And I Can’t Get Up


If you’re like me, you have trouble with the usual encouragement and sayings that are meant to give you strength/courage/optimism.

You know perfectly well what I mean. I’m not going to give sources for these, because I hear them from everywhere, and my mind isn’t really good at buying anything wholesale.  Hint, my mind buys it even less if it comes with a cute kitten.  I think I started hating motivational posters before I had my first job (Which this being the eighties was PLASTERED in them).  (Though at one time I did have the “hang in there” poster because the kitten was adorable.  So, I’m inconsistent. Deal with it.) We are naturally attracted to demotivational posts out of frustration with the easy pollyannaish motivational posts, and annoyance with the people who believe in them.  Hold on to that thought. It’s important. Seeing people for whom things seem to work, particularly things that our annoying brains tell us are far more complex than the poster/maxim/story is making them out to be causes annoyance. Frustrated annoyance. And a desire to believe the opposite.  If people tell you “Hang in there” you know you’re going to drop hard. You just know it.

Some of it is born of experience, sure, but be honest with yourself, you expected it all along.  Remember that too, it’s important.

One of the things that annoys me most is the saying that “the best predictor of whether you’ll succeed is how many times you fail.”  Mostly because that’s not how that works. That’s not how any of that works.

That saying is sort of the incarnation of survivor bias.  The more you’ve gotten knocked down AND still managed to get up, the more likely you are to succeed, sure. But that’s because you’re already by any definition a fairly exceptional person.

I’ll use writing for a bunch of this because it’s THE experience I have, but honestly, you could use anything, from your love life to your attempts and being the world’s best tiddly winks player.  (Why am I obsessed with tiddly winks? Well, my eidetic, brilliant brother spent something like 12 years devoting all his free time to playing tiddly winks, a game that in Portugal, usually was left behind at age six or so (for boys. Girls didn’t play it.) In retrospect, it was an addictive behavior. If he’d had video games, he’d probably have been addicted to that. It’s not unusual for very, very bright people to need to dull the pain of… well… of the world not being made for them. And if they have an addictive personality, even if they don’t fall into drugs or alcohol, they’ll get addicted to something REALLY weird.  For one of the worst times of my life, I was addicted to fanfic for a TV series that I never watched. Why? Well, it kept the brain minimally occupied so I could dream my life away without DOING anything. Yes, brother eventually stopped it. But meanwhile my parents kept joking his ambition in life was to be the world’s best tiddly winks player.)

Most people who want to be writers never start.  Laziness? Maybe. Perhaps. Sitting down and putting fingers on keyboard is not physical work, but it is work.

I’d argue though that most of the time the problem is not so much laziness as the fear of never getting better. I know that’s true for almost everyone who tries to draw anything.

And trying to write a story is a series of compromises. In your mind the thing is multicolored and gigantic, with 100 actors and 1000 elephants. But you can’t write that. It’s simply not something you can put on a page. No one is going to follow that sort of diffuse action. So you compromise.  You’ll tell this person’s story. Maybe 10 actors. And one elephant.

And even then, if you’re a beginner you’re going to botch it.  For instance, it’s perfectly normal for beginning authors not to be able to handle more than two characters on the page at a time.

So most people give up. Our model as humans seems to be “perfect first time, or I’m no good” but also most people don’t believe they can get THAT much better. (Hint, you can.)

I no longer remember the statistics, and since I don’t know how they collect them anyway, they’re probably meaningless, but it’s something like:of a million people who ever thought to write a book, one actually does it.  Of course, there’s no way of measuring how seriously they thought of it, so again, it’s just a vague indication.

We do have more solid ground for people who actually wrote anything significant AND submitted it, ever getting accepted.  The ratio is something astronomical like 100000 to one.

Why? Because most people give up after the first rejection.  On this, I’m going on my experience in many writers’ groups over the years.  Any number of people I met along the way wrote ONE NOVEL. It was a good novel, in most cases (two were brilliant.) They then spent the next five, ten, fifteen years trying to sell it, so single mindedly focused on selling it, that they never wrote another.  And the novel got rejected. It got EPICALLY rejected. It got rejected by every reputable outfit and a dozen of the oh, 100 or so I knew ended up falling for scams like “pay us to read” or “pay us to publish.”  When this failed to obtain success, they stopped writing. Well, honestly, they’d stopped writing years before, in favor of selling the one novel. But that’s something else. The truth is that they looked at that novel as “proof of concept” and since it didn’t sell, they knew nothing would sell and they gave up.

This is understandable, but completely contrary to reality.  So contrary it doesn’t even coexist in the same plane.  It’s part of the lies we tell ourselves and the world tells us “if your thing is good enough, it will be a bestseller.”  Doesn’t work like that. You’re not submitting your novel to some all-knowing perfect judge. You’re submitting it to a person who is flawed and has issues in his own life and views your story through their own lens. And sometimes their lens has bloody nothing to do with anything you could anticipate when writing the novel. For instance, one of my series took SIXTEEN years to sell, because it was weird, but also because the one house who WOULD have bought it rejected it with “we bought something very similar just last week.”  You know, in such circumstances I assume they’re lying. But I know what they bought, and yes, it’s very similar. And it went on to be a bestseller.

Let’s assume you’re one of the very resilient few and write a second novel and a third novel, while trying to sell the first. (I wrote nine. Three of those have sold since.)

The fairy of good fortune comes and touches your novel.  It sold. YAY.

Good for you. Be aware the chances of its becoming a bestseller is not dependent on quality, but on distribution, cover, and how much the house pushes it.  Heck, the chances of it becoming a GOOD seller are minimal.

Most people who sell a book never sell a second. I don’t know how many, but way in excess of half.

By the way, all of this applies to indie. Most people who put a novel up never sell more than a dozen copies. Discoverability is the problem, mostly. Just advertising your novel everywhere is not going to make it a bestseller (for one indie is heavily biased for series.)  I’m not in writers’ groups now, but I KNOW just from people who write me and who decided they were “no good” after a novel or a short story that the “drop out because of perceived failure” rate is about the same.

So, what about if you sell a second or a third, or a fourth novel?  Yeah. My career has died… eight times now.  Utterly dead. At one time it took me almost two years to sell anything to anyone again. I did a full relation of my career here.  Well, more or less full. I elided some set backs. And there’s been one more since that was written. Without going into details let’s say my own remaining option — ONLY option — is going indie with both feet. Whether I’ll ever recover my IP is something else again. No, I’m not ecstatic about any of this. More on that later.

One of the most bitterly funny things about me is that most people perceive me as an optimist.  One of you in comments yesterday asked where do you master the will and the optimism to try again.  Ah!

It has nothing to do with will or optimism.  Seriously. Absolutely nothing. It has to do with being alive and wishing to remain so.

My family is notoriously unlucky. I was born knowing that or at least imbibed it with mother’s milk.  Seriously “if we made baby bonnets, babies would be born without a head” unlucky. The stories of wars, investments and just general life in which we backed the losing side KNOWING IT WAS THE LOSING SIDE is extensive.

On dad’s side (you don’t want to know about mom’s truly) we tend towards melancholic depression, dark sense of humor and sad poetry.  Because I’m half mother’s daughter, my depressions can get way more active and self destructive. Which is why I learned to control them early.

To all this is added a disposition I’ve started calling “born owing money.” (Though in fact I wasn’t, mostly because my parents have a debt-phobia, one they passed one.)  You don’t approach the world as though it can give you things. You approach it as though you’re afraid of bothering it, and would much rather it didn’t notice you.

How much are all of these attitudes responsible for the repeated failures in my career.  I don’t know. When your lens is flawed, what do you see through.

