Now We Are 36

I have had a seriously up and down week. However, the week is at an end. I had two weeks in a row of updating Tales of MU twice a week, following a schedule. My fiction-writing word count is over the proverbial nine thousand, as they say dans la belle internet. I got a shiny check for $25 and a contributor’s copy of Circlet Press’s Nights of the Round Table, a book I wasn’t even aware was getting a print edition. (They probably told me, but I’ve been incommunicado. Sorry!) I started a new story that is a lot of fun to work on, wrote a poem of which I am very proud, and issued a challenge for writers.

It’s a good week, and a good start for the year.

Back in May, I had an introspective late night moment on Twitter when I was on the verge of giving up on everything, and I decided instead to double down, to stop listening to the critical voices within and without, and to do the things I wanted to do, that I knew I could do. I reflected on the fact that I was almost 36, an age that is a perfect square, and that a year later I would be 37, a prime number; perfect, going into the prime of my life.

I said that this was going to be the year that people sat up and took notice of me, this was going to be the year that I retook the title some people called me back when few knew who I was, that of “most prolific author on the internet”… or one of them, anyway. The internet is a big place.

I don’t think I said it in so many words, but part of the subtext was: this is the year where I start making enough money to actually live off again.

The stuff with my phone has been discouraging. The fact that my personal Patreon did not immediately catch fire when I announced my big plans is also a bit discouraging, if not fully unexpected. I had hoped that my short story reprint-a-thon in the days leading up to the end of May would give me a boost, but it really didn’t. I have the impression that few outside my existing supporters paid attention to it.

I’m not sure what to do about that. That’s really my biggest obstacle. Back in the day I spent money advertising Tales of MU and it found the right audience and caught on, but I did the same thing with previous projects and they didn’t. There is no magic formula for success. Among the reasons that I decided to self-publish, ages ago now, was the fact that all the platitudes about every manuscript finding a home if it’s good enough are just platitudes. There might be a right place for your work, but you might never find it at the right time. There could be audience demand, but it might not be concentrated in the way that any publisher would feel confident trying to reach it.

You can do everything right and still fail.

My decision to go my own route was not based on any notion that it would assure success, because this is true no matter what you’re doing. Rather, the idea was that it would make success or failure less of a binary. Whether I ever made a living, or any money at all, my work would be out there being read.

And my work is out there, being read.

And I have made money at it; I am making money at it.

And for a while, I did make a living off it.

As a wise weirdo once sung, “I’m going to go back there someday.”

At least that’s the plan. If I don’t make it… well, like I said: you can do everything right and still fail. But by the same token, even if I fail, I can still do everything right.

We’re a third of the way through the month. Coming up in this month, there will be more Making Out Like Bandits, more Tales of MU, more humor and satire, and a wholly original short story. Some of it (the further installments of Making Out Like Bandits and likely the short story) will only available to my patrons. Others will be freely readable for the public, like Tales of MU.

As I very recently observed on Twitter: if 1 in 1,000 people who like my work can afford to pay me a $1 for it, what I want is more people reading it, not for the 999 to feel guilty about their lack of support. Guilt and shame are powerful weapons but terrible motivators. If you read my work, if you like my work, I want you to feel proud of that, and of me. I want you to brag about me, to boast about me. I want you to see your friends and followers who haven’t yet heard the good news as one of today’s lucky 10,000, as they say dans la belle xkcd.

It’s true that I need more money. But the horse comes before the cart, and the horse here is made out of eyeballs and the cart is made out of money. Okay, that’s kind of horrific. It’s like a political cartoon drawn by Hieronymus Bosch. Never mind the horse or the cart. The point is that in the process of writing this, I have figured out that I should be focusing on building my audience and letting the money follow from that, rather than haranguing everyone in earshot for dollars.

Thanks, internet. You’re a real pal, you know? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re an awful cesspit of ignorance and hatred.

Anyway, long story short: happy birthday to me. This is now officially (well, not officially, but you know) my year. If you want to do something nice to help me ring it in, I posted a list of suggestions in the middle of the night: