Today I closed my online shop (that’s today as I write this on Tuesday 8th May 2018). It didn’t make any money. It barely paid for itself. Just the latest failure in my continuing quest to get paid for literally anything I’m good at.
I’ve been thinking about my definition of failure. Not ever making any money is only a failure if your goal was to make money. I think we can all agree that I am never going to make any money so I can either roll over and die or I can redefine my goals so that they don’t include making money, paying bills or even covering my costs.
One possible goal would be to continue writing stories that please me and the three other people who actually want to read them. That would be a bit disappointing because I feel that I owe it to the books I’ve written to get them in front of more people. I could give them away for free in some format but that just makes it harder for other writers to get paid so I don’t want to do that.
I definitely want to help my friends to get their books finished. Obviously I can’t help them get published since I have zero expertise there but at least I can humorously threaten people until they write more words. It’s not ideal as goals go because the success or failure isn’t under my control.
I feel like there should be more than just those two but I don’t know what to aim for. I need to do something with my life. I need purpose. And I need to stop including financial success in my win conditions because that’s just not going to happen. That’s hard for me. I’m a working class person. I’ve never had elevated ideas of producing great art. I just wanted to be able to support myself. It doesn’t seem like that should be beyond my reach but it appears to be.
I’m open to suggestions.
My experiment in e-commerce, The Shop of Doom, will be closing on May 8th.
I’d like to keep it running but it’s not paying for itself. That’s not so much a failed experiment as a negative result. One of the benefits of e-commerce is that it’s possible to
fail experience a negative result relatively cheaply, but only if you have the discipline to resist the sunk cost fallacy.
What I’ve learned from this experiment is that I suck at self promotion and I have virtually zero reach. This tells me that if I do ever decide to self publish that I shouldn’t invest any money in it, because I’m not going to sell any books, because I suck at self promotion and I have virtually zero reach.
That information is probably worth the small amount of money that I put into the Shop of Doom. Therefore I declare it to be money well spent. Therefore this experiment was a net positive result.
Yay for me. I do not regard this as the latest in a long line of failures that invalidates my value as a human being. I am definitely not depressed about it. I am totally fine. Please enjoy this complimentary image taken from the Shop of Doom.
Yeah it’s not convincing me either.
It’s very hard for me to get anything done. With depression, ADHD and chronic pain all pulling me back it takes a tremendous effort to achieve anything. Anything I want to do seems to involve far more steps than it should and each one of those steps requires a run up and that run up requires overcoming my executive dysfunction. Something that should take a week ends up taking six months.
I’ve been assuming that this inertia was the big problem with my life. I thought that if I could just do the things I wanted to do that I would experience success of some kind. I thought that it would be possible to get something back out of life if only I could work out how to put enough in.
I’m starting to suspect that I was wrong and that the inertia was really protecting me from the inevitable disappointment. I look back at my life and I see a lot of me working hard on something, fighting to overcome the inertia, doing the thing I wanted to do, and then nothing. It never goes anywhere.
Presumably I’m doing something wrong. It’s tempting to blame the inertia. It’s tempting to say that the inertia leaves me too tired to make the thing into a success. But maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s that I’m just not very good at anything and the inertia knows. Maybe the inertia is trying to save me from the pain of being deeply mediocre.
I’ll be honest. There are very few Harry Potter references in this post*, just some JK Rowling quotes**.
A friend pointed out an excellent agent for my novel. I’ve decided that I want to query and they are currently open for submissions. This agent has made statements that would tend to suggest that they might actually welcome the kind of genre hopping, funny/dark thrillers that I write. There are literally zero rational reasons for me not to query this person.
It’s been more than two weeks and I still haven’t written the query. There are no rational reasons for this delay but there are about a million irrational ones. I haven’t had time (I do have time I’ve just been avoiding my computer unless I have some other task to do on it). It keeps slipping my mind (it only slips my mind when I’m using the computer). The agent is definately going to reject the novel so what’s the point (I’ve got nothing to loose by the wrong agent rejecting the novel and if they’re the right agent they won’t reject it). I’m scared (I don’t know what I’m scared of). I might I fail again (in this instance failure will cost me nothing).
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” J.K. Rowling
She’s right of course. Not querying the agent is a far bigger failure than querying them and being rejected would be. I know this intellectually so why is it this hard to accept?
The most confusing thing for me is that rejection is something I should be used to. I’ve been rejected all my life. As a fat, disabled, middle-aged woman I am pre-rejected by society. It doesn’t want me and it’s not afraid to say so loudly.
Maybe it’s because I know that society’s rejection of me is meaningless. Society isn’t rejecting me it’s rejecting the false version of me constructed by prejudice. When someone rejects my novel they’re rejecting the product of the best part of me doing it’s very best work and that is meaningful. That is personal. That really fucking hurts.
* By very few I mean none.
** By some I mean one.
My life has always sucked but for more than half of it I was sure that the suck was all my fault. I didn’t know what I wanted and I knew I wasn’t trying very hard at anything. I thought that if I could just work out what to go for and really go after it then all my problems would be solved.
You can see why I thought that, can’t you? It’s all over pop culture. The idea that if you want something enough and you fight hard enough for it then you can get it. It’s bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.
Underachieving because you’re not really trying does hurt but at least it feels like it’s under your control. Trying your very hardest and still failing hurts far worse. It hurts so much that it makes you try harder than your hardest. It makes you push yourself beyond the point of failure, beyond the point where your body ceases to work properly, beyond the point where you are, strictly speaking, sane.
If you get to that point and still fail it feels like death. It feels like you’ve died and gone to hell. You must be dead because how can something hurt that much without killing you?
I hit that particular wall back in 2012. My repeated failure to do anything with my completed novel is nowhere near as bad as that. But it is giving me flashbacks.