The Slicing Edge of Freedom

I’m sorry I’m so late with this.  The post at MGC took far longer than I expected.

I started to explain how much more freedom we, who deal in stories and words, have nowadays.  I don’t know if anyone who is not in the business can fully appreciate how much.  It’s so much, in fact, that many in the business still don’t believe it.

I remember circa 98, when no one was buying Darkship Thieves blowing up with something like “I wish writers could just sell their work on the street and at fairs” (I lived in Manitou Springs, then, a small town in the Colorado mountains, with a surprising number of working artists, some of whom are actually very good.  None of them were “known” but they sold and made a living in stalls, store fronts, co-ops and fairs.)

Well, now we can do one better.  We can set up our little stall on line and attract a global audience.  We’re free to write anything, regardless of what “real publishers”TM think of it.  Note for instance how well military science fiction does with the public in general, even though the only publisher who would buy it (for decades) was Baen.  We’re free to have it copyedited or not.  Yeah, some people don’t, and some people aren’t even punished for it.  We’re free to take our books on sale, monetize and get paid, and to work as hard as we want for what we want.

This is not a post about writing, so we’ll leave it at that, but I’ll note there is a reason many of my colleagues are terrified of this development.  They lash out at indie writers, they lash out at anyone suggesting indie writing is an alternative, and they always lash out at Amazon who made all this possible.

That is because freedom is terrifying.

The Bible, which, whatever else it is, is a repository of impressively old traditions and narratives and very accurate on the nature of the walking upright hairless monkeys, says that the Israelites, in the desert, longed to be back in slavery.

I know a lot of my colleagues long for the fleshpots of NY publishing, chains and all.  I also know that after the wall fell the Eastern countries got a number of “backlash communists.”  And I know a lot of people go back to bad marriages of (practical) servitude, rather than walk away.  And that humanity as a whole seems to be trying to crawl back into a caste system in which 90% of the people have no freedom and 100% of the people aren’t as free as we are.

A Libertarian friend of mine thinks this is because people like being slaves; they like servitude.

He is wrong.  It’s not that people love being slaves.  It’s that freedom is scary, because if you’re free you can fail AND YOU ONLY HAVE YOURSELF TO BLAME.

It’s no coincidence that America, arguably the freest country in the world, when it comes to pursuing the avocation you want to pursue and being successful (or not) is also the birth place of SJWs and Micro aggressions.  It’s no coincidence that it’s in America, a country that prizes women so much it’s almost a matriarchy, that women keep insisting they live in a patriarchy and grossly oppressed.  (All without realizing how much more oppressive even other western countries are. Let alone places where your genitals will be mutilated for the crime of being a girl.)

These things are done, and eternal oppression forever claimed, because humans don’t want to be slaves.  Oh, no.  They want to be free.  Completely free to do whatever they want.  They also want someone to blame as they fail.

A few people have even managed to get themselves into that position, but if you’re not the son in law of someone relatively rich and important, it ain’t gonna happen.

You’re going to have to take your freedom, your failure, and your guilt about your failure, as one single deal.  This is called being an adult.

At one time there used to be much psycho-babble about fear of success.  Frankly I thought — and still think — this is bullsh*t.  Everyone i know who claims a fear of success aren’t terrified of being acclaimed, rich and famous.  No, what they fear is that they’ll succeed just enough for everyone to realize how they failed.  Say, they’ll have a bestselling book, but the websphere will be on fire with word of their horrendous typos, or their ignorance of chemistry or something.

Because success has downfalls.  And being allowed to succeed comes with fear you won’t.  Or that your success will be imperfect, and everyone will make fun of you, or–

Yes, sure, you can try to blame the cat for your failure (my son at eight blamed the cat for removing the muffins from the oven and eating one, so why not.)  And you can try to crawl back into a situation where you have an excuse for your failure.

But barring the son in law thing, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.   And no one is REALLY going to believe you’re oppressed for you gender/looks/race in the US today.  Maybe a little picked on, sometimes, for a few people, but not OPPRESSED to the point you can’s succeed.

Adulting sucks.  But it is what you must be, if  you want to have your freedom and eat it too.

Shut up about it, take the bitter with the sweet, shoulder the awesome burden of your freedom and carry on.

145 responses to “The Slicing Edge of Freedom

  1. scott2harrison

    First comment, Wheeee!!!

  2. paladin3001

    FREEDOM!!!!
    Now, how can I fail upward today?

  3. “He is wrong. It’s not that people love being slaves. It’s that freedom is scary, because if you’re free you can fail AND YOU ONLY HAVE YOURSELF TO BLAME.” Many will find someone else, and likely a few more, to take the blame off theimselves.

    • …and the way to avoid failure is to have known what the right decision was, every time.
      Most folks were neither taught, nor have bought into, the idea that the perfect is oft the enemy of the good…and that we need a lot more good (adequate, if imperfect) solutions to the problems of life.
      “Good enough” can prevent a lot of guilt and tension.

      • ““Good enough” can prevent a lot of guilt and tension.”
        So very, very, very true.

      • Brian Edminster

        This is indeed the tightrope we perfectionists have to walk. Ok. Truth be told – probably all of us have this issue to one degree or another. It’s just that being a perfectionist makes this choosing (or even recognizing what is ‘good enough’) difficult – because we know that it’s just not as good as we know that we can make it…

        Being trained as an engineer *should* have broken me of this character flaw, but being a software engineer makes it *so* easy to indulge. (tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak… as the software slowly approaches perfection – or at least that’s what we tell ourselves!). 😉

        Lately, I’ve come to accept the doctrine that having resource constraints (time, money, tools, target platform, etc) are what can make for creation of solutions that would have never occurred if no such constraints were applied. And that is the wonder of creativity. 😉

        • Lately, I’ve come to accept the doctrine that having resource constraints … are what can make for creation of solutions that would have never occurred if no such constraints were applied.

