My bull-headed dash through 501 essays has taught me to eschew listless energy. I’m focused on what directly or indirectly helps my mission of becoming a professional writer. When times are bad, escape into nuances that might push along the mission. When times are good, go full-bore! The more practice, the less insecurity I’ve felt over trivialities, enabling “this” to become a natural part of my life. Writing is as subconscious for me as eating breakfast.
I have a feeling everyone goes through this same desire in life.
The desire to work with autonomy and attain their certain financial security. That financial incentive still hasn’t hit for me: I have not made a single penny of profit from anything I’ve written here, and in fact, going to some events or doing some things have cost me a fair amount of money. In that sense, it’s a failed business venture. Maybe I’ve missed the train of instant fame and profitability on the Internet? Maybe I’m focused on the wrong market? Maybe I should advertise more? Maybe I should figure out a gimmick to sell my writing, sell myself, and get rich that way?
Each essay is another brick in my wall of self-confidence.
It’s almost a wicked badge of honor at this point for me. ‘I still haven’t made any money, hah!’ What if it takes until 1,000 essays before I make any money? What if it takes 18 more years? Let’s keep on going! Once I achieve my mission, that money would be all earned through my own autonomy and self-confidence. I would not have to censor my thoughts in the name of making money. That anti-authoritarian mindset might be part of why I haven’t pushed harder into angles that could make me money. It’d be easy to write some fluff pieces for any website to use, to adopt a more wholesome moniker.
That’s not me. I’ve “risen from the dead” to tell it my own way.
I know my brand of content has value. Writing some of these essays and short stories have been helpful for me to come to terms with certain subconscious thoughts that I’ve agonized over. Self-improvement through a rigorous examination of your mistakes is not sexy to advertise. It’s easier to blame others for one’s mistakes or forgetting one’s mistakes, yet it’s a vicious cycle because you’ll always feel regret over those events, so you’ll continually seek out external comforts. If you buy a product, even a self-help guide, you can point to that and say that’s why your “healing” process was ineffective.
I welcome more financial ruin to gamble on my mission.
Enduring more hardships will only solidify my resolve. What if I never see a penny of profit from writing essays like these? Would that be “never selling out?” To some degree, it would be nice having the financial comfort to earn money off writing, but how much would that cost me? Autonomy? Freedom? Writing fodder? Would that mean the challenge is gone? Isn’t that what this writing is all about? I’ve challenged myself to write in the face of comfort to arrive at greater truths, and presenting these essays can provide that value to you as well, I believe.
Would that go away once the financial friction is gone?
I don’t think so. What I’ve been doing lately as I’ve looked for another gig is write as much as I can with the time I have available. I still haven’t watched Tron: Legacy, which is something I wrote about back in March as something I wanted to do with some spare time. I see watching movies as a luxury that I can only occasionally afford spending about two hours of doing something completely unproductive. Maybe I’ve wasted two hours throughout each day my whole life, but not intentionally or all in one block of time. So even now, when I’m floating along in a financially acceptable state, I’m still working.
I imagine I’d focus on more challenging work if I had more dedicated time.
Let’s say I earned the equivalent of what I’d do working full-time for some company writing. I’ve already adopted that same 9-to-5 ethos for my writing schedule. I wake up, prepare to “go to work,” write for a few hours, take a break, then return to finish the rest of my “writing shift.” That helps prevent me from getting too lazy on these days off as I search for my next gig, and also help me prepare for when I do write full-time, because I can’t tell you the number of days where the only reason I didn’t “call in sick” was because I had the forward momentum or drive to do something at work that day.
Even if that means artificially creating a need to go to work.
My goal of writing 500 words daily, which is the equivalent of most of my essays, is a good start. Even if that means I must start writing at 8 PM after an exhausting day, I must do my best to write those obligatory 500 words. In the case of this essay, I still haven’t arrived at that fundamental truth that would help me end this essay neatly. There is no easy answer for the desire between what is comfortable in life versus what is fulfilling. To write professionally in 2018 is just insane! There is so much good content already out there that no one’s paying for, and yet, it’s the only route I see out.
I feel fulfilled when I write. I don’t feel fulfilled when I do other work.
The other work is there to get me money to survive, sure, but it’s not satisfying. I don’t conclude a day thinking to myself “that was entirely a worthwhile use of my time.” I might get moments of that, but there isn’t the overall feeling that I get as I do when I complete a particularly useful essay that might have turned me around from feeling really bummed out about something in life toward something that makes me say “yeah, now let’s take on that mission again!” Much of my years of paid technical support work have been lost to time: fixed computers break, customers leave jobs, and more.