I don’t believe in affirmations. Sometimes I’d like to, but I don’t. They’re like the motivational posters.  It does you no good to write on your mirror “I’m beautiful and everyone loves me” if you know with bone deep certainty that this isn’t true.

And yet, I know from observing others lives that what you start out with really influences the outcome.  And by that I don’t mean your gifts, talents, beauty, or even wealth.

A little man who looks like a monkey and smells like a diseased weasel but who believes he’s the master stallion of the world will have women hanging off him. A smart, handsome man who thinks he’ll never get a romantic relationship will die bitter and alone.

Part of it is that if you don’t believe something is possible, you don’t even see the opportunity when offered.  Part of it is that when you get it, and attempt it, you keep expecting it to crash. And part of it is that you don’t protest bad treatment, don’t ask for what you deserve.

i.e. Yeah, your beliefs about life and yourself can set you up for failure.

I realized last year I simply did not believe I could be successful in writing.  What does that influence? Well, everything. From how much I put in my writing, to how much I write, to how much I promo, to…

“But Sarah,” you say “I’ve really failed over and over and over at thing x. Why should I try again?”

And I’ve failed over and over and over again at becoming spectacularly successful, or at least having a publisher recognize the potential of anything I wrote. (Weirdly a ghost written novel for another writer made her career.  Odd, uh?)

So, why not just lay down?  Why not give up?

It depends.  Is it something you CAN give up? By which I mean without significantly losing part of who you are and what you want from life?

I could give up sewing or art tomorrow. I probably won’t, but I could. They’re “interesting” occupations, not part of what I am and how I’m made to function.  Not the thing I’ve wanted all my life.

I’ll eventually have the kids move out of state (probably) and see them only a few times a year. That’s fine. My relationship as a mother is something created to be given up (if successful.)  If we’re lucky, we’ll replace it with friendship.  But could I give up my marriage?  Well, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I fight for it because no I couldn’t. Not without losing a significant part of myself.

The crucial question is “And if you give up, then what?”

For something that’s central to you, the answer is usually “I don’t know. I do nothing.” or perhaps “I’ll just drift.”  That might not be the answer, in those words, but it is what will happen.

In the few times I thought I HAD to give up, I undertook bizarre, mind numbing activities. To avoid doing the beloved thing, because that hurt.

So, where do you find the strength — ah! — and the optimism — ahah! — to get up again?

You don’t. You get up because you have to. Because there’s nothing else on the other side of giving up.

Look, we tend to think in static categories.  “I’ll just give up.”  Or “I’ll succeed.”  Or “I’ll fail.”

But none of these are permanent. Nothing stays still, not even our emotional states.  All of them are followed by “and then what?”

Even those who succeed will EVENTUALLY experience failure.  Trust me, I have a ton of friends who are bestsellers. Most of them have experienced catastrophic failure more times than success.

“The key is to get up one more time than you fall down.” Sure, but how. From what?

From a fear of what happens if you don’t.

I hesitate to write this, because the person might read this blog and know himself. But if he does, perhaps it will help, because it’s high time he understood it.  Hell, we saw it happen and we didn’t understand it.

Decades ago, when we were young and green as grass, and Dan was just starting up his career, we met someone about our age (a little older)who wanted more than anything to be a writer.  His education and background were different from ours and he thought this was massively important but it wasn’t.  When we were all young, he was starting out in a profession with just as much potential as Dan’s, and he was moderately successful and made just a little less than Dan.  And hell, he had advantages I never had in writing. For one, he was a native speaker of English. For another, he had some vague idea of how publishing worked.  Very vague, but better than mine.

Over the years, I wrote and wrote and wrote. It took me 9 years from first sending anything out to selling a short story at semi-pro rates. It took me 13 to sell a novel (and that series crashed hard.)

I’m not made of iron. I’m naturally pessimistic. Sometimes rejections hit so hard they disabled me for months. Not just being unable to write, but sometimes spending months crying and trying to hide it from Dan and the boys.  One day I had 60 some rejections ON MY BIRTHDAY.

But there was nothing else, so I kept writing. Along the way I stopped here and there, tried to give up and got some really spectacularly stupid addictions (fanfic for TV series I’d never watched, for instance.)  And carried them on for months/a year before realizing it was not just making me useless, it was making me hate other people/resent them for no good reason.  Like, I hated everyone who was still writing — even my closest friends — even though they had NO success.  Because they were writing, and I couldn’t/had given it up.  When I started being mean to my kids, because I was hurting and someone else had to hurt, is when I realized I had to pull up. Even the stupid addictions are hard to give up. Trust me. It was difficult.

Along the way I had some successes too. Some critical acclaim. A couple of awards. Series that sold well enough I had the income of an underpaid secretary now and then for some years.

Our used-to-be-friend?  Not so much.

He had a story accepted and the magazine went under without publishing it (note this happened eight times with the first story I sold. It killed magazines.) and this seemed to be it for him. He wrote a few more stories because all our friends were writing them, but some of them he seemed to think he was being clever and mocking our idea you could just write many stories. He seemed to think he was writing very bad stuff.  In fact, that’s some of his best, but never mind.

And he became more and more invested in the idea he’d write a novel, it would be a world-shattering success, he’d be set for life.  This is not the way things happen.

I don’t know if he tried it. One of our kids thinks he did. And got rejected.  Possibly.

What I know is that year on year, as the “defeats”– and he seemed to view MY successes (such as they were, dear lord) as his defeats — accumulated he did less and less and less. He restricted himself more and more.

And though it took us years to realize it, he came to first resent us, then hate us.  It manifested in a hundred different ways, all under the flag of continued friendship.  We felt sorry for him and tried to help him, but every time we saw him, it became more unpleasant.  Until two years ago at the end of the year he went too far and at a time when we had neither financial nor emotional resources to handle it.  He has tried — at least twice — since then to “avenge” himself by bringing crisis into our life, at a time when he thought we were at a party or enjoying ourselves. (We weren’t, but that’s something else again.)

Normally I hate losing friends. I hate cutting off contact with anyone. This time I realized I was ridiculously relieved.

I realized over the years he’d acquired the habit of belittling us, attacking us verbally, inflicting his presence on us at the least wanted times, and generally being a pain in the ass.


See the thing above.  This was an immensely talented individual who fell down a couple of times and decided that was good. He’d just lay down and rot.  But he couldn’t help knowing what he’d wasted. And he couldn’t help resenting those of us who had gone on to do ANYTHING.  Anything, even my halting, painful, not very profitable career seemed amazing to him, and also like “if there was any justice, I should have had that.”

From the amount of times he tried to bleed us (financial emergencies. Loans never paid. Etc. etc. etc.) he also viewed us as “very wealthy.” (We’re okay.  We make do. A little stressed now for reasons that should pass in a year. But mostly through the miracle of living beneath our means, buying from thrift stores, etc.)

You can’t lie there.  You can’t just lie there.  You’re alive. You can’t stop. Because you can’t. Because that’s not how humans work.

Not getting up is a choice, and not one that ends in a static option. You’re not just going to be there, forever, world without end. No. You’re going to become bitter, resentful, envious of everyone and everything, even JUST those who are still trying.  You’re going to say “I wish I had their optimism” without having a clue if they have it, because they must have SOMETHING you lack.  You’re going to think it’s their academic education (ah!) or their higher class background (ahah. Doesn’t translate between countries) or that they’re prettier than you, or have better clothes, or … Lord alone knows.

And in the process you’re going to destroy everything, including the regard of people who once cared for you. You’re going to push everyone away. Most of all you’re going to destroy yourself.

The opposite of trying once more isn’t just laying there.  The opposite of trying is dying. And a horrible death in bitterness and self-destruction.

The example I gave is NOT the only one I’ve seen, it is just perhaps the most spectacular example of it I’ve ever seen.