          I have long maintained that more Hollywood movies have been ruined by excessive budgets than by inadequate ones.

        • It is necessary to create constraints, in order to invent freely. In poetry the constraint can be imposed by meter, foot, rhyme, by what has been called the “verse according to the ear.” In fiction, the surrounding world provides the constraint. This has nothing to do with realism, even if it also explains realism. A completely unreal world can be constructed, in which asses fly and princesses are restored to life by a kiss; but that world, purely possible and unrealistic, must exist according to structures defined at the outset (we have to know whether it is a world where a princess can be restored to life only by the kiss of a prince, or also by that of a witch, and whether the princess’s kiss transforms only frogs into princes or also, for example, armadillos). ― Umberto Eco

          • Physician, psychologist, author, inventor and originator of the term lateral thinking Edward de Bono has lauded Lego blocks as a stimulus to encouraging children’s creativity, offering a perfect balance of limitations and freedom.

            • Which is why we had that infamous teachers who decreed that boys could not play with Legoes.

  4. Nit on the cat thing: Our little old lady Smokey (RIP) once, in the space of time it took Jacqui to make a cup of tea, knocked a bran muffin (one of the giant coffeeshop ones bigger than the cat’s head) off the table, unwrapped the cellophane, and ate it.

    Jacqui came back to the sight of an immensely self-satisfied cat licking the last crumbs off of her whiskers.

    • Yes, but there ain’t no way the cat donned oven mitts, removed the muffin pan from the oven, removed ONE muffin and ate it.
      Robert, otoh, at eight was perfectly competent to do that.
      It’s like Robert at five, drawing an elaborate scene on a wall and SIGNING AND DATING HIS MASTERPIECE. Then telling me his brother had done it. his brother was one and a half. He STILL says his brother did it!

      • Ok, that would be beyond the means of most cats, I’ll give you that.

        I hesitate to say impossible because, well, cats, but unlikely.

        • Ok, that would be beyond the means of most cats, I’ll give you that.

          The oven mitts or the painting?

          • Feather Blade

            The oven mitts. I have a book (somewhere, in a box) of cats painting.

            • Oh, I believe the cats might have done the painting, and even signing it, but not putting on the date. Cats are notoriously bad about telling the time and simply hopeless at calendars. They will insist it is summer somewhere and only your poor management is obstructing them from it.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        My cousin once stood on one foot for three hours (no, we don’t know how we did it) rather than go back on her story that her nine-year-old brother had scratched HER name, in large, wobbly capitals, on the back of the family car.

        • Every ten years or so since the 1970s, “security microdots” come around again. They’re microscopic flecks of film with an ID code to identify your property. You’re supposed to scatter them around your car, luggage, golf bag, etc. with the idea that they’re too small for a thief to find all of them.

          Last time they came around, Bruce Schneier commented that a better use would be to buy some microdots, scatter them on someone else’s property, and then call the police…

          • FlyingMike

            As a forensic aid the official Taser cartridges contain tiny mylar strips that are laser-holo-engraved with unique IDs, which get scattered about willy nilly to hither and yon when said cartridge is discharged by the charge that also launches the little wired darts.

            This was done to assuage law enforcement when they first came out that these new gizmos were not the perfect untraceable mugging weapon – zap the target, collect the loot while they are immobilized, and vanish. With the strips they’d be able to trace who bought that cartridge.

            I am absolutely certain that any hypothetical Taser cartridges hypothetically used by the CIA/MI6/FSBs of the world just happen to have been made without those little tracer mylar strips.

          • snelson134

            That was one of the major arguments against microstamping shell casings: the well-prepared crook just visits the local gun range and swipes a handful to leave behind.

            • The other argument was that a $7 tool file removes s the engraving, as does … actually firing the weapon. Like, 200 rounds or so depending on the pressure of the cartridge makes it completely unreadable. The CA Assembly’s own pet scientists at UC Davis told them this and recommended they not adopt it, and they did anyway.

      • You are too quick to discount the possibility of mind control, something at which cats are known to be adept.

        Little brothers … less likely but not a thesis to be discarded out of hand. It depends on the brothers. My older brother’s little brother was a real jerk about such things.

        (Before any of y’all jump to conclusions, I have two brothers and a sister, so there. I was in my room quietly reading whenever that happened and I have witnesses who I can call to testify if necessary. Bailiff, please ask Pook E. Bear to take the stand, and advise Pup E. Dawg and Kit E. Katt that they may be called to support the Bear testimony. Please advise Ell E. Fant to remain available. Let Mr. & Mrs. Potate O. Hedd know their testimony will not be required and similarly advise the Bill Ding men.)

        • Hah! As if “quietly reading” would prevent one from practicing mind control! In fact, that’s almost a perfect cover story, since there’s no way to prove you were actually reading! 🙂

          • … there’s no way to prove you were actually reading

            Oh, be confident there was No Way my family would ever believe I was awake and not actually reading (at least, outside of an environment actively inimical to reading, such as in the shower or swimming pool.)

      • $SISTAUR once claimed I “stole her birthday” (same month & day)…despite her birth being a few years after mine. Yeah, had that all premeditated and everything way back, riiiiiight.

      • Does said brother sound suspiciously like Alec Baldwin?

    • We once left the house, leaving the dog with a tin of cookies in the middle of the table. We returned to find the tin closer to the edge of the table (the edge next to the wall interestingly enough) and minus cookies. Nothing else had been disturbed.