It’s all for insignificant amounts of money.
The amount of money I’ve earned over the last ten years of being a professional technical support person is more significant than if I were to be working minimum wage jobs, perhaps, but I also don’t have much to show for it. Much of that money has gone back into paying for housing or writing like this. During my best time of financial success, I was entirely unhappy with everything I had achieved. Waking up was terrible. I’d call out sick frequently. I don’t like to think about those times, but I bring it up now because it reminds me of why I do what I do now: my heightened misery is at an all-time low when I write.
Money doesn’t make me feel more satisfied.
Writing does. I’d rather be writing than doing most things in life. I’d welcome giving up 50% of my earthly possessions if it enabled me more time to write. With that time, I could find more avenues to turn a profit. I’ve written while working. Hours before and after each shift to write and edit. Idle seconds during each shift to come up with ideas. Nothing that’s significantly taken away from my work productivity. Nothing more than anyone else, anyways. If 100% productivity is punching in and punching out without a second of personal thought and 80% is normal, why not use that 20% for yourself?
What if I had to give up 90% of my earthly possessions?
How much joy does this or that give me in the long run? Not much. I’ve collected stuff over the last 10 years because I saw large collections of albums, videogames, and toys as avenues for success. Isn’t part of success having the option to do or express what you want? Maybe. I think as a collective society, we’re starting to see that that there’s a psychological burden associated with owning things. That stuff weighs us down. We can’t be flexible. If we have to worry about things, we’re less likely to get out there and do stuff. What happens if someone steals my stuff? How will I get by? Without remembering how it was like before.
Part of it is figuring out what’s weighing us down.
What is preventing me from becoming a full-time professional writer? What obstacles are in my way? The most important obstacle isn’t a problem for me: I have no problem sacrificing my time to writing that could otherwise be spent doing other things. I could be playing a videogame or watching some show right now, but I think this writing will be more valuable to me for one reason: through this writing, I’ll figure out what my hindrance is, and maybe that could help you figure out your hindrance toward achieving your mission as well. Time and discipline isn’t the issue. I write in spite of my other desires.
What else could it be?
Let’s dig deeper. For one, writing on a personal website in 2018 without advertising is crazy. Excluding bots, I get an average of zero live readers on my dot com website per day. I pulled a report: there are weeks where there aren’t any live visitors to my website other than myself. Cross-posting on WordPress does help. I might get one to five readers per day. So naturally the solution is to get more readers, which is where advertising comes in, but how do I advertise? Organic advertising would be the preferred way, wouldn’t it? People naturally becoming interested would mean a more authentic reader base, right?
That’s probably the artistic side in me.
The no-compromise side that says that it’s not worthwhile to bow to others in the name of becoming more successful. The sense that I should be writing to refine my skill so that I may someday tell “The Story” the way it should. The problem is that it will lead to 501 essays with little to no recognition. There are days where that really sucks. Everyone I’ve told my website and writing about expects significantly higher numbers than what I pull. It’s kind of embarrassing if I look at it from their perspective, but that’s measuring based on their metric for success. They might only be after profit.
Profits and money would be nice.
But that’s not why I write. This “not a single cent of profit” for 501 essays is just proof of that. I doubt there’s any artist that publishes 501 character drawings on any somewhat popular artist’s venue without receiving an artistic commission request. Maybe I should post these essays on DeviantArt? I’ve tried Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m not sure how to break through, and even if I could, would I be ready now? I have more personal resolve now than I did last year. Simply: I don’t care about the opinions of others as much as I did in year’s past. I may read and consider advice, but it’s up to me to accept it.
How much confidence will I have with another 499 essays?
There is the balance between wanting success and the downsides of that success. To present an opinion or an idea online means fielding critical feedback. There’s something nice about being able to write now 1,902 words without having to worry about feedback. To just keep writing to eventually find that root cause of why I haven’t done more in the advertising realm to figure out how I can popularize my writing. Maybe it is a deep-rooted insecurity that I want the success without the friction? That’s weird. I’ve experienced friction from people my entire life, so I’m not looking for the approval of others.
Let’s dig into my past a little.
Growing up, I was always the odd kid out. There wasn’t a particular reason for it. I guess being socially awkward was the only reason. There’s always a need for kids to have a punching bag, and that punching bag just happened to be me. I couldn’t keep any friends throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school. “Friends” would betray me. They’d borrow stuff from me and never return it. Make fun of me. Treat me like garbage. I never really felt secure in groups as a result, and even to this day, I don’t like socializing with large groups of people. I’ve seen the worst of people.
It’s better now, to be sure. I might even be “cool” with people.
But I still cannot trust people the same way most people can. Having experienced pretty much a majority of people turn on me in some way growing up, I have a healthy distrust in the nature of others, always skeptical of others, and always knowing that I’ll be screwed over the first chance they get. Even today, I get the growing sense that my luck is growing thin. I try my best to put on the monkey suit to please future employers, to dance their monkey dance, and yet something always goes wrong and I depart with just some writing fodder to write about and not much more. It’s difficult.
So I look at writing like this as my escape.
To focus completely on the next word and sentence can lead me down interesting paths. Why am I so afraid of success? It’s not like I really care that much about what you think. If you dislike what I’ve written so far, then it’s not like that will ruin my day. This is here so that you can explore and consider your own life as I am. To figure out what hindrances are preventing you from succeeding. Maybe it’s some kind of self-sabotaging of putting in all of the work without doing any of the advertising that would help things catch? Maybe it’s something less nefarious? Maybe it’s just being comfortable now?
There is some comfort in not having success.
To commiserate in the misery of not achieving success means that I can have this subconscious friction that what I’m doing is somehow helping me improve myself. Maybe becoming financially successful would mean coming to terms with the idea that I would probably still be unhappy with life overall even if I were to do something I enjoy doing for work? Because now I can blame my chosen career path as a source of misery. Maybe it’s deeper-rooted than that? Maybe it was being the black sheep in compulsory education as I explained above? Maybe it’s having my trust broken so often?
Maybe I’ve just had bad luck with people?
Does that mean I should prevent myself from being successful now? Why not shed those people? Why let them control so much of my subconscious self? Is it because it’s easier to hold onto anger than to work toward positive success? Perhaps, because after all, anger is an easy emotion to tap into. You can use anger to drive you along and when you’re no longer angry, then you can feel better having achieved something like a good exercise set or some long-winded essay exploring the balance between trying to achieve success and dealing with the perceived downfalls of becoming successful.
There will always be terrible people out there.
Perhaps I’m still writing because I have to better come to terms with that? We’re all terrible. I’ve been terrible to some people and I am probably still considered a terrible person by many people. I’ve burned bridges with people. They’re probably perfectly reasonable, decent, hard-working people. But we’ve clashed over fundamental or trivial issues that might be mendable and so forging our own separate paths have been the only route I could see. It might be easier now to mend those relationships, but I also don’t see the point in dealing with people that have at one time hurt me.
Maybe success is dealing with hurt on a constant basis?
Technical support is all about taking abuse from customers, colleagues, and management. It’s a constant battle between doing what’s right, doing what’s easy, and getting as much as you can complete in one day. You can’t waste time doing stuff that won’t get you closer to a goal. If that’s completing a project, doing some work for a customer, or reducing the overall workload, you have to take it from all sides every day. I hate that. Worst of all, I hate it when I’m my own worst enemy through all of that. When I am overly critical of myself over how I handled this work, or how long it took me to figure out the answer to this thing.
Same for writing, really.
Instead of focusing on the pride of completing a festival concert review in all of about two days, I was my own worst enemy in terms of thinking about all the failures it had: no list of bands in the intro, I didn’t explain the turning point of my thoughts on the Offspring show, and I focused too much on trivial aspects of the event. I wasn’t efficient enough with my words. I accepted mediocrity when I could have put more effort and polish into it. These are the thoughts that cloud my mind when I think of this review. And yet, none of that is actually productive. Sure, some of it could help for future reviews.
I think I’ve had that negativity because the effort yielded no results.
Subconsciously, I had to endure hours of berating myself for reasons why it wasn’t successful. What if it had? What if I received a response from their management? That would have felt good. What if I had others comment, like, or even offer me ticket discounts or free tickets for future events? That would have been nice. But how likely is that to happen right now? The reply would have been possible, the rest, not so much. So why would I expect it to happen? Well, there’s the hope that the work you do “lands.” That you get your ticket to success as so many have in the past. But there’s a little lie in all of that.
We only see the success of a select few.