When you fall and decide you can’t get up, you’re choosing to reign in hell, rather than serve in heaven. You don’t have to be religious to understand that. Milton knew a thing or two about people.  You are NOT lacking strength or optimism.  Because those aren’t needed to get up again, and try again.  You can do that from nothing but stubbornness.

No. You’re choosing to lie there and die because your pride is hurt. You should have been an amazing success.  Don’t they recognize your genius? Fools! you’ll show them.

Only the only person you can destroy is yourself. And you do.

This is why I crawl up, on bloodied and hands and knees and try again. Despite total pessimism and lack of strength. Over and over and over again.

If they made a motivational kitten poster of me, it would be too bloodied and gruesome to hang in an office.  My spirit animal is Inigo Montoya.

Will I succeed? I don’t know.  I am actually trying to convince myself success is possible, because I’ve realized mind set is important.

Will I lie down and die? No. Because that’s not an option. Failure is not just a static state. It’s decaying and bitterness and giving yourself in to evil. And I’m not doing THAT.

So.  Up on bloody knees. Despite weakness and despair, up.

Because there’s nothing else.



192 thoughts on “And I Can’t Get Up

    1. Though the posters themselves are generally worthy of mockery, I suspect that in small numbers they help provide a more encouraging environment.

      Of course, the key word there is “in small numbers”…

    2. I managed to miss the motivational poster tsunami. A couple of people would have such at their own desks (“At the end of your rope? Tie a knot and hang on”, with obligatory cute kitten), but of the myriad management fads that HP and the spinoff wasted time and resources on, they missed that.

      (We got an early dose of the Celebrate Diversity push in the mid ’90s. The person most dismissive of the entire thing was the reformed gang-banger turned engineer. The instructor’s reaction was priceless as she saw the plantation being abandoned before her eyes.)

    3. I doubt it’s super management. It feels far more like middle management.

      You can always tell middle management, you just can’t tell it much. I have known an exception, but by and large the job of middle manager (district supervisor, what-have-you) is like being a portable-potty; you just catch sh*t all day from all sides. The people who lodge there tend to be pillocks. And they push stupid ideas like Motivational Posters because they lack the authority to do anything consequential, but need to show initiative to get promoted.

      Back in the ’90’s I had a mall job, in a store near a office tchotchke, executive toys, and similar impedimenta. They carried a line of Motivational Posters that HAD to be deliberately subversive (though they weren’t sold as such); each and every one featured somebody doing something suicidally stupid on a piece of sports equipment (such as looping a sail-board).

      1. Years ago, I tried to hang “Demotivational” posters in my cubicle. “None of us is as stupid as ALL of us”. “Procrastination: Hard work pays of in time, Laziness always pays of now.” etc.

        Middle management FREAKED as if they were going to destroy corporate morale, so I had to take them down. Hmmm… it just hit me… that Middle manager no longer works here….

        1. Dilbert’s Pointy-Haired-Boss is middle-management. I think that’s about all that needs to be said.

  1. “My spirit animal is Inigo Montoya.”

    Cue visual of our hostess battered and bloody, shouting, “my name is Sarah a Hoyt, you killed my story, prepare to die.” At a room of traditional editors.

      1. One of my “life sucks” go to rereads is Kate’s Con series. (Another is Drake’s Lacey-which probably says something very wrong about my psyche that those are my pick-me-up books.) Do you suppose Kate’s right about editors, though?

        1. At a very hard time in my life, I found Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans light, heartwarming, and fluffy. Yeah, that Gundam series, where the first opening shows a younger version of the main character with his friend in an alley, standing in the pool of blood from men he had just shot.

          So, you sound like some form of kin to me.

          1. Parasyte. Ubel Blatt. Darker than Black. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. And probably a bunch of other gory things I can’t bring to mind right this minute. I have found all of those uplifting and heartwarming compared to Life As It’s Currently Thumping Me. *Offers fistbump* Yep, we’re probably all distantly related.

            I recall once recounting to a person everything that was going on in my life at that point (included being caught up in a nasty court battle, trying to get through all my coursework, not sure if there’d be money to eat next month, and having the flu), and them gasping something along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it! If it was me I’d just give up!”

            …Giving up was not an option. Not because of optimism. Because dyed in the wool, teeth-gritting stubborn. Because if the world wants me dead, it’s going to have to come get me.

            1. We’re humans (mostly, not sure about Orvan, Res, or Paul-they may be mostly not), so of course we’re related.

              However, are editors in fact demons? It would explain much if they were working off of the Screwtape playbook.

                    1. Perhaps we ought specify: Have we any evidence of an editor having a soul of his/her/its own?

                      I’ve scant doubt about them claiming authors’ souls.

          1. I hate to protest but a Bolo drives around on a planet. A berserker destroys them. In any case I’d prefer not to meet either of them, Throw Ogre (Steve Jackson Games) and that planet breaker from Original Star Trek into the list of things that would cause a really bad day.

            1. Depends on the Berserker. I read one story with Berserkers that were approximately like murderous Roombas. They were tricked into going through the pond with the bullet shrimp in it and destroyed.

  2. Niece of my heart, with all but the most fortunate of us there comes those times when, beaten down, discouraged, and despondent, we fall into a period where we are compelled to wallow in self pity. Mostly it’s due to the vagaries of misfortune and dumb bad luck, though poor decisions are often at the least co conspirators. But it’s in the nature of humans to desperately desire someone or some thing else to blame for our troubles.
    And as you so correctly allude to, the key to everything is “this sucks, what do I do next?”
    I’m familiar with the individual you described, and can only shake my head at the progression over time from a family friend to a selfish self absorbed vindictive piece of work. But that’s him, and you are ever so much better than that. You’ve been punched, slapped, and kicked in the teeth by those you thought you could count on, so a bit of pity party is inevitable. The key is that you are now getting through all that and focusing on the “what next?”
    And now for a bit of a sense check.
    You won a Prometheus award.
    Uncharted won a Dragon award.
    Guardian will sell like hotcakes.
    And any publisher failing to take full advantage of those last two is run by bloody vindictive idiots who deserve absolutely the repercussions their bad decisions will deservedly earn them.
    I believe in you as a fine author, and a noble USAian. It’s why I continue to research, beta read, and copy edit your stuff.
    I still think burners and brooms are silly, but I have issues with RAH and his abject failure to describe in detail the construction of a shipstone, so you’re in good company.
    So, hang in there sweetie. One son pawned off, and one to go. And I can say from personal experience that grandbabies are a wonderful revenge.

    1. You too? This past week… Yeah. All I can say is that there was something in the air AND in the water. Can’t even blame the full moon this time.

          1. Nag dabbit, typed too soon. 70 mph winds forecast for Wed and Thur. So much for normal at Day Job. (Weather changes…)

            1. We’re supposed to be in semi-arid country, but the atmospheric river (AKA Pineapple Express) is hitting. Haven’t been able to string two dry days together in a while.

              We’re only getting 30 mph gusts from this; a flat area 30 miles NE of us usually gets the wind advisories and warnings.

      1. One plus about being covered in fires to work atm is that you cease thinking of anything but staying above water

  3. Re never starting writing, Sarah said: “I’d argue though that most of the time the problem is not so much laziness as the fear of never getting better.”

    I fiddled with the story of my first book for 20 years. There was always something more important to do, but mostly because I was certain it was stupid.

    Then someone I respect read what I had, and said “You need to finish this right away!”

    So I did. People who read it say they didn’t get bored and stop in the middle, which was really all I wanted out of it at the time. My mother read it, and she liked it. Liked the characters, liked the story. Turned out not bad for a first go.

    Pretty sure I could have done it 20 years ago, but the “You Suck!” demon was chewing on me.

