything interesting for anybody else to read. I’m not certain of the results. And what transpired was the DOP both for its own sake and somehow also, at the same time, for my inner and outer readership. So be it. Warts and all, as they say.

The most trying aspect of seeking a readership, for me, has become the nagging sense or self-adjudication that I perhaps ought to be indeed keeping all this to myself; that I remain perhaps fundamentally, hopelessly at odds with myself; that despite all my self-work and devoted, deliberate practice, the things I make, the words I manage to get onto the page, suck. And that after eleven years now of seeking and experimenting with and surrender to my perceived VAPM I’ve simply gotten it all wrong. And that when it’s wrong, one’s creations are wrong and we’re all better off without them.

Yet here they are nonetheless, the words. Here it all still burbles forth. Like a mud pot in Yellowstone National Park my chthonic muse (let’s call the damn devilish thing that motivates me) while nevertheless noxiously, sulphurously, humorlessly, perhaps disagreeably, even vilely less than useless, belches. Off gasses. And pukes. Thermally. The mud pots and geysers are doing their thing as we speak out there in Yellowstone, a queer expression of the thermal activity below, of this planet’s wildly incendiary heart, its magma core. Of what use is it all. Are what use are the mud pots of this world? I suppose the question is a moot one: that mud pots simply are and will be until the fire dies. Journal, blog, sci-fi novel, what have you: there’s no use, then, attempting to suppress any of it because the heated gasses will out. Come what may.

And it’s not as if I don’t have any experience with deciding upon the difference between private and public art-craft. The Humble Hogs food cart was the lesson in 2010-11 that encouraged me in no uncertain terms to surrender to what I really was versus what I aspired to be, namely, that I was a private cook – a home cook – and not meant for working in a restaurant or a food production environment even if it was my own business. It’s nothing to do with quality food. In fact, quality tends to lend itself to private cookery because restaurants and food productions enterprises are slave to quantity, a condition that undermines quality at every turn.

The things that stick with us. Two things come to mind and they are both declarations, it occurs to me, from men on the job that serve to define, at least, exactly what I am keen not to become. In general, I agree that it’s not productive or effective to attempt to envision the negative. But as with everything, the exception proves the rule. Once again paraphrasing something from the biography of Samuel Beckett: It was a signpost on the road he had traveled for so long and so blindly with nothing to guide him except the conviction that all other ways were wrong. Such is the nature of a negative projection or a negative form of energy and of the paradox of being the only positive thing we sometimes have available. Knowing what you don’t want doesn’t get you there but it when it’s all you’ve got, well, it’s all you’ve got in comparison to oblivion.

Back to the two things, then.

  1. My high school, to their credit, liked to try to coach kids towards their proper career and one of the things available to us were guided tours of workplaces by an employee who volunteered to suffer the burden. I think I was in tenth grade or so when I availed myself of such an opportunity and it happened to be at a nearby Ford plant that assembled so-called plenums – the plastic baffle configuration that manages the little HVAC systems in the dash of an automobile. Boring as hell, of course. Anyway, I take the tour, guided by a guy who must have been the age I am now and, true to form even in my teens, I have the nerve to ask this guy, “So, is this what you wanted to do for a career?” “It’s a living,” he says, flatly. The dull thud of my heart hitting the bottom of my expectations, whatever they were at the time, was deafening. Gosh, I thought, is that it? Is that what it comes down to for this guy? For anybody? Yikes, was my conclusion; I’m never going to be that way about my job.
  2. Blasco. My last big career job, the one that paid more than I’d ever made. Here I am chatting with this engineering type guy who happened to be one of the go-to manufacturing experts of the type who had routinely been shipped over to China, sometimes literally on a moments notice, to assuage whatever emergency production situation needed to be triaged – there’s always something in the paint/stain/coating finishing business whether it’s to do with cars or kitchen cabinets – and he was yammering about the time some Chinese factory paid something like $63K for his plane ticket so as to overnight him there, as it were, things were apparently so dire. Well, they’re never that dire but I learned that where most businesses don’t possess the proverbial pot to piss in, that they’re indeed going out of business either slowly or quickly, some of these manufacturing companies still enjoy a veritable flood of cash, and it serves to hypnotize all the engineers that feel entitled to it into a nauseating complacence but that’s beside my point. I ask this guy (because I pathologically despise work travel) how he managed to tolerate such things as dropping what he was doing and taking some ungodly long flight to a country where he doesn’t speak the language and never will (let’s just say this guy, whom I liked, looked and sounded as if he’d be more at home on the farm than in a kitchen cabinet manufacturing plant) and never mentions anything about the culture or anything besides how this or that person is an asshole at the plant, yadda, yadda. He shrugs and his tone changes, as if I’ve somehow said something silly. “It’s part of the job.” He stands there sipping his coffee as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world and what the fuck is with me asking such a dumb question.