      As far as we can tell, either a burglar broke in while we were gone and stole nothing except this one batch of cookies, or the dog climbed into the chair and ate the cookies one by one, carefully cleaning herself and the table after each one.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        We had a formally set table and a 110-pound dog in close proximity. Somehow, in the brief amount of time the table was unattended, the dog in question removed the butter and ONLY the butter from the lovely crystal dish, leaving everything on the table in the exact same condition as originally placed. I would never have known it was him if he hadn’t kept happily licking his whiskers.

        • We also have a talented dog who thinks she was a cat in a prior life. After one party, we found her up on the counter amidst the nice glassware. We couldn’t yell as startling her would have been a bad thing. We are talking 20 plus real crystal glasses. To give some context, this is a 45 lbs plus dog who comes up to my waist and used to like jumping into mid air to lick people’s faces. So, not a small dog… after we looked away, we heard a thump of her landing…with not a single glass moved. This same dog can jump and clear some impressive distances too. Never can tell what our animal friends can actually do…

  5. In the future, will novelists wander the streets, crying out “New tales for old! New tales for old!”?

  6. Let’s for sake of argument imagine that a magic wand has been waved and poof Amazon suddenly disappears. You know, much like the anti gun crowd desperately want all those icky guns to vanish without a though for the inevitable unintended consequences.
    The big chain stores killed off most independent book sellers. Then they adopted a big business paradigm based on publisher push rather than customer satisfaction. Last I counted there were right around one and a half big chain book sellers left (B&N and BAM if anyone cares). No one, or precious few at the very least, are selling books any more. Forget e-books (wouldn’t trad pub just love that) and ask yourself who sells all the print books these days. If you came up with any answer other than Amazon please enlighten me.
    Speaking of e-books, they could have been the salvation of trad pub. Instead with the sole exception of Baen they’ve fought it tool and nail, pricing their electronic versions at ridiculous levels for no other reason than to point at how poorly e-books are doing. See we told you so!
    As for the 500 pound gorilla in the room, Amazon, I keep hearing much fear that they will any day now turn on the indie writers and commit rape, pillage, and other unspeakable acts on them. Thing is, Amazon has two goals, maximize profits and make their customers happy, which sort of go hand in hand. Indie authors provide a product, one which costs in e-book format at least, next to nothing to sell. A bit of file storage, some computing power, not much else. Amazon has a vested interest in keeping that relationship alive and prosperous. So not to say it won’t make mistakes, and has already on more than one occasion, but more growing pains than any underhanded or malicious intent.
    And no disagreement from me, freedom is a most glorious and scary thing.

    • “…I keep hearing much fear that they will any day now turn on the indie writers…”

      It’s a West Coast company, run and staffed by West Coast liberals. They don’t believe in freedom. They believe in control. At the moment, making money is more important to the VIPs than controlling The Narrative.

      But in publishing, we note that controlling the narrative takes precedence over money. Big time. They use their influence to make sure nothing that isn’t Liberal gets printed. We conservative readers have been living off the crumbs that slip by for a long time.

      I see no reason to expect Amazon to behave differently, in the long run. Look at Farcebook and Pootube. Both running Left as fast as they can.

    • If the ‘Zon were to vanish overnight, and not from a Nork nuke taking out Seattle, or suddenly decide, “Eh, no more indie books,” it would hurt. And then word would get out about Kobo, and D2D, and maybe sort of internet flea-markets like I’ve seen for antiques dealers, where you have a bunch of people together on one web-site, each with a smaller domain with their goods on it, and they share the costs of hosting and upkeep. You could probably get a roster of people taking a week to monitor sales and send out files (fulfilling orders). Yes, sales tax would be a PITA at first, but we’d find a way.

      • I think the evidence will show that readers will pay a fee to read online novels (cf. Steve Miller & Sharon Lee, Liaden universe) in numbers sufficient to establish the viability of the concept.

        • What about Larry Correia? He earned out his advance on the sale of the Earcs alone!

    • > The big chain stores killed off most independent book sellers.

      I keep hearing that, but I’m still not persuaded that it’s true.

      What I saw, when my area still had some of both, were what looked like entirely different customer demographics. And certainly much different inventories.

      The small-chain-stores – Waldenbooks, B.Dalton, and the like – co-existed with the small bookstores for decades for that reason. Those stores failed as soon as the megastores came in with better prices, albeit with the same limited selection and poor customer service. The small stores barely noticed.

      The independent stores in my area have all closed. Unless Amazon or B&N were selecting their stock and hiring their employees, they failed because they didn’t stock the things their customers might want to buy, and their customer service sucked.

      • Now that you mention it, I could think of a handful bookstores in Utah that are still hanging in ther: Sam Weller’s, Deseret Books, Seagull Book and Tape, and Pioneer Books. I don’t visit these stores very often, but I’m nonetheless aware of them.

        Granted, three of these are strongly religious, but I think that’s a reason for their continued success: they understand their market, and cater to it.

        Businesses that don’t or can’t understand their market, nor cater to it, don’t seem to do very well, for some reason….

      • Correlation isn’t causation, but it’s curious how all the independent bookstores in town dried up shortly after B&N and MediaPlay hit town. The closest independent New Book store that isn’t religious is an hour and half away from me (FM area is a little less than 250K) in a tiny town (less than 4K) whose only competition within 40 miles is a Walmart and a CVS. We’ve got a couple of used book stores in town, and a couple of religious book stores in town, otherwise it’s B&N, big box stores like Walmart and Target, or a couple of drug stores. I don’t even see book racks in the convenience stores these days outside of the truck stops.

      • Actually, we have gotten a new indie bookstore on my side of Atlanta since I moved here six and a half years ago in addition to the one that already existed.

        I have been in a few times. Not a lot interested me but I did notice two things. The selection was clearly curated for a specific customer base. They had a much larger selection of what could broadly be termed local interest than the chains.