      1. I decided I would write -exactly- what I wanted, make it go how the characters decided it would go, and anybody who didn’t like it could stop reading. So far, feedback is largely positive, the market has yet to rule.

        While market acceptance would be nice, and a real ego boost, I’m not about to start writing “to the market”. I don’t know the market, and being concerned about what other people would say kept me from writing for 20 years.

        Never mind wresting that asshole. Shoot it in the face, kick its ugly corpse into the ditch and drive on. Maybe even write a story about shooting it in the face, that’ll be some serious satisfaction.

        1. Look, just tell me 1) when the book is available on KU and b) what it’s name is so I can go read the sucker! 🙂

          1. Thanks for the vote of confidence Matt. ~:D
            I am still messing with the cover, and Life(TM) is interfering. Rest assured, I will be posting availability when it occurs.

            The name is Unfair Advantage.

  4. “I think I started hating motivational posters before I had my first job (Which this being the eighties was PLASTERED in them).”

    We prefer the more ironic variety. My current favorite is a plaque that reads, “I’m not sure if life is passing me by or trying to run me over.”

    Although we do also have a plaque with Calvin Coolidge’s famous quote.

    1. Just want to say thank you. Went to look for the “famous quote” and found an awful lot of very good advice in Calvin Coolidge quotes. Much of it I already knew, but it’s interesting to see how timeless some of it is.

      1. Your’e welcome wolffstarr! I debated actually quoting it, but decided it was better for those not familiar to look it up or ask if the web somehow failed them. For someone called Silent Cal, he sure made the words he did use count.

        1. “he made the words he did use count”
          When you don’t talk as much, people listen more when you do. Judging by BrainyQuotes, Silent Cal knew that.
          And as the Other Wise One said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

          PS – none of this applies to writers, at least until they invent a Telepathic Kindle.

    2. *snort*
      I appreciate the demotivational sort. Having been Air Force for so many years (and in a seriously dysfunctional career field) will do that to you.
      At one very bad patch in the assignment from hell, all of us condemned appreciated the sign that one of us pinned up in the break room. “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves.” And the parody language lesson that one of our unhappy number generated as part of our “word of the day” series.
      “Our word for the day,”
      *Anguished howl*
      “I am not happy.”
      *repeat anguished howl*
      “I am not happy. Your word for the day, on EBS Radio…”
      Yeah, lucky that that lesson didn’t get on the air. We were that unhappy and demoralized.

      The thing that held me back at first was the fear that I would be absolutely destroyed by rejection of my various stories and prospective novels … but once I started sending queries and samples out (and got the usual rejections) I actually got to be quite cheerfully insouciant about all.
      “Your loss, cupcake!” I would say, as I slung the daily harvest into a file.
      I already had a certain degree of confidence in my writing from the blog contributions, you see. I knew that there were readers out there, who loved by stuff … so – armored against rejection by NY inhabitants of the Literary Industrial Complex.

      1. My experience during 8 years of missile duty, is that didn’t happen with us. Or only some crews did it, and took them down before letting the oncoming crew in for changeover. We had to open up the box containing the keys that would open the Gates Of HELL if used, and that was just too damned important to fool around with.

      2. Oh, hey! I was just watching a documentary called Made in Japan, about an early Japanese country singer called Tomi Fujiyama. And it turns out that as a kid doing gigs, one of the Armed Forces radio guys taught her how to pronounce English, so she could sing country songs for Americans without getting booed offstage.

        1. Stationed at MCAS Iwakuni Japan, I walked into the big E-club there on base one evening and my ears were floated away on some of the most incredible live country music I’ve ever heard in my life (the word virtuosity comes to mind). It was perfect, wonderful, and played with the kind of feeling you hear from back-woods bands who play every single night just for the sheer love of the music. Walking into where the stage was, it was a little bit of a shock to see the band was all Japanese (not trying to be racist… just not what I expected). Then the GOSH-AWFUL UNINTELLIGABLE CATTERWHALLING started. Apparently, nobody taught that band’s singer how to “pronounce English” (or sing country. or sing at all. There is more to country than outputting words on key… not that that singer was on any key that I had ever heard before.)

          I loved my time in Japan. Met lots of really neat people. And I don’t think I’ve heard a country band that could hold a candle to that one. Or a worse country singer. And my friends are Karaoke addicts, so that’s where we hang out. So I’ve heard things that will… just… I’ve heard things…

      3. “…rejection slips…” Ah, the bad old days. My favorite one was a 2×4 inch slip of paper that just said, “Sorry.” I heard Harlan Ellison claim that he wallpapered his bathroom with rejection slips as motivation (and also probably as an enemies list).

        Of course my favorite story of revenge (of his signature gentle sort) is Ray Bradbury. He was at a party in the early 60’s with people making fun of the idea that man would ever walk on the moon. He took down names and phone numbers, and on the night of July 20 1969, called each one, said, “Stupid f**k,” and hung up.

      4. Two quotes that have recently appeared on my wall at work:
        “If it feels fun, it’s probably WRONG.”

        “There’s no limit to how far a soldier can take his career through intense training, raw determination, and a willingness to give himself ulcers and chronic kidney disease through the daily abuse of pain killers. -Attributed to Confucius”

        I also recently found a picture of a miserable, mangy dog with all its ribs showing, no visible tail, and ears obviously having been chewed to ribbons years previously. I captioned it, “19 year physical: ‘No, I feel fine. No problems.'”

        All of these quotes and posters may be getting me some negative attention from leadership…

  5. I maintain that most motivational posters contain pointless exhortations or truths incorrectly understood. “Hang in there, kitty” is an example of the former. My favorite example of the latter is “The customer is always right” — something which anybody who extends a moment of thought will recognize is utter nonsense; the real truth is that “Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.”

    And this points to why so many of we Odds, we Band of Others, react to such “motivation” as we do: we interact. Say something to us as simple as “Have a nice day” and we instantly analyse and respond as if this were an intentional wish rather than a social nicety. We many of us learn to grunt in acknowledgement if only to avoid further interaction with the banality, but the fact remains that we are impatient with jejune statements lacking any meaningful content.

    But adorable kitties are justification for many inane things and some of us eventually develop an appreciation for the absurd.

    1. “The customer is always right” is one of the most misunderstood proverbs in all of business.
      What it means is “Sell the customer what he wants, not what you think he should want.” (For an example of doing the opposite of this, see tradpub SF houses.)
      What it turned into, thanks to idiot managers, is “Give whiny entitled brats what they want, thereby encouraging their behavior.”

      1. Huh. I had been told that it was something that had been come up with in some ritzy shop of some sort, where the customers would typically dress in clothes that cost more than my car, so pissing them off was NOT to be done, if it could be avoided, and was never meant to be applied to places where losing one customer wasn’t really something to worry about.

        1. When in high-end retail, we used “the customer is always right” to mean “the customer wants something to fix their specific problem and circumstances, not the general case. So even if that’d work for most people, most of the time, if the customer says “it won’t work for me”, then your job is to figure out what will work best for them, in their specific circumstances.

          A supercub with a souped-up engine is a very high-vibration environment compared to a corporate jet – and every plane, by the time they’re built up and kitted out over the years, has unique amounts of power available, and panel space.

          It’s as misused a phrase as “fire your worst customers”… though, certainly the ‘fire your worst customers’ is used less by customers!

    2. I shared a dorm hall in the mid-90s with someone who had found the Hang In There kitten poster with a caption that read “OH SHIT!!!” She regularly fielded offers of pizza/tutoring/etc. for the poster, and sold it for a moderately absurd sum when she graduated. 🙂

      1. Having a “nice day” is primarily a matter of how you receive the day you are given.

        Bill Murray did a movie exploring this theme a few years back.