How about all the writers that are better than me? The ones that can convey their thoughts more effectively with fewer words? The ones that arrive at greater truths? Most of them are probably just as obscure, or even more obscure, than me. They may go through their lives with happier moments than me because they’ve seen some success, or maybe they’ve accepted their dreams are more realistic in the realms of “not likely” rather than “possible if I keep working on it.” But here’s the turn you’ve been waiting for: each of these essays, short stories, and whatnots are one more step closer toward success.
Someone might stumble across something I wrote a year ago.
When that happens, as I notice on WordPress, that makes me happy. It’s because when I write, I write such a scatter of material that most of it might not land now, but it will in the future. I wrote this essay May 19th 2018. It will publish June 14th 2018. You might be reading this on September 9th 2019. Or maybe April 5th 2022. Does it matter when you read it? Not really, because what is important is that you are reading this, because that means it’s resonated with you. Perhaps it’d be nicer if you along with hundreds of others read it the day it published, but would it be nicer for you or for me?
Probably for me.
Why is that so important? Do I want to gloat in the value others share with me over the work I’ve done? I suppose that’s a subconscious survival tactic. It would mean my overall value within this global tribe is worthwhile. Do I care about that tribe? Only somewhat. I’m more concerned about reaching the market of people interested in self-improvement and world-improvement. Those who would rather figure out why they’re unhappy than distract themselves to temporarily forget that they were unhappy. Those who would rather ask the hard questions about why they feel the way they do.
I don’t think these people are all in the same area.
It’s not like everyone who thinks in those terms are all chasing after the same things. They may buy self-help books, they may work on self-improvement, but they’re also very independent people. It’s anti-authoritarian to derive your happiness on your own than going with the status quo. If everyone else is playing the popular videogames and watching the popular shows to distract themselves into temporary happiness, doing what you enjoy in spite of that is automatically difficult, so you’re already treading a different path. It’s weird, and difficult, and lonely, but how great it feels!
Jodorowsky’s Dune is a great example of that.
There has never been a movie in the history of cinema that has failed so spectacularly as the original version of Dune. When Alejandro Jodorowsky and his crew spent a few years of their lives to realize Dune, they believed so thoroughly in their vision that when it failed, they could have easily self-destructed. It’s easy to let some failure like that ruin you. To have the self-confidence and self-respect to say “yes!” to it not working is something that I admire because I don’t quite have that level of self-respect to accept a failure immediately, adapt, and overcome to continue my road toward success.
The documentary shows glimpses into how it’s not that easy.
Even years later, Jodorowsky is still upset over what happened. He’s happy that the movie version of Dune we all know is terrible. There’s a merciless sort of pride in that. It’s respectful because we all feel this way when our successes fail. It feels good to blame others. I’m sure Jodorowsky did his self-assessments to figure out what he could have done differently. It took him years before he worked on movies again. He has since made five movies, but that sort of pain can affect even the best of us, and bring us all down. We only see and focus on the prize at the end of the tunnel.
We don’t glorify the effort it takes to arrive there.
No matter how much success we get, we’re still not there. We may never get there. Novel sales subside. Article sales conclude. In your chosen field, your success is only a measurement of how much better you are than average. If you’re average or below average, then you’re not likely to get a promotion, and that average rises year by year as skills improve, people flood the market, and more work becomes readily available to pull from. As more people are willing to accept less money, it becomes harder and harder to have a successful career no matter how good you are in your field.
Is that an excuse to give up?
No way! Those are all external factors. If you compare yourself to someone else, you don’t know their complete history. Maybe they’re better at something than you because they have more training or more practice? Why would that be a bad thing for you? Go get that training or practice. Do it for free if no one will pay you! The world owes you nothing. It’s a terrible place. Our job is to turn that around. If I can help people consider the flaws in their lives as fixable, then I can help people become better people, which will help the world become less terrible, because we’ll treat each other and ourselves better.
That’s one of the goals, of course.
If I can achieve a level of financial comfort, I’d like that too. It’d be nice to complete this long-winded essay in another thousand words, publish it, and consider the few hours I spent on it a net positive for my finances. But that is another external measurement of motivation. What if it wasn’t enough money? Would I feel terrible? Would I disown the essay even though through these thousands of words, I’ve explored why I’ve been adverse to external success? Because let’s face it: internal success is more rewarding, but internal success can’t pay the rent, pay for food, or get us those nice little creature comforts.
What if we disowned the need for glorious successes?