        I think they are surviving as a more boutique experience which is something Amazon can’t provide and something much more resistant to price pressures.

        • Bookstores, like many other fields, are often started by people because they are really passionate about books – not because they’re good at business.

          If there’s no direct economic pressure from a business which is focused on making money, they can survive, and sometimes even thrive. However, if a similar business comes along that treats it as a business instead of a passion, they must find a way to offer market differentiation or they will fail. (Learning good business practices, customer service skills, branding, and marketing doesn’t hurt, either!)

        • I remember a small bookstore like that in far northwestern Kansas. Half religious books, devotionals, and the like, and half regional history and local authors. I thought it was pretty neat at the time, and managed to grab a little book that was both.

      • The biggest advantage provided by physical bookstores over Amazon’s virtual model is the benefit of serendipity. The availability of a large number of authors in a genre, whose works are unfamiliar, offers an opportunity to browse and sample that Amazon is hard put to match. Opportunity costs for sampling unknown authors are greatly lowered.

        When publishers select according to what impresses their peers instead of what pleases their readers — and push those choices onto book stores — that advantage disappears.

      • Paul Koning

        >> The big chain stores killed off most independent book sellers.
        >I keep hearing that, but I’m still not persuaded that it’s true.
        Same here. We have an independent seller who seems to be doing well. On the other hand, big chain Borders folded years ago, and other big chain B&N continues to look like it’s about to do likewise.
        As for Seattle deciding “no more indie books” — that’s not the real worry. The bigger concern is to have them decide “no more non-socialist books”. We know that those outfits are full of people who believe that we should be stopped from having Wrong Opinions. They haven’t succeeded in making this happen — not yet.

      • snelson134

        “they failed because they didn’t stock the things their customers might want to buy”

        Realistically, they can’t. Because their target clientele is people who are looking for things sufficiently Odd / old that the chains don’t / won’t carry them. And unless you can rent warehouse space by the hectare or have a comprehensive network of suppliers, you won’t be able to carry all of them either. Amazon had the space and the early internet, and used both effectively.

    • This. I’ve always heard that Amazon wants the sales from a single copy from a thousand authors, or a single copy from ten thousand authors – at least as much as they want a thousand copies or ten thousand copies from a single author. It’s all in the numbers. And a thousand little one-copy authors is where their future in sales lies.
      YMMV, though.

    • Ebooks cost almost nothing for publication; they could have simply left the price the same as paper, stuck the savings in their pockets, and made more money.

      But it has become obvious they’re not in the publishing business. They’re in the paper business… even though the entirety of that is normally outsourced to third parties.

      I once worked for a company that did data processing. They were a wholly-owned subsidiary of a large hospital. When they started having employee meetings, we got lectures about the healthcare business, how to deal with customers, and other things.

      Afterward I caught the Director in private and pointed out that we weren’t in the healthcare business; our employers were, but *we* were in the IT business.

      Oddly, a couple of months later we got a new rah-rah speech, about how we were in the IT business…

      That’s when I realized that even top management isn’t always aware of what their real business is. And the further realization that the wonder is not that corporations fail, but that some of them last as long as they do before circling the drain for the last time.

  7. And even the Israelites’ carping is usually “Yeah, sure, we were slaves back in Egypt, which wasn’t so great, but at least we weren’t living in tents and eating manna all the time!.”

    • “Why brought [you] us from bondage,/ Our loved Egyptian night?”
      Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden”

    • A slave had inherent value and a low but definite social standing. They knew who they were and their place in the pecking order.

      Marching across the desert, they had only their own internal self-worth, because the social structure that framed up their selves was absent.

      There are several cases of Soviet defectors to the West who,. after a few years of freedom and independent means in the West, chose to return to the USSR. Like one of them said, “Back home, I had a place. Here, I’m nobody.” And they went back, knowing they were facing prison at the very least… because they had no self outside the social structure they grew up with.

      • paladin3001

        An interesting observation from someone I know about the “40 years in the wilderness”. 40 years is one generation. They needed to remove the slave mentality from all the tribes before they could freely found the nation of Israel. All those former slaves had to die before their children could inherit full freedom.

        • Sounds more reasonable than “God hates us” or “What to you mean, you’ve been holding the map upside-down all these years?”

        • It’s pretty open what’s happening, even if the reason why isn’t provided in the text. The Lord flat out told the Israelites that only Joshua and Caleb – from among all the Israelites who left Egypt – would be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

        • Terry Sanders

          And a few (for certain values of “few”) generations later, they insisted on having “a king, like the other nations.” Samuel told them exactly what that would entail. They wanted one anyway.

          God was not particularly pleased.

        • I recall a generation being 18 or 20 years.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            IIRC Generation in Jewish thoughts/terms is a forty year period.

            But yes, generation can also refer to a lesser time period.

      • Michael Houst

        I saw (and still see) that sort of mentality with a number of military retirees that go the full 30 years. It’s their entire identity, and once they’ve retired, they’ve got nothing left.

        • snelson134

          There are people like that (I suspect I’m one) in every profession. What they do is who they are.

      • … knowing they were facing prison at the very least

        At least back home they mattered enough to imprison.

  8. “That is because freedom is terrifying.”

    It’s never scared me much. Being free is the ground-state of weirdos like me, because I don’t notice the “stay off the grass” signs, nor the dirty looks when I sit on the lawn and enjoy the sunshine. To say that drives certain kinds of people crazy is an understatement.

    However, there is are types of people who find freedom terrifying. Two major kinds, really. First, the kind that makes money from keeping people un-free. Anyone employed by government, pretty much. Second, the Block Captains of the world who simply cannot stand the idea of daffodils instead of tulips in the front garden. (Which is why I live in the country. Having had people literally come to my house and DEMAND I do certain things to my garden, then call the cops on me when I laughed and told them to leave. The cop told me to build a fence and paint derogatory slogans on it. That is a true story.)