      1. Phillips did not win the argument with a customer, Phillips won an argument with a non-customer.

        Having worked retail I staunchly believe that not all customers are worth having and that some arguments are worth winning even at the cost of a customer.

        Progressives probably believe Phillips ought have followed their lead and made the requested cake … and spitting (sp?) on it while doing so.

        Of course, Progressives also believe that conforming to their code of conduct (certain rules do not apply to Progressives) is a sine qua non for operating a business.

        I refuse to take the “Affirmative: Progressives have a consistent moral code” side of a debate.

        1. Not to split hairs too fine, but I was under the impression that in the Masterpiece Cake shop case, the customers were return customers. The cake shop was happy to sell them birthday cakes etc. they only refused to make them a wedding cake.

          That case, for me, was a pretty hard one to suss-out. I can see both sides of the argument. I’m a strong believer in “live and let live”, so I mostly roll my eyes at the tom-foolery of the anti-homosexual/anti-gay marriage crowd. On the other hand, “live and let live” should be a two way street. If Mr. Cake Man doesn’t want to participate, go get your cake somewhere else (do you imagine Mr. Cake Man would do his best work on a cake he doesn’t want to make in the first place?). The Gov. should have ZERO place in forcing the issue. The Gov SHOULD have shrugged it’s shoulders and said “whatever… religious freedom and stuff.”

          1. My recollection is that their problem arose in asking, not for a generic wedding cake but for a specifically crafted one celebrating their gay union. The logic seems to be that they deemed Phillips an artist for the purpose of creating their desired unique cake but a tradesman for being particular about how he applied his craft.

            While the plaintiffs demanded Phillips respect and honour their rights, they had no problem disrespecting his rights.

            Subsequent efforts to force Phillips into compliance with Civil Faith include a lawyer/activist reportedly brought a Colorado Civil Rights Commission complaint against Phillips after xhe requested a cake “celebrating” xis gender transition, complete with graphic depictions of genitalia were taken up by CCRC but with such blatantly expressed hostility to Phillips’ religion that they abandoned it before it had proceeded very far up the courts.

            The idea that Christians (as contrasted with Orthodox Jew and Devout Muslims) should be permitted to adhere to their Faith in the face of Civic Religion seems intolerable, a clear expression of Krystosphobia.

            1. AH Yes! That was the case where the SCOTUS decision cited the state’s open “religious hostility” against the cake maker as a major component of the decision. I’m not a Christian myself, but I really do believe in religious freedom, so reading that decision gave me a chuckle. 😊

              When government forces people to DO things against conscience… that’s pretty much the definition of tyranny.

              1. It’s a pity, because of course he should have the right whatever they did. And the case where they don’t give themselves away may go the other way.

                1. Exactly. I was never that excited by that ruling, because what it boiled down to is “You can treat Christian scum as second-class citizens, you just can’t CALL them Christian scum openly.”

            2. I always thought it would be interesting to have someone file lawsuits against Colorado bakeries for refusing to bake a cake made for purposes of White supremacists and NeoNazis celebrating the genocide of the Holocaust and/or the mass murder of gays (of course, I’m strongly opposed to all of these things, but I also have strong urges to see would-be thought police held to their own standards). They wouldn’t even have the religious exemption leg to stand on, and it might teach them the value of letting people have actual freedom of thought, speech and association.

              1. Crowder took a hidden camera to a dozen bakeries run by Muslims. Every single one of them refused to make a gay wedding cake. None of them were prosecuted.

                What I wish Masterpiece had included was suing the state for selective enforcement, to make it clear to everyone that those who are known for being willing to kill people in defense of their religion are the only ones with First Amendment rights respected to practice it.

              2. I also have strong urges to see would-be thought police held to their own standards

                You make the common erroneous assumption about their standard. It is.: “We make rules, you obey them.” AKA, “Rules are for the benighted, not the enlightened.”

    3. Heh. That kind of makes it sound as if most Finns were Odds (not really, or I’d be WAY Odd). We are not very good with social niceties. Ask one of us “And how’s your day” and you might get a detailed answer. Probably a tale of woe and misery.

  6. It has nothing to do with will or optimism.

    I have to disagree a little here. True, we don’t necessarily need optimism to continue on, but it does indeed require will. MY will gets sapped fairly quickly, and I give up on things. If they have any meaning to me, though, slowly my will builds back up and I try again.

  7. Our model as humans seems to be ‘perfect first time, or I’m no good’ but also most people don’t believe they can get THAT much better.

    This is related to our society’s Myth of Talent and disinclination to accept that almost all things entail learnable skills. You can learn to draw, just as you once learned to write your alphabet and developed your handwriting. You can learn to sing passably, on key, if you invest time and get proper training. You might never be more than adequate but all but the very few can learn to be adequate.

    The key, of course, is not simply recognising the skills are learnable but having the ability to breakdown and learn those skills. This is aided by having a teacher, but teachers are no longer taught how to teach; they are, instead, taught how to “encourage individual self-learning” and similar balderdash.

    Eff that. The ability to teach distinct skills is a measureable quality upon which teachers can be evaluated. The other nonsense is a highly convenient way of allowing teachers to disavow any responsibility for pupils’ development while lobbying for higher pay to attract and retain people who cannot and will not teach.

    Teachers are wonderful,precious people. Educators are a waste of public resources.

    1. Amen. I’m not an educator. I try to teach. Some days it’s not entirely successful (see: Friday before school vacation).

    2. This is quite true. I used to teach Tai Chi. One of my things to tell people was if they were -doing- the movement they were doing it right. If they were standing around talking about it, they were doing it wrong.

      I would argue writing is the same. If you’re WRITING then you’re doing it right. If you’re whinging to your friends on the interwebz about writing (like what I’m doing here right now) then you’re doing it wrong. ~:D

      There is no wrong. And there is no spoon, either.

          1. “SPOOOOOOOORKKKK!!!!!!!!!!” /SHATNERVOICE

            thephantom182: “there is no spoon

            Beloved Spouse & I spoon for hours on edge.

    3. It was (re)learning to shoot that (re)taught me this lesson. From “broad side of a barn” to nice grouping in just a few months – with instructor help.

      Singing lessons are still on the to-do list.

  8. I thought of three things reading this. First, the cheeky: I have a demotivator that is a white cat on a deck railing, hunt-prowling down it towards an eagle, that’s just sitting there looking at the cat. Caption: OVERCONFIDENCE. This is going to end in disaster and you have no one to blame but yourself. (Turned out MUCH more relevant to the rest of the post than I expected.)

    Two, on optimists. If you had asked any of us 5 years ago if Robin Williams was an optimist, I suspect the answer would’ve been a resounding yes. Those who look the most optimistic are decidedly not.

    And finally, on getting up and marching (crawling?) on. We spent 132 days in NICU with our daughter. We lost track of the number of times that we heard “I don’t know how you do it” or “I don’t know how I could possibly handle what you’re going through” and so on. The answer is, you either stand up and carry on, abdicate anything resembling decency and a soul and abandon the situation, or you lay down and die – which isn’t much different. If that was YOUR daughter lying there, do you really mean you’d walk away?

    Anyone can carry on through the “unimaginable”. To quote Sun Tzu: Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they WILL prefer death to flight. If you take away flight, fight is all you have left.

  9. “…of a million people who ever thought to write a book, one actually does it.”

    That can’t be right: in 2013, over 300,000 books were published in the US. There were not 300 billion people who thought about writing a book.

    And in 2017, over 1M books were self-published. (Report form Bowker, the official ISBN agency for the US.)

    One in a thousand is more believable.