Well, it wasn’t a dumb question, pal, for those of us who give a shit about what makes us our so-called living. And I’ve learned to acknowledge such vacuous, bourgeoise types for what they are besides vacuous and bourgeoise, which is of course a snarky thing to say about anybody and mostly isn’t true. That is, folks simply inherit different VAPMs. Different in such fundamental magnitudes and dimensions that, well, I was inspired, eventually, in my late middle age, to write a sci-fi novel about it. If for nothing else to explain it to myself. And I’m writing here about it; about two events that communicated the very same fundamentally dismal thing to me, namely, that people can somehow manage to work their lives away with nothing to justify it except a dull sense of obligation and the cash. It’s a living. It’s part of the job. Um, no thanks.

***

I pounded away at a few pages of TC2 last night; it had been a week since my last efforts. I’ve made it to page 149 or so and it’s always a weird experience working through a manuscript that seems both interminable and remarkably short at once. It was the same with TC1 and it will be the same with TC3 and so on and if the mystery ever reveals itself, well, I’ll be the first to let you know.

What’s it like to edit something you wrote over four years ago? It’s mostly unpleasant. I’m not a brilliant writer. My prose is at best serviceable and my plots likewise. The science comes and goes and my predilection for shifting point of view probably fails as much as it succeeds to energize the text. If pressed, I’d point to character development as my strong suit though a critic might disparage exactly that. I don’t know. I do my best to write things that I imagine enjoying as a reader but the experience of creating the scenes is so different from reading them that I can’t ever feel confident I’m not too close to it all; that what I think works simply doesn’t.

Re-encountering my own prose after such a long time away from it – I literally have not looked at the TC2 manuscript since completing the first draft – allows me to overhaul it without remorse, a good thing in terms of proper editing, but it also fills me with anxiety because none of the writing thrills me. I suppose on balance it never will. I could point to a handful of passages I’m proud of, that I still find evocative and even thrilling but if you’ve created it, chances are your favorites will never be commensurate with anyone else’s, which is merely yet another example of the weirdness of writing a novel versus reading a novel.

I don’t know any novelists. Which is to say I’m not acquainted with any. This may be a good thing. Perhaps it helps set me free. On the other hand, there is never anyone to help assuage the anxieties, to say, yes, that happens to me, too, it’s okay, it’s typical, you’ll get through it, just keep going. Or, try this, it helps. Or, never do this and always do that. But then exile is nature of the experience, come what may. Authors who resort to co-writing novels, for instance, perhaps in an effort to distribute the burden, as it were, or merely to enjoy a version of workplace camaraderie, like a person with a regular job, remain beyond me. I’m not declaring that it can’t be done but I’m suspicious. A novel is a single vision, it’s the nature of the thing, and while an editor can be regarded in some ways as a legitimate contributor – it depends upon how much substantive editing is involved, of course – it simply isn’t the same thing to tweak a style, refine a sentence, suggest an addition or a deletion and to otherwise develop a story’s strengths and diminish its weaknesses as it is to establish the vision in the first place and drive it forward from nothing.

I suppose some successful authors would find all my difficulties and gripes and laments incomprehensible. Perhaps some authors sail through manuscript after manuscript in a pleasant fugue of reliable inspiration. Perhaps they indeed have the experience of having to catch it all in buckets. I read that somewhere in The New Yorker, I think, and the citation is buried somewhere in the DOP, but it’s only to describe the sense of bountiful expression that apparently some gifted folks have enjoyed.

My experience has been reliably similar all along, from the first sentence of the first novel to now – namely, I struggle perpetually against a vague inertia, an energy sapping resistance to each day’s essential, renewed engagement in the vision and the process. I have to recreate the vibe prior to each session and then sort of dive in at full effort, like at the start of a race. And time indeed races along when I’m finally writing – I have never once experienced anything like so-called writer’s block once I’ve started. It’s the starting itself that sucks for me. I’ve resorted to literally pacing the room – pacing the cage – and since I wrote the first drafts of the first three novels and part of the fourth while, as I recall, Angie was still mostly working at the office, I was alone in the house and could avail myself of loud music – imagined Time Crime movie theme music – as inspirational starting fluid. I don’t need the music once I’m rolling; again, it’s the problem of inertia that I struggle against.