    There are lots of Righties who fear freedom, religious types for the most part who can’t allow anyone to colour outside the lines. But the worst ones these days are the Lefties. People are stupid, they say. People must be controlled, they say. That’s the entire Leftie argument, when you boil away all the bullshit.

    Being weird, I can’t live with those people. I literally cannot comply with their expectations. It is not something I’m capable of doing, any more than a blind man can sort red and blue marbles. Freedom is a life requirement for people like me.

    • I hear you. There’re a lot of folks like that (I like to think I’m one) here in east Tennessee. So long as you keep what you do on your own side of the line, I’m fine with it, so long as you’re not complaining about what I do on my side. And if the neighbor doesn’t mow his lawn as often as I think he should, well, I probably do some things he’s not crazy about either. But neither of us are gonna bother the other about the little stuff.

      • Professor Badness

        Ayup!

      • Lots of Scots in Tennessee, or so I understand. Some of this is hereditary, no surprise to find it spread around.

        You know, I don’t even care about the gossip? I don’t notice it. I’m sure there’s a million stories around town about that weird Phantom guy, but I’m out of the loop. People take my money just the same, that’s good enough for me.

        I’ve got a real problem with guys coming to my place and telling me off about my yard though, let me tell you.

        • That’d bother me a bit too. It’s never happened here to me. And the worst I’ve done is remarking to the wife that those folks ought to mow their lawn when we drive by some house nearby.

          • I might have been known to go the the only house on the block with dandylions and offer to dig them out for free, if the homeowner wanted them gone. But that was all I did, and I was polite and friendly.

            • Well that’s different. You were just collecting greens for supper, I’m sure… (We used to put dandelions over boiled potatoes and wilt them with a hot bacon dressing. As a kid I hated them, but now I love them!)

            • There was a house in my hood where I was about to do the same – for greens and to brew dandelion wine,

              • SheSellsSeashells

                I used to poach chickweed from an unattended yard in our neighborhood. I was so sad when somebody finally rented the place…

            • kenashimame

              I was about 6 or 7 and my mom went and picked the dandelions out of our front yard to fix dandelion greens for supper. As she was washing them, our neighbor came over and told her that he’d sprayed the weeds in the front yard for her, since dad was on TDY.

              She waited until he left before letting her disappointment show and throwing that part of supper away.

          • There’s a house at the end of our block whose frontage has a slight slope and, when allowed to grow above a foot or so, obstructs the view of the oncoming traffic coming around the curve of the road. That is the sole instance I’ve noted of neighbors demanding a lawn be cut.

            Even then, the preference was for the city to put in a light or, at least, one of those “traffic oncoming when blinking” lights. But that was an issue of safety, not aesthetic.

  9. my son at eight blamed the cat for removing the muffins from the oven and eating one, so why not

    Given a cat or two I had (like Gandalf who loved to answer the phone).

    • PIXEL. He answered the phone all the time. Someone who comments here (hi Charles) once thought we must be all dead and that’s why the cat was answering, so he drove an hour and a half to check on us… We were out shopping.

      • When I was leaving the service and heading back to college I got a call from my department’s chair about two weeks after I left him a message. He was a bit annoyed as he’d called twice and when the phone was answered all her heard was meowing.

        He didn’t think it was funny and was making one last call.

        It took me quite some time to convince him my cat actually answered the phone if we were out.

        • Cats answering the phone are not much of a problem, but they are terrible at taking a message and downright infuriating about leaving you a memo.

      • Aiyaah! So how did your friend react to ‘nobody answering the door’? O_O

        (Also, that’s a smart kitty. I miss my Rhiow. Used to wake me in the evening for dinnertime, and nap with my mom.)

        • SheSellsSeashells

          Best cat name ever. /fangirls

          (Best DOG name goes to my former neighbors, who had a gargantuan long-haired Rottweiler named Fezzik.)

          • kenashimame

            I have friends who named their pit mix “Neko.”
            In contrast another friend named her cat “Inu” and her turtle “Usagi.”

  10. “or their ignorance of chemistry or something”

    ACH!!! You’ve guessed it! My whole life laid bare to the world!

    It doesn’t have anything to do with poor planning, or laziness. I can’t seem to actually FINISH a book because I’m TERRIFIED that people will find out that I dropped out of high school chemistry because I couldn’t understand the math! (Snerk!)

    Oddly, this last part is true, which is why that line hit me as so funny (I almost laughed out loud… at WORK). I had no idea chemistry had so much math when I signed up for that class. Dumb brain, can’t maths. I ended up dropping the class rather than fail, which screwed up a chance to graduate early. The next semester, I took some other course to fill the requirement and graduated on the regular schedule. Oh well, that last semester was super easy because I already had all my requirements except that one, so everything except that one class were all easy fluff.

    The finishing a book part isn’t exactly being fair to myself. Being a writer was a dream of mine when I was a kid that I’ve only fairly recently resurrected. I’m still learning the craft of writing. I have written quite a bit on one manuscript only to find myself stuck because I had a beginning, and a vague idea of the end, but no middle planned out. So the characters ended up running in circles. Love those characters though, so I’m sure I’ll either re-use them, or go back and finish it once I’ve managed to better organize.

    • Hmmm, maybe we should collaborate. My problem with stories is I have lots of great scenes in my head, but no start and finish to put them in a context. 🙂

      • Write them all down, and see where the pieces fit.

        • Pick a few pieces that don’t contradict each other and plaster over the cracks.

          As I’ve learned to pay attention to how novels are put together, it’s apparent that even Famous Writers often use that system…

        • Take notes. Try to grow a story about them by pushing them.