    1. In the bygone days when trad pub and the pulps ruled the industry that number was substantially correct.
      In his address to the class at Annapolis back in 1973 Heinlein quoted something like 500 professional writers out of a population of 200 million adults.
      But thing is, indie has changed all that forever. The walls have been bulldozed flat and the gatekeepers now guard nothing but the gate and gateposts attached to nothing.
      The situation has changed dramatically, but never fear, Sturgeon’s Law still holds sway, boy howdy does it ever.

      1. “The walls have been bulldozed flat and the gatekeepers now guard nothing but the gate and gateposts attached to nothing.”

        Hah! Makes me think of those videos of cats (or dogs) bumping their heads into a pane of glass 3 feet wide when taking 2 steps to the side in either direction gets them around it. I think we need a GIF for a meme.

        1. I get birds doing that a lot. Fly into the screened (or snow-paneled) porch, and continually try to fight against the screen or panel when there’s no door. We’re talking 4 x 10 porches. Sigh.

      2. And people like Sarah are the Feynman’s of publishing. Entering Los Alamos by the gate, then a little ways along the fence and exiting where the fence is no more and then returning to the gate to drive the guards crazy.

          1. It took weeks before the receptionist asked why she always saw me come in but never leave. (Because there were other doors that could be opened only from the inside, and one was easier for me than the front door.)

        1. Ayup. And Peter writes and publishes 4 books a year, when health cooperates. While I’ve managed one book a year, the other end of the scale includes romance authors who are publishing 12-13 books a year… and then there’s Dean Wesley Smith levels of pulp speed, which leaves all of us in the dust.

      1. And just when pray tell could we expect to see a new offense by yourself? I haven’t read anything new by a Hoyt since Guardian.
        Keep in mind that RAH became a grand master of SF while fighting his way past the pulp and publishing editors and gatekeepers. All you have to do is crank out a bunch-a-ton of e-books and place them at offer.

      2. And then you get to mass offenders like Dr. Asimov who got to 300. Clearly Sci Fi authors are not as sturdy as Democrat voters or the good Doctor would still be at it probably crowding 1000 by now…

  10. I wonder how many authors had that instant success with their first book, but could never ever really follow it up?

    1. I read that Oliver LaFarge became quite bitter about the number of people who came up to him to say how much they loved Laughing Boy… and were totally unaware that he’d ever written anything else.

  11. On the other hand, you need to know when you’re just not going to be able to do it. I am a fair to middling 3d artist, but i simply work too slow to do it professionally and am not quite at the level that the guys working at VFX studios are. It became apparent to me a few years ago that i needed to take that accumulated knowledge and do something else with it instead of wasting my time making reels and applying for gigs…

    1. That situation came to me on playing musical instruments. I never had the priority to really learn piano, then hearing issues and now arthritis has made it less than enjoyable.

      OTOH, it’s nothing I have to do; my current focus seems to be making things, sometimes small, sometimes complicated construction projects. I have no need to do a construction business, but I can handle 90% of the projects I’ll tackle.

  12. he became more and more invested in the idea he’d write a novel, it would be a world-shattering success, he’d be set for life.

    He’d have been better off “investing” in lottery tickets. For one thing, the payoff rate is better. For another, the investment is merely money.

    It seems obvious that people repeatedly buy those tickets in spite of losing again and again and again. Because the loss is not personal. Well, neither is a failure of your book – it just seems that way. Any rational observer of the field should recognize that commercial success is a crap shoot with hundred-sided dice. Do the work (buy your ticket) and then do it again. The only thing you can control is what you do. Sometimes the world will come around, more often it won’t — but there’s damned little you can do about it.

    You can tweak the margins but that’s about all. You could be as witty, charming and adorable as a wallaby and still the world might not love you.

    Stupid world. Still, whattya gonna do?

  13. The statistic I heard a few years ago was “Out of all the people who say they could write a book, 90% of them never start. And of the ones who start, 90% never finish. So just by completing a novel, you’re already in the 1%.” Never saw any backup for it, but it sounds nice.

    1. Hard to get hard stats on that, because how many people are going to respond to such a survey… unless they had completed a book?

      Imagine this survey:
      Have you ever thought about writing a book?
      Have you started, but not completed one?
      Have you ever thought about learning to fly?
      Have you started, but not completed?
      Have you ever thought about hiking the great trails?
      Have you started, but not completed?
      Have you ever thought about sailing a boat?
      Have you started, but not completed?
      Have you ever thought about climbing a mountain?
      Have you started, but not completed?
      Have you…

      How many questions in do you think the survey-taker could make it, before a frustrated and unhappy person would throw them out?

      1. Didn’t you know that 87% of statistics on the internet are just made up?

  14. For some reason, you have had some success in the past. Therefore, it is at least nominally possible you might have some success in future and therefore we might as well support you.

    There. No kittens.

  15. My Spirit Being is the Marsh-wiggle Puddleglum (From C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Throne) 😉


    “One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

    End Quote

    1. That’s kind of like having Pooh’s Eeyore as a spirit animal.

      And my daughters decided my spirit creature (or more precisely my Patronus) is Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro. Probably due to my fondness for naps and enticing them into napping in their youth.

      1. Well, I don’t know much about Eeyore (beside who he is) but Puddleglum didn’t let his pessimism stop him from “doing what is right”. 😀

      2. My spirit being is a pink, ballet-dancing elephant. He does a grand pas de deux with a purple Hippo ballerina that is truly unforgettable.

        1. Your spirit animal is a violation of our trademark. Our lawyers will be in touch. — Disney Management

  16. That’s Life (that’s Life), that’s what
    all the people say
    Your’re ridin’ high in April, shot
    down in May
    But I know I’m gonna change that 
    When I’m back on top, back on top
    in June

    I said that’s life (that’s life), and as funny as it may seem
    Some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream
    But I don’t let it, let it get me down
    ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around

    I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
    I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
    Each time I find myself flat on my face
    I pick myself up and get back in the race

    That’s life (that’s life), I tell you I can’t deny it
    I thought of quitting, baby, but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
    And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
    I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly 

    I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a
    poet, a pawn and a king
    I’ve been up and down and over and out
    and I know one thing
    Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face
    I just pick myself up and get back in the race 

    That’s Life (that’s Life), that life and
    I can’t deny it
    Many times I thought of cutting’ out
    but my heart won’t buy it
    But if there’s nothin’ shakin’ come
    this here July
    I’m gonna roll myself up in a big
    ball a-and die 

    My, my!

    Of course who knows which June it will be when you will see the turn around, so just let that July slide on by.

  17. I have a tendency when things get down, to mutter “I wanted to do this? God, I’m so stupid! I wanted to do this! Do. It. Damn it.” Hasn’t let me down yet.

  18. I’ve had issued with finding my motivation, finding the urge to write, to deal with people that will just tear at you because they like seeing you bleed, time issues, my own wish to be perfect in what I do, and everything else that has made it hard to write.

    But, all I know is this-

    I’m going to win. Because I’m not going to lose. And, if the choice for “winning” is “burning this entire mother-fucking industry down around me to make sure that you burn to death first,” then pass the gasoline and highway flares.

    I will finish this damned novel.
    I will write the other novels in this series.
    I will write all the short stories and novellas that I have in my head for this series.

    Then, I will do it again, with another series.

    And again.

    And, even if I have to dethrone Satan and flay his flesh to wear as a lovely cape, I will finish this work.

    1. And, if the choice for “winning” is “burning this entire mother-fucking industry down around me to make sure that you burn to death first,” then pass the gasoline and highway flares.

      Heh. Get in line.