What if we could sustain ourselves on a modest budget? Then succeeding would cause overwhelming elation! If we can do what we want, when we want, as often as we want, isn’t that success? If that’s writing for me, and each of these 501 essays has consisted of my own autonomy, my own thoughts, without censoring myself for the needs of others, isn’t that success? Internally, yes, so to gain that external success is merely a matter of finding that right path where I can tap into a market without distracting much time from writing. Which is funny because I could write and just not publish it at all and still get in the practice.
So by publishing this essay, I do want external success.
It’s just there isn’t much effort in writing, finding a picture to represent this essay, and clicking the Publish button. There is more effort in transferring it to WordPress. There’s significantly more effort in advertising my work in a way that doesn’t feel forced. I loathe the comments on other websites that are just advertisements. Is that the only way to achieve any degree of success? Or is it writing about popular topics? Posting on popular websites? Creating video essays? Doing stuff that distracts from my writing and thought exploration in the name of achieving fame?
I think it will come in time.
Instead of focusing on those external factors for success, I will focus inward. These 501 essays have all been about expressing myself and a point-of-view over trying to achieve external success. There is no point in trying to compare ourselves to other people. I’m not you. You’re not me. I might have the writing endurance to write for hours on end, but is the quality there? For this essay, maybe not so much. For other essays, the effort might have been disguised in few words. Does that mean one is more valuable than the other? Not so much. I feel like I’ve been able to express myself better with each essay.
I used to feel completely insecure writing about “The Story.”
Now it’s normalized. So maybe the point of writing, or doing your particular craft, is to keep on doing it in the face of external adversity. As long as internally you can keep tolerating it, keep at it! Don’t give up just because you’re encountering hardships. Use those hardships as fodder for your own material. If your work is not something artistic, you can still channel that frustration, anger, or hopelessness into doing your best possible work. You can then step back with the widget you built and it will remind you that in spite of the world’s best efforts, they did not take you down!
Chances are, it’s better than what you did before it, too!
I think the trick to success is quieting your own biggest critic: yourself. To accept your flaws is key because the world will critique you on everything about yourself, from how you dress to the perceived quality of your work, and yet the thing is that there will always be critics. I have ruthlessly critiqued people’s work while being careful not to critique the people themselves. They are good and decent people, even if their work isn’t something I appreciate or think is worthwhile. They’ve sacrificed their time to engage in something for long enough to produce a product. That’s respectful.
I’m sure these people have a certain degree of self-confidence.
Maybe it took them 1,000 or 10,000 works before they achieved success? Maybe they went down my same path of reaching a point where they feel they should have already succeeded by now, only to experience the frustration of not having succeeded? Maybe they were a select few that endured when others quit? It’s easy to say to yourself “what’s it worth?” when you’ve given so much of yourself to what you consider ‘your cause’ without getting much of anything out of it. But that’s where we have to look inward.
I have received so much from my current sacrifices.
Even today, through writing this essay, I’ve gained a better appreciation for my internal motivation. To press on in spite of exploring my inner self to figure out why I haven’t achieved success is by itself admirable, and I think I have found it: I haven’t pressed forward toward the common path of success because what I’m doing with my writing and my life is not the traditional route of writing and success. I am refining my craft because there’s something different to my offerings. “The Story” isn’t just an easy Hollywood fairytale that could easily sell a million copies in some romance section of a bookstore.
“The Story” is bigger and more important than that.
In a sense, I’ve been gifted with “The Story” because I am, among everyone I know, most willing to sacrifice time and effort toward achieving this goal. I don’t know many people that would spend now over three hours writing with only minimal interruptions to pee and eat a small snack to self-analyze and arrive at a greater truth: to receive a few pennies in exchange for distracting my time that I could have used to refine my writing craft is not worthwhile. If it takes me another 499 essays, or even 31 more years to write “The Story” as it needs to be told, before achieving financial success, then so it goes.
Let that time be full of hardships and pain!
It will only provide better writing fodder toward achieving sustainable success.
|Sources: My professional and personal experience.|
|Inspirations: I saw that my Post Count was approaching 500. I estimated the 500th post, which was yesterday’s Rowing Machine column entry, so I shuffled Thursday’s The Story update to slot this in directly after. I don’t normally shuffle things around so this note is to justify that. Thanks for your understanding.|
|Pictures: Copying the essay, editing out all the paragraph breaks, pasting it into Paint in 2-point font, and writing the word count over it, almost as a warning…|
|Written On: May 19th, 26th|
|Last Edited: May 26th|