      • LOL!!! That’s an interesting idea. Let’s just blindly put in my beginning and ending; then stuff your scenes in the middle and read it! It would be like a madlibs book! Especially if your scenes don’t match the same genre. If people complain, we’ll just claim it’s an art thing and they just don’t understand. 🙂

        Actually, I am trying a collaborating with another “author” who gets himself stuck in research, outlining, and planning but can’t seem to get to the WRITING part. It isn’t working as well as I had hoped. I had a ‘feels’ in mind for the story, but nothing solid, and since he’s the “outlining guy” every time I think about the story I find myself holding back because what’s in my head may or may not fit. I’m more of a pantser. I’ve gotta just write.

        I recently read somewhere (for the life of me I can’t remember where, perhaps here or maybe something Larry Correia mentioned) that collaborating is actually HARDER than just writing. Yea.. I get that now.

        • snelson134

          True in any number of fields; Brooks saw it back in 1961 when he wrote “The Mythical Man-Month” about software development. Eventually the gains in productivity are canceled by the extra time and effort to coordinate the extra person with the group,

        • LOL!!! That’s an interesting idea. Let’s just blindly put in my beginning and ending; then stuff your scenes in the middle and read it! It would be like a madlibs book! Especially if your scenes don’t match the same genre. If people complain, we’ll just claim it’s an art thing and they just don’t understand. 🙂

          That would probably be a really funny read. Especially if they are different genres.

        • Isn’t blindly putting in a beginning and ending, then stuffing in random scenes the way the MSM writes an anti-Trump narrative?

      • A huge insight that has me actually making progress on a novel for the first time was something I heard on The Creative Penn in an interview with the guy who wrote Story Engineering. He said every scene has to have a mission.

        So I took all the scenes I had (written or planned) and wrote a title that was their mission (or I thought was their mission) and listed those in an order that made sense. I then wrote the ones I didn’t have written.

        Then I started naming scenes needed to get from one I had to the next one I had.

        Somewhere along the line something resembling a plot, at least in my head, fell on the floor. I’m not sure anyone else will find a plot in there but it has moving forward which is something I couldn’t do before.

        YMMV of course, but there it is.

        • Every scene needs not only a mission, but a mission sufficient to justify its length. OTOH, in my experience, that’s generally a judgment best made in revision.

          • I can see that but as someone struggling with the “how do I built this thing” problem it has given me a handle. I suspect as I learn to write it may move more into revision or just the ground state. For now it is a godsend.

            • Oh, yeah. In my teens I had a rule “Write fat revise lean.” If I knew I could use only one detail for instance, but had any about which one, both went down. A lot easier to revise out one than to try to remember that perfect detail that I had thought of last time.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      I edit, and proofread, and brainstorm. Trying to break into fiction-type editing, rather than boring myself to tears with marketing copy. I’d be glad to give your manuscript a free look-see if you want. 🙂

      • Do you have a website or contact info to be hired? I won’t be ready for external copy edit until late summer/early fall but like having an idea beforehand.

      • That would be awesome! However, I’m kinda a pen-and-paper type. So my story is all hand-written in a couple of notebooks, along with a third notebook full of short stories, planning, out-of-story world info etc. My next step is to take those notebooks and get them into an electronic format.

        If you are still interested once I get that done, I might take you up on the offer. 🙂 Thanks!

  11. The finishing a book part isn’t exactly being fair to myself. Being a writer was a dream of mine when I was a kid that I’ve only fairly recently resurrected. I’m still learning the craft of writing.

    Preach on…it seems one side effect of ATH is resurrecting dreams of being a storyteller, or at least a written one (apparently I was always the guy with great stories).

    • WordPress delenda est…that was supposed to be a reply to Stuart.

      Wanted to add I expect to post my first short story as an adult to my blog Sunday.

      • O frabjous day!

        • Only until someone reads it 🙂

          I keep watching the Masterclass trailer for the Mamet class (which I will buy when I can afford the $90) and the quote I am trying to keep in mind is

          You cannot learn how to write drama without writing plays, putting it on in front of an audience, and getting humiliated.

          when I think about putting up 52 stories on 52 consecutive Sunday.

          At least one has to be good, right.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        After days of false starts and learning, I think I’ve finally gotten a good start on the outline for my next story, which may end up longer than any I’ve done yet. (I’m crud at pantsing, and haven’t developed the structural skills for more than extremely short.)

      • Yeah! Break a leg. 🙂

    • Hey! -insert encouraging stuffs here- (because I would like to be encouraging… but I suck at it).

      I’ll add you to my read pile!

      I really need to schedule some time to do that also. I HAVE a blog, but only seem to write in it when something bugs me (which come out as incongruous rants). Using it to publish short stories is a MUCH better idea.

      • Well, the idea for the short story will be separate from the blog per se…I’m going to attempt a Bradbury challenge with the stories posted on Sunday and a post about the writing the following Saturday. The stories will retire (ie, I will hide the evidence) when a new one goes up.

        If you want to see a “how do I come up with a blog post when nothing is cooking” look at yesterday. If I’m not travelling I have been trying to post M-Sat with Sunday off (soon to be “new story” posts). Yesterday I actually mused my way into embarrassing myself. Today will be part five of my OD&D commentary.

  12. They lash out at indie writers, they lash out at anyone suggesting indie writing is an alternative, and they always lash out at Amazon who made all this possible.

    I work for a STM publisher, and last week on my biannual office visit, I referenced Any Weir and The Martian. I was astonished at how quickly the conversation was controlled and turned into “indy publishing is evil.” We don’t even work in fiction so I was surprised at how much vitriol was stored up, but it seems that I’ve discovered the third rail …

    • I have gotten the impression that, on the plantations of the antebellum South, the first to denounce the lies of “freedom ‘cross the water” were the foremen and house servants.