          1. “So, what’s the plan?”
            “The usual-logistics to make sure we’ve got boots, beans, and bullets. Strategy to create the conditions of the battle. Operational planning to get all our men in place. Tactics, to place our soldiers so that they’re ready for the best bit.”
            “Which is?”
            “As much unremitting violence as possible, directed at our enemies with them having not any single way of responding. So, we can use their skulls for wine cups, enjoy the lamentations of their women, all that enjoyable stuff after you win.”
            “And, the part that you’re not telling me?”
            “That we’re going to rape them like a virgin dolphin orgy in the middle of the Atlantic?”
            “First, dolphin sex is pretty much rape. Don’t ask, weird girlfriend and the amazing ability to win Trivial Pursuit. Second, yea, i knew that.”
            “Oh, that. Yes, we can build a better world on the backs of their corpses. At the very least, it’ll be quieter.”

  19. I write every day. Period. I may be down on myself for not writing _enough_ every day, but I will never have a completely dry spell again.


  20. I don’t have motivational posters, but I surround myself with art that inspires me. I have a print of Waterhouse’s “Lady of Shalott” on the wall behind my computer desk and a print of “The Accolade” over my bed. Also I put some inspiring images on my desktop background, usually fantasy art. It’s good to remind myself of what I love and what I’m striving for.

    1. I have a copy of Sarah Hoyt’s “You are a Real Writer” certificate. ~:D What more proof could there be?

  21. Our current motivational poster:
    Remember…as far as anyone knows…we are a Nice, Normal Family.

    1. normal adj.
      (of a line, ray, or other linear feature) intersecting a given line or surface at right angles.

      Hey, if your still standing you’re normal 😉

  22. In re lack of motivation — it makes people depressed, and then they don’t even try to pick themselves up.
    Some of the comments also address the “I’m doomed and I don’t deserve it” response of your erstwhile friend whose career never lived up to his expectations.

    RTWT — mostly because Neo nails it, whatever the current instantiation of “it” — but also for the cross-talk.

    Frankns on April 6, 2019 at 5:41 pm at 5:41 pm said:
    I’m curious about the strain added to the teen years by the probing, questioning, and out-right promoting of gay/trans life choices. I’m old. I admit it. But thinking back to the experience around “sexual experimentation/discovery” in the 60’s-70’s, I have to think that new complications aren’t making things easier on teens, especially those at the margins or those that Sarah Hoyt calls the “odds.”

  23. WRT motivation, I highly recommend Lanny Bassham’s book “With Winning In Mind”. He was an Olympic Gold medalist, and now makes a decent living teaching mental training techniques.

    But it also pays to be mule-stubborn. Not to brag TOO much, but I knew one of the members of the U.S. International Muzzle-Loading Team who went to the first World Championship the USA competed in. In 1976. And at the age of 13, I decided I wanted a piece of that action.

    It took 20 years of practice just to get ON the U.S. Team. Won my first medal in a team event in 1998. Won more team event medals in 2000 and 2004, the a long, long drought until 2012 and another team medal. But an individual medal had eluded me. Several top-10 performances, but never a whiff of a medal.

    Then came the 2018 Worlds. Shot decent, but not outstandingly well…and came to the last event. Shot THAT, went away with a score I thought honorable but not outstanding. Went away scrubbed the gun out, checked the scores. I knew we had one guy who had a crack at a medal.

    Got to the board…and people were shaking my hand. I’d miscounted my score…and had just won the World Championship.

    After 42 years of effort.

  24. “There comes a time in every project when you must shoot the engineers and put the damn thing into production.”
    Well, yes, except for the project that’s grabbed hold of me and won’t let go, I’m the visionary with the Big Idea,. And the product designer. And the chief engineer. And the production staff. And the marketing guru. And the sales force. And the bean counter. Having shot myself in the foot (and other parts) more times than I can count trying to acquire the necessary skills, I’m willing to testify that it’s overrrated.
    To quote Harra Csurik to Miles Vorkosigan about all your glorious dreams turning to disaster and bitter shame, “You go on. You just go on. There’s nothing more to it, and nothing to make it easier. You just go on.”

  25. An article,
    That kills magazines….


    Can we suggest new recipients? For money?

    And wouldn’t – that- make a cool short story?

    Oh my, the possibilities…..

  26. For success, it is not number of failures; It’s times at bat.

    The only way to surely fail is to not step up to the plate.

  27. As I am fond of all kinds of weird stuff, of course I have read some of the Law of Attraction books – not the Secret, though, probably should as that is the bestseller and seem to have pretty much started the latest incarnation of that idea.

    Anyway, it’s an old idea, and one of the earlier sort of similar ones is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. Which I of course had to read then too as it gets mentioned in some of the blogs etc. And it’s old enough that you can find it for free. Not quite sure if those copies are legal as I didn’t check if it’s out of copyright or not, but anyway, at least you are not robbing the author as he is dead.

    In some ways it is quite similar to the newer law of attraction books, but what is the biggest difference: while he claims that if you follow his advice you will succeed he doesn’t claim that you could just sit and think, and the money would just come out of somewhere. What he seems to go for is mostly that you should first win over your own subconscious, persuade yourself on every level, especially that pesky subconscious, that you can and WILL succeed, before starting to work towards it, as most people who don’t more or less self-sabotage, by quitting too early, or never trying hard enough.

    That actually makes sense, I think. Now most of the new stuff is just magical thinking, and selling the idea that if you wish for something hard enough, and with a feeling, and then persuade yourself that you actually already have it, you should get it, somehow. But with Hill it still requires rather feet on the ground normal work, and his method is mostly just making sure that you will keep on going long enough – and have the courage to try everything, including unconventional methods – for that to start giving results (lots of woo woo there too, though, he seems to fully believe in some sort of telepathy and talks about aether as a proven concept – the book is from the 1930’s, I suppose those may have been talked about as valid theories in the newspapers of the day?).

    Of course the biggest problem with Hill’s ideas is that he tells he got his method by interviewing and studying the successful men of his time, but doesn’t seem to have spend much time with anyone who was every bit as stubborn and optimistic but still failed. But on the other hand, that would not change all that much as that would just mean that his method guarantees nothing, while still being the best way to help achieve the desired result (he sells it as guaranteeing success, but with the reservation that while the method works not everybody manages to learn to use it right 😀 ).

  28. I completely get the dark, pessimistic humor coupled with the attitude of “Well, what are you going to do when you get knocked down? Stop eating? Live on the street? Better get up and keep going.”

    When I read Aaron Clarey’s book “Curse of the High IQ,” it was like reading my life story. The world certainly ISN’T designed to reward real intelligence and creativity; it’s designed to accommodate the average and the below average (not that it’s designed or arranged that way; it’s just that the vast majority of people fall into that category and there’s no malice behind that). I once heard Jordan Peterson say that success doesn’t just take a good idea; it takes a good idea plus an extremely rare set of circumstances that include the good idea, the right investor, the right marketer, and about a hundred other factors such that about one percent of truly creative people can actually make money from their good idea.

    My daughter once had a hard time at school with friends. I told her, “I don’t remember where I read it, but I once read that an albino or white wolf that survives to adulthood has to be the most cunning, underhanded, strongest, and smartest wolf in the pack, because the instinct of all the other wolves is to kill that wolf because it’s too different and is therefore a danger to the pack. Humans, being tribalistic animals, are also wary of any animals that are very different. Not out of malice or evil; just out of instinct. It’s therefore sometimes very hard for a really smart person to find friendships, because we just don’t fit in very well. You can’t let that make you give up on relationships, but it helps to understand WHY they don’t come as easily for you as they seem to for other people.”

    There’s a certain amount of truth to “go along to get along.” Society fights you less if you’re one of the herd. However, there’s a lot of danger as well; things like endless, lifelong debt to keep up with the Joneses and to get a worthless degree, for one. I’d much rather be smart and lonely but able to do my own thing and not be a debt slave than to be average, comfortable, and in financial bondage.