Occasionally I’ll experience resistance along the way, in the midst of things – a problematic passage here, an knotty idea there, a shitty sentence that refuses my administrations for hours, that kind of thing. At best I’ve written perhaps ten pages in a day, usually between three and five, sometimes just one or two and on the worst days a single sentence ties up the entire day’s session and I walk away exhausted at the futility of the experience. Even now, in my sixth year of being a wannabe novelist and in the midst of attacking the second draft of the second book in the series I find that, despite all the years of inattention to the story and the characters, I can reinsert myself into things, catch the vibe and plod along. I relish the time I spent working on TC1 with V.M., my editor because then, somehow, I could edit the hell out of at least one chapter per day, sometimes two depending upon the length and the sense of barreling through the book was as thrilling as it was exhausting. But by then I’d self-edited the fucking thing eleven times and when V.M. would submit her edits I was rarely compelled to argue a point. I’d make notes, resist a thing here or there, clarify a why or a wherefore but mostly I recall clicking “accept all changes” and being happy to move on to the next chapter. I’d email stuff and V.M. would process it within twenty-four hours – our progress didn’t so much resemble that of a steamroller (too ponderously slow) as one of those voracious combines that a modern farm uses to harvest wheat or what have you. We consumed acreage as if time itself were running out, as if the crop was ripe and the only thing to do was haul it in.

I suppose TC1 was ripe. And I’m doing my best not to expect to have that thrilling experience ever again. It was all new, for one thing, and now it isn’t. Now I know what to expect; that this second draft is indeed where I try to add everything I forgot, the third will be removing everything that doesn’t belong and the fourth will entail polishing. Then I’m going to hire an editor and get it done. No nine, ten, eleven fucking self-edits this time. Hence, TC2 will likely read differently. It may be a disaster. The book may suffer the sophomore slump whereby every grand complexity and quirky idiosyncrasy of my life that fueled and made its way into the first novel is lacking in the second. There are so many goddamn ways to fail at something, I tell you, it’s maddening.

V.M. she was great, we gelled, we jived, we were both new at it, for one thing, and our energy was in sync from the first. I can’t expect that to happen again. I can’t even anticipate that V.M. will be the editor for TC2. She’s still out there, at least the last time I checked the internet. But our last communications didn’t fill me with confidence that she enjoys editing novels one after the other, nor that she envisions being available for TC2. Hell, she’s a startup and a struggling entrepreneur herself. And from what she said, she seemed to have learned something about how picky she is regarding the manuscripts, that she’s not prepared to invest the energy in just anything that comes her way. I get it. I completely get it. She says she’s proud of TC1 but that doesn’t mean she’s at all looking forward to TC2. It may be that she consumed her novel editing energies and will be on to other things when I finally contact her. I will contact her, of course, but tentatively, in the context of testing the waters. As I said, I’m suspicious that she’s perhaps not going to be the one for TC2.

Without putting the cart before the horse, the idea of having to find a different editor strikes panic in my heart. Yikes. It’s as cold as space out there. Too many so-called professional editors, it seems to me, are either tyrants – frustrated writers themselves who are keen to recast the work of others within the context of their own – or through no fault of their own they don’t jive with my style. It’s all chemistry. And it’s all mostly a crap shoot. Which is to say there’s too much luck involved. It’s a leap of faith, then, and a high-wire act, to try to start afresh. Ugh.

But I will nevertheless make it happen; TC2 as a finished product will come to pass. Because there’s nothing else that makes me want to get up in the morning. Besides perhaps this journal. But this journal has yet to demonstrate, even as a published blog, anything besides a very tenuous and arguable influence within the context of social proof. It drives a little traffic to carnegieolson.com but website traffic is only important if it translates to sales of the book(s).

Unfortunately, TC1 remains neither here nor there in terms of legitimizing my further effort and financial commitment. Economically it’s a categorical flop. Critically, with zero reviews, it’s likewise neither here nor there. I’m mostly driven to keep going by the sense of being too far out to sea to turn back. I’ve long ago lost sight of land. I’d aspired to more encouragement from the world-of-action by way of indie publishing the first book in the series. It’s not forthcoming. This is the typical state of affairs, statistically. Nobody sells books. I’ve come far enough along, then, to have left my naïve expectations far behind, so that when I read on Alli’s Facebook page all the commentary and questions from first-timers I cringe and scratch my head. Was I that naïve? Yes.

There was a new author lamenting, for example, that while they had enjoyed thirty sales soon after publication several months ago (publishing via KDP had been “remarkably easy” they declared), with sales attributed almost exclusively to, as I gathered, their family, friends and the acquaintances they’d managed to cajole into buying a copy (hey, you do what you can), book sales had stalled and they were wondering what to do about it. I was inspired to list everything I’d done as mirrored within the Alli website, from establishing an ecommerce ready website, a consistent blog, giveaways and amazon advertising to publishing an audiobook version and whatever else, which had only resulted in my humble sales of 90 copies and the author responded, “Phew!” He’d “try some of the suggestions” and meanwhile wait until sales picked up. Um, I’m here to tell ya, my friend, sales don’t just “pick up.” Rather, you are staring oblivion in the face. You will not be discovered. Why not? Because, frankly, nobody ever is. Nobody gives a shit about your book. This is the first lesson: absolutely nobody is trolling Amazon KDP releases for stuff to buy. And getting your book on the shelf of a local bookstore, spine out or otherwise, avails you nothing. I’ve been there.