      Indeed, I have heard it said “that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.

  13. People want to live in a box. They want that box to be the shape and size they determine, but there must be a box so there is some limit to their universe. There is a comfort to having limits. (Note that most of the folks demanding sexual hedonism also demand someone else provide for their potential failures in that arena.)
    And, yes, as you say, it’s because of fear of failure. Most people are afraid to plummet from the sky as their feathers melt off – they would prefer to only fall from the second-story window. They want all the benefits of trying to fly, but none of the risk.

    I was just discussing a related concept this morning: as the frontier moved in America, so did the self-reliance. When the frontier had moved sufficiently far away, “here” became a place of dependency and safety. The self-reliant eventually faded away or moved on. With few frontiers left today (at least that are accessible without taking your environment with you), there are few places for the self-reliant to stand.

    • What I find interesting are the otherwise-worldly, intelligent, often conservative people who, when faced with Yankees/Californians/whatever, will say something like “those people shouldn’t be allowed to move here.” And get angry if I question them about it.

      Sarah talks a lot about the village mentality where she grew up in Porto. I suspect the same type of thinking is at work there.

      • I suspect that what they’re trying to say is, “those people don’t share our values and we’re afraid they’ll try to make us into the places they moved from, which we definitely don’t like.” If the newcomers are willing to adapt to the values of the places they come to, they usually don’t find too much difficulty. They may not be accepted as locals for a generation or two, but they likely won’t be excoriated. At least that’s been my experience.

      • I concur with drloss. Most often, it’s an expression of “they screwed up that place, and now want to escape and turn this new place into that old place.”

        And, sadly, it’s a truism about humans – they drag their old ways with them when going somewhere new and “better”. (Hey! Aren’t there some stories about that?)

  14. I’m not sure its a fear of freedom so much as it is simple snobbery. It’s the “Velveteen Writer” syndrome Sarah has discussed in other posts. Yeah, sure, the Velveteen Writer might have sold the right’s to his great work of literature for almost nothing and be getting a royalty check every month that doesn’t quite cover his Starbucks bill, but he’s a REAL writer. The publisher said so! And then this guy who’s never managed to please the publishers, who just wrote something and stuck it up on Amazon, goes around claiming that he’s a writer too.

    A voice in the Velveteen Writer’s head asks, “What if he’s right? What if he really is a writer? What does that say about you and the deal you made if the status you gained as a writer isn’t even special.” Thus, in order to drown out the voice, the Velveteen Writer must scream even louder, “No, it’s not real! Indie sucks, Amazon sucks, NONE OF IT IS REAL! I’M REAL, THE PUBLISHER SAID SO!!!!”

  15. Pingback: Freedom & Fear | Declination

  16. Joe in PNG

    On the frightening aspect of freedom:
    Back in 1992, I graduated HS, went on a Church youth trip the following week, then on the family vacation the week after that. Basically, the same summer schedule for the past number of summers.
    On my way home from vacation, driving my beater Dodge 600 convertible, I passed a sign for the local community college, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Like a ton of icewater.
    I’m an adult now. I have no idea of what is going to happen next. Where as in years before my life was pretty much set for me by others, now I have to make those decisions, and there’s no roadmap with a set date for me to get there. Pretty frightening.
    John Keegan once pointed out that a lack of liberty is paradoxically freeing. A lack of choices can mean less to worry about for some people. Personally, I’d rather have a full set of possible options and limit my own choices according to my own beliefs.

  17. I’ve been struggling with why I’m so frustrated at so many of the memes from my friends back in DC, and not quite getting it. I’d hit on “a bizarre insistence of zero-sum everything, where no one succeeds except by causing others to fail”–but that wasn’t quite right. Nor “can’t anyone see it’s the micro perspective of how they treat their own neighbors that matters, not the unapproachably huge Societal Ills?” But that wasn’t it either, and frankly seemed like an unsupported knee-jerk defense rather than a position anyway.

    I think… this is it. Because it is this ennui, this hopelessness, this nihilism that’s making me fret and boggle and wonder how anyone would live that way.

    And… well. If there’s no point and no winning, then there’s no fault either, I’d there?

    Yeah.

  18. Jonathan H

    To me, freedom isn’t freedom and personal choice isn’t personal choice unless one of your options is failure – by asking other people to cover the cost of your failure, you are limiting your own options and thereby limiting your freedom.
    Many of the people who we think of as having achieved the most in life are those that allowed themselves to fail – for example, Abraham Lincoln failed in multiple businesses before succeeding in politics.
    You are spot on that freedom is scary; many people long for a set, known, comfortable place – to have somewhere that they belong and know the rules of. I read a saying once, presumably second hand or third hand so I don’t know the origin of it, to wit “The hardest prison to escape is the one in our head”.
    I currently have a pretty good place in life as far as a safe, well paid, easy job and a good living situation – but I find myself longing for more, to be elsewhere, less settled and more fluid. Having read this, it brings me to realize that what is holding me back from making a change is the fear of failure, of not being successful and comfortable in my new venture.

  19. I would love to fail as much as Dan Brown. Ridicule me to your hearts content, but in the end, I’ve got your money and can use bundles of hundreds to light the fire place if I want.

  20. I’ll disagree with you mildly on the fear of success being bull*hit; I personally know a gent whose fear of success is because he has no framework for it. That is, every time he’s enjoyed success as a kid, he was punished by parents as well as peers for it – his sister should have been more successful than him, why did he make her finish at a lower spot? Or flat out accused of lying if he didn’t have the proof to back up being successful, and then the proof completely ignored when produced, the subject dropped and never brought up again. You know, like how the media treats republican accomplishments.