    20 years in the military has made me VERY suspicious of trusting other people, ESPECIALLY if they’re in my leadership chain. Now I’m starting courses to get into IT so I can get employability on the outside in the short term, and then I’ll dive further into database administration so I can really get my mortgage and bills paid off, and start investing for passive income generation. Then I’ll indulge my creativity in building hot rods.

    The best financial advice I ever got was from The Gambler (I didn’t see the whole movie, just the one scene, but it’s GREAT financial advice; foul language warning):

    1. “I>it’s designed to accommodate the average and the below average”

      If you spend any time advocating for “Gifted” programs you will hear “We have to focus on the kids who really need help; the bright kids will do fine on their own.”

      In my state of residence some brilliant advocate convinced the legislature that “gifted” actually suffered a kind of handicap, that unless they were fed an ultra-rich academic diet they would waste away. By classifying the highly intelligent as victims of an academic disability, North Carolina actually justified enriched programs and special academic tracks for such kids.

      Of course, time and opposition (often most staunch from those whose kids almost ((but not quite)) qualified for gifted tracks) has eroded support for such programs and consequently many of the benefits have been watered down so that we are nearly back to where it had been, with the bulk of the focus on the below average — and let’s face it, that’s where the heart strings tug and the remediation therapy money is to be found. It usually takes the smart kids too long to learn humility … or, at least, how to disguise the contempt they feel for the rest of the world.

      1. One thing that surprises me is the number of intelligent people that have too much humility and assume that they’re average (because thinking you’re smarter than other people sounds so PRIDEFUL, darn it!), and then they spend years (if not decades) wondering why they don’t fit in despite mountains of evidence indicating that their reasoning abilities are far above average. “Curse of the High IQ” was mostly written for these people.

        I’ve had long talks about this with my kids; how they should learn to feed their intellect and exercise it, and especially not get too overconfident, but that once they had thoroughly examined a problem and arrived at a conclusion, to trust their conclusion until they had highly convincing evidence that they had reached a wrong conclusion. I also told them that they had to keep their ego in check and remember that, just because they might be smarter than other people, they shouldn’t confuse that with being better than or having more intrinsic value as a human than other people unless they wanted to end up bitter and alone.

        Right now I’m pushing my kids to get through advanced math and science programs in school, and giving them opportunities to learn to code via things like CodeKingdom (I HIGHLY recommend this program, which uses Minecraft to teach kids Java). I’ve already told them to go to the local community college to get IT or web development certs when they’re juniors and seniors and then to work their way into the tech industry, and to avoid worthless degrees like the plague they are.

        I wish somebody had explained how all of this stuff works in these terms when I was a kid. Luckily, I’ve avoided student debt and worthless degrees myself, and now that I’m getting ready to retire from the Army, I’m getting set for a lucrative career myself. My aspiration is to be, quote: an exorbitantly compensated telecommuter.

        1. It has been my perception that few people properly understand the true meaning of humility is to have an accurate assessment of your talents, skills, abilities and limitations. That incorporates avoiding a deflated opinion equally as much as an inflated one. Although schools place an emphasis on intelligence it is no more an indicator of worth than the ability to run quickly, lift weights or bear burdens. What determines a person’s merit is how these capacities are employed.

          We commonly evaluate a writer’s ability, for example, not on word usage nor sentence structure, characterization, plotting, or other elements of the writers’ craft but on the significance of the tale told. A tale well told but amounting to naught but grey goo is rightly despised, while a tale which enlightens and enlivens the reader is often beloved even if the skills with which it is told are mediocre.

          High intelligence without the skills and opportunities to employ it effectively is like a race car driven only in town. It provides no discernible benefit and quickly deteriorates from lack of proper exercise, becoming in many cases a poorer vehicle than the average, better suited one.

        2. Do they? Personally, I found it bewildering that the other kids kept saying “You think you’re so smart,” but after due time, it sank in that they thought I was so smart.

  29. Found today by Jay Nordlinger at National Review gangblog, The Corner:

    ‘According to the Modern View …’
    My historian friend was perusing some Nazi-era documents, as one does. He came across a statement from an official of the German Nationalist Party, or DNVP. The date is April 4, 1933. The question is, Does a person have the right to change his name, or to keep the new name, if he already has? (This was a question extremely important to Jews.)

    Here is the statement: “The preceding liberal epoch was concerned with the protection of the anonymous individual and his individual views and aspirations, however perverse. According to the modern view, the individual only has a claim to the protection of his individual opinion in so far as it coincides with the will of the community.


    Emphasis added.

    The “Modern View” is not fixed, of course. Those accepting a deal with it may find it altered without warning, and should pray it does not alter any further.

    1. Sounds typical.

      There was a court case where a man was punished legally for not contributing to Winter Relief — which was not a crime — and scolded for regarding the neglect of all duties not actually enforced by law, which was an abuse of liberty.

    1. Given the usual ADS that goes on most everywhere, is this “Amazon is purging authors the Left does not like” or is it “Authors the left does not like are being caught up in another of Amazon’s attempts to get rid of scammers”?

      1. I may need some popcorn if the book purge runs afoul of Victorious Diablo and his lawyers. My money’s on the small publisher dude, in that case.

    2. Possibly, but I’ll wait.
      Amazon takes down so many books for so many crazy reasons, this must be the 100th time that sky has fallen. Most of the take downs are for MUCH crazier reasons than politics and can be solved by patience and bitching on the part of the author or publisher.
      The left is equally convinced they’re targeted.

      1. OTOH, one wants to keep an eye on it. The real deal may look the same in the beginning.

  30. Congratulation, once again, to the happily wedded couple and the families that blessed them:

    It Turns Out that Sexual Liberation Isn’t All that Liberating
    Over at The Atlantic, Bradford Wilcox and Lyman Stone have penned a fascinating piece exploring the roots of American unhappiness and tying it our nation’s “sex recession” — a rather marked decrease in sexual activity by young adults.


    I want to pull out two other important facts from their piece. First, here they are discussing the link between marriage and happiness:

    Controlling for basic demographics and other social characteristics, married young adults are about 75 percent more likely to report that they are very happy, compared with their peers who are not married, according to our analysis of the GSS, a nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. As it turns out, the share of young adults who are married has fallen from 59 percent in 1972 to 28 percent in 2018.

    And second, here they are describing the role of religious practice:

    Young adults who attend religious services more than once a month are about 40 percent more likely to report that they are very happy, compared with their peers who are not religious at all, according to our analysis of the GSS. (People with very infrequent religious attendance are even less happy than never-attenders; in terms of happiness, a little religion is worse than none.) What’s happening to religious attendance among young adults today? The share of young adults who attend religious services more than monthly has fallen from 38 percent in 1972 to 27 percent in 2018, even as the share who never attend has risen rapidly.

    Why is this so interesting? For generations, key elements of our cultural and academic elite have been arguing essentially the opposite — that liberation from religion and liberation from marriage were prerequisites to true human flourishing. …

  31. “if there was any justice, I should have had that.”
    This is used as a bad-guy motivation in so many books. I’ve never understood it. Perhaps it is because I’m both smart and lazy. “I could have had that, but I was too lazy to work for it” doesn’t really come across the same way.

    1. There are many, many people in this world who refuse to accept any responsibility for their success (or rather, lack thereof). I don’t know what causes it, but I have seen it over and over again. For myself, I can’t escape the knowledge that I had a large and in my own failures, though I’m not one to take responsibility when truly outside forces caused things to crash down, either, and some people fall on that side of the responsibility curve, too.

    2. Prudence is a virtue. They are villains because they lack the judgment to see that. Probably through being willfully blind.

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