There may have been a very brief window of opportunity eleven or so years ago, circa 2010, from what I’ve read, where utter garbage indie dross was being bought by folks desperate to use their new Kindle and having nothing else to choose from. You run across the occasional early KDP title and it’s shocking, the amateurishness that was tolerated back then. That moment passed like a fart in the wind. Those writers now lament that, for instance, Amazon keeps changing their algorithm and now they don’t sell any books. No, you’re not selling any books because (1) your book sucks and (2) you aren’t paying to advertise it. I didn’t communicate any of this, of course, to our emerging author because it’s harsh and disheartening and a cruel lesson. Hell, it turns out the guy had self-published via KDP only – he was intimidated by having to get his manuscript and book cover formatted into something that would be accepted by Ingramspark. Gods above and below, man, you have much work to do. Beginning with hiring professionals. Unless of course you’re keen to keep it all a bloody hobby.

Me? It’s too much damn work and money spent to indie publish a novel, let alone more than one, and not give it my all to get it read. I don’t know what that means in terms of managing to build a platform – folks will tell you that you need at least three novels out there before you’ll see any legitimate sales, yadda, blah. Well, perhaps. I get it that these days it’s all about social proof. And impatience. Ooh, this guy has nine novels published, if I like his stuff I don’t have to wait for him to write anything else. I don’t know if this is how people are. I’m not. I’m still of the mindset that an artist-craftsman’s sequels or subsequent product, be it record albums, books (fiction or non-fiction) or films, what have you, if they’re reliably any good require a good three years between iterations. Even the gifted don’t ever seem to manage quality production on an annual schedule. That of course has not stopped rock bands an novelists and even filmmakers from rushing the next one to market come hell or high water or utter lack of quality. I point to the seventies when many of my favorite rock bands were releasing more than one record album per year, yikes! Never a good thing.

Nevertheless, it sucks to be staring more than a year in the face between published volumes of Time Crime. All of us get in a hurry. If I don’t get it out soon, we think, I’m going to disappear from the meager public consciousness I’ve managed to conjure from nothing. It’s the fear of nothing that frightens us, to be sure: that I’d have to start over from nothing is the most goddamn terrifying thing I can think of. Carnegie Olson, who? Time Crime what? The fact is, when you put yourself back in the perspective of a listener, reader, consumer of art-craft, the years fly by and you’re on to other things and when some new version of something you liked three years ago comes out, well, you’re just as game for it, on average, as ever. And you appreciate the time spent away from it – absence can indeed make the heart grow fonder. So, I’m advising myself not to sweat the time and rather be certain I’m pouring every iota of quality inspiration I can into these books.

Two years, then, is more reasonable between published volumes of TC. What about the aforementioned three? Well, I’m not starting from scratch. TC2 exists as a complete first draft and now a partial second draft. TC3, however, needs an ending. TC4 is a mere fifty pages of first draft. So, it may turn out that three years between a book or two is indeed what happens. Regardless, it’s not as if I’m getting any pressure – any whatsoever – to produce. The only pressure and expectation and sense of urgency is coming from me. As usual. Impatience being my number one worst, most pernicious, most self-sabotaging attribute. Why I can’t live the life of a confident author, akin to Campbell, say, who seemed keen to allow the time it took to get it right, to write right, is just one of my idiosyncratic burdens. Other folks suffer other predicaments.

There are better writers out there. They’ve written better books. But some of those better writers have yet to write that better book or perhaps they’ve not devoted themselves to marketing it. Talent, timing and drive is the evidence left behind by remarkable success, just as Malcom Gladwell has described. Eighty percent or so of life, according to Woody Allen, is showing up. Persistence, as Robert Fripp suggests, is the door to heaven. I’m paraphrasing these folks. But these aphorisms tend to reflect reality, hence they remain in public discourse. Hence they can add value on the long road to individuation as an author or anything else. Using the tools available, however meager, can mean the difference. I’m aiming, then, to take that position left vacant by some other, better writer who hasn’t done the this or that that I’m doing. If I’m lacking the talent, perhaps I’ll make it up in drive. When my drive slackens, perhaps it will invite a refurbished architecture of timing. Perhaps there’s no hope at all. This is the life, this is how it is, this is the only way through. Conviction. Aspiration. Authenticity. Persistence. Pressure. Time. A lucky break. Rock on.