    This has produced a somewhat broken man who’s terrified of success, because he’s well acquainted with battling against all odds, and pulling victory somewhat mangled out of the jaws of defeat, but feels completely lost and without a framework (and certain it has to end really badly) for dealing with unalloyed success.

    One of those gents who get happier as the day descends into the dwang, because that’s familiar territory, and he knows how to deal with it.

    • In a recent Mark Steyn video interview with screenwriter (and notable Hollywood conservative) Lionel Chetwynd, Mr. Chetwynd talked of an interview with Bob Fosse, of how Fosse groused after becoming the first person to win an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy all in one year. Fosse knew how much luck was involved in that achievement, and knew how much it painted a target on his back for those jealous of him and eager to tear down his next creations.


      The whole thing is a great hour, but the cited remarks occur around 43 minutes, lasting about five minutes.

      The discussion of his experience in Canada’s Black Watch and of the Dieppe raid is terrific.

    • Terry Sanders

      Also, there are the people who regard success as just setting you up for a bigger, more public, more humiliating failure later.

  21. I don’t disagree with the post, but would like to point out that while it’s a freedom issue, the focus is on risk, which, of course, is part of freedom. But most don’t see working for hire vs running a small business as a choice between less freedom and more, but as to the likelihood of continued employment and retirement vs losing your shirt.

    Granted traditional publishing is more fickle. Yet there comes a point of diminishing returns in anything. Honestly? What had me thinking indie was seeing that traditional publication expects authors to do what indie authors do, except for lay-out and cover design, including promotion. So, if an indie published writer has to do much of that a traditionally published writer does, then why give a publisher a cut just to be on their label? Add that there’s the same element of risk, and the question becomes if what they offer is worth trading freedom.

    • … the question becomes if what they offer is worth trading freedom.

      What they offer is the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. You were a good enough writer for them to buy the book, even if the audience didn’t.

      What too few people perceive is that does not mean you are a good writer, merely you met their definition of a good writer.

      • “This work has been approved by Spell-Check. That means it meets our standards for proper words.”

        Never mind the words are not in any order of any use, informational or entertaining.

      • The more I know about trad publishing the more I’d wonder what was wrong with me if I got their seal of approval.

    • Honestly? What had me thinking indie was seeing that traditional publication expects authors to do what indie authors do

      I honestly worked on writing briefly in the late 80s and early 90s bu6 gave up on it as a possible post-Navy career for one reason: I hated sucked up to the mean girls in high school so why do it as a job.

      Reading all the advice on how to get published even back then, before I knew about the politics and the games and when publishing actually paid, I couldn’t shake the feeling that getting past the gatekeepers was a popularity contest not so different from high school. I prefered to focus on things with at least some objective measure I could take into the interview.

      It really has been reading Sarah and MGC about indie that planted the seed of trying again. Indie may depend on 25% luck instead of 10% like a lot of other fields but that’s fine. As long as it isn’t 50% asskissing like trad seemed to be even 30 years ago.

  22. I read a couple of biographies of defectors from the Soviet Union back in the 1980’s. Both defectors wanted to return to the USSR because they had difficulties with the freedom available to them in the US. They liked the “comfort” from the control even while they were stifled under it. The movie “Moscow on the Hudson” shows a little of this at the end when the character rants about the freedom he has.

  23. Being the adult can be painful indeed, especially as you look back over the various decisions you made. Just to set some context, I’m doing reasonably well – our household income is probably in the top 10% for the region (but not the top 5%) and roughly in that area for the US as a whole by most statistics I’ve seen. I’ve always managed to line up my next job before leaving my current one, so I’ve never actually been unemployed for any length of time. So, objectively, I have been very successful.

    That being said, I’m on my third career, effectively, and I’m coming to the realization that it looks like none of my careers are going to be as financially rewarding as the rather singular career my father pulled off until he recently retired (attorney at various law firms, including the one he founded). It is amazing how much you define success based on your own circumstances growing up and your own expectations. In some of my darker moments, that comparison can lead me to the conclusion that, despite all the advantages I’ve been given, I’ve failed to adequately capitalize on them – and maybe failed more generally. (You’ve got to hate that little dark voice in your head.)

    Hindsight is 20/20 and can be very unforgiving. Maybe I shouldn’t have left consulting (my first career). Maybe I should have worked harder to land a job doing something entirely different with my MBA – and/or chosen a different area of law to specialize in when I was interviewing for law firm jobs out of school. Instead of keeping our starter house on the market for months when we were holding 2 mortgages, in that same amount of time as it took to market it at the price point we thought we could achieve, we could have torn it down (as the buyer eventually did) and made significant money on selling a new house there. When we had a water problem in the basement of the next house, maybe we shouldn’t have done some of the more expensive things down there as part of the renovation. The cost of those renovations (and, to be fair, the cost of private school tuition) actually were one of the factors that lead us to ultimately sell that house and buy a cheaper home. Maybe we should have taken more risks along the way. Maybe we should have saved more and/or not spent inheritance money in order to help pay for over $X in private school tuition over the last Y years (and the girls are just now getting to high school). The number of what-ifs and could-have-beens pile up over the years and looking back doesn’t seem to get easier.

    Just my 2 cents.

  24. Everyone i know who claims a fear of success aren’t terrified of being acclaimed, rich and famous. No, what they fear is that they’ll succeed just enough for everyone to realize how they failed. Say, they’ll have a bestselling book, but the websphere will be on fire with word of their horrendous typos, or their ignorance of chemistry or something.

    I submit that the more common element to “fear of success” is the fear that becoming successful will thereby set a standard which the person fears he cannot live up to moving forward.

    Though I’m sure there is also an element of fear that OTHER things will come to light, unrelated to the subject of their success itself, which would reflect badly on them. Say, they once were convinced to mudwrestle someone at a fair, or some such.