And I Can’t Get Up A Blast From The Past From April 2020

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And I Can’t Get Up A Blast From The Past From April 2020

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.

Why?

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.

136 thoughts on “And I Can’t Get Up A Blast From The Past From April 2020

      1. If you’re lost, step 1 is to stop with the worthless doing something and do something useful– don’t get MORE lost, figure out which way you need to go.

        It’s the opposite of the lost flail. 😀

            1. Even then; you really don’t want to run deeper into the burning house (barring an exceptionally good reason to do so), and it’s *really* easy to get disoriented.

              1. Aye. One the gals who survived the Triangle Shirtwaist fire did so because she *watched* where the bigwigs went and followed them rather than the panicked crowd. That time observing was not ill-spent.

            2. True. The trick is in differentiating a house on fire, and a rocket on the pad that just lost control, but isn’t actually doing anything… yet…

              The Four Inch Flight was rather hilarious, I’m hindsight 🙂

  1. When you are down, all directions are up. I would add to that the aphorism that you never fail until you quit trying. I know that sounds trite but it is true.

    1. Yes/No questions are not binary. There is the third option. The not asked question. Then the answer is auto-No. As we told our son. “The answer can’t be yes unless you ask.” The answer isn’t ever “it is better to ask for forgiveness” either. The latter route can get one in trouble.

  2. > I am actually trying to convince myself success is possible

    How many people would like to write, but actually start?

    How many people start, but never finish?

    How many people finish, but never try to sell?

    How many people make one or two efforts to sell, then give up?

    How many people give up entirely after that?

    You’ve sold how many books so far? You’re *already* in the top 1%. And you know it’s not a level playing field, and “success” for tradpub seems to be determined as much by predetermination as by random chance.

    Maybe it’s not the kind of success you were shooting for, but it’s hardly UN-successful. At the very least, it’s a solid platform from which to direct your future efforts. And your further success is *yours*, not via some junior editor throwing darts at a list of author names.

    1. Certain authors have been known to get extraordinary advances for books that may or may not sell well. (Assuming the manuscript is even turned in…) Any resemblance to payoffs or money laundering is purely a figment of your imagination, Deplorable!

  3. I am watching my brother commit slow suicide. He never left my parents’ house, even after getting a teaching degree and teaching for a number of years. He helped take care of Mom when she developed dementia, but that was years after being fired from his teaching job. Now Mom and Dad are gone and he spends his days sitting in a chair watching TV and only getting up when he absolutely has to. Thanks to massive smoking (and other things) his lungs are shot. If he didn’t have a housemate, he’d be dead: about 10 days ago the housemate found him on the floor, insisted they call an ambulance and he coded in the hospital. He’s six years younger than I and looks 10-15 years older.
    For whatever reason, he has never believed he could make it on his own and now that he is on his own, he’s essentially sitting In his chair waiting to die. It fills me with fury and frustration and pity, all at once. All I can do is pray.

    1. Sounds like my ex-neighbor. For a while he had someone (which he stupidly annoyed into leaving him) that him to care. His drinking either stopped or massively dropped, his smoking likewise, he went for walks with her. I was surprised when I saw him after a few months – he was MUCH lighter. And after she left… it all resumed. Yeah, he was the guy found in his chair having “just stopped.”

      1. Why wouldn’t it? Housekeeping is the ultimate expression of “annoying* task that endlessly repeats, but is done to make life tolerable”. It is the lowest hanging fruit for the give-up-on-life mindset.

        * annoyance level depends on attitude, which brings us back to the beginning.

        1. Right around our house the belief is that Sisyphus wasn’t rolling a rock up a hill. He was sweeping the floor, doing laundry and loading the dishwasher.

      2. I have trouble imagining how awful the house would look if I were to give up. (I have kids. Two of them have focus issues and the third is six. It’s a rearguard action at the best of times.)

      3. Thus my “digging for floor” in the ‘office’ is a Good Sign. And yes, I’ve reached floor. Even vacuumed it. The proper labeling and arranging of cables is ongoing, there’s the stuff merely displaced to deal with, and the desk will likely be its own project. But I’ve struck floor!

          1. It looks like departure from $HOOTERVILLE will 30 Sept, and arrival in Merrill will be 30 Sept. but perhaps late (5+ hour drive). Departure from Merrill will be on the 7th, early. In between… nothing set scheduled that I know about.

  4. Find the affirmation that works for you. For me when I was young it was “donkeys live a long time” from Animal Farm. These days it’s “too stupid to quit”. And people think I’m brave. Nope, just too stupid to quit. But boy howdy if I could REMEMBER that it doesn’t have to be perfect…

  5. 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.

    Farming!

    ….as in MMOs, not in real dirt.

    You basically go in glorified circles to gather an item; you either fight monsters that drop it, or collect it on the map.

    It’s very soothing, really.

    1. number 2 son got banned from the Vatican server of whatever MMO he was playing. He seems to have become interested in his herd of cows. I’d have no idea what that means.

        1. That’s the one. Evidently he did something heinous and got a lifetime ban from the Vatican server. He’s quite proud of himself but i don’t know if getting banned is easy or hard.

            1. I still laugh about it. My wife says that’s why he has a mother and a father though I think she’s probably proud too. Someone has to fight against the entropy in this house and she’s an engineer.

              Dumb kids are easier but not nearly as fun.

          1. Did I mention when my brother got his job with the Portuguese phone company, he was in the habit of calling the Vatican and asking what time it was? In Latin.
            I can see some poor secretary going “It’s the Portuguese loon, again.”

            1. ATM machines come with user interfaces in various languages. There is (or was) *one* ATM set up in Latin. It is at the Vatican.

              Perhaps not as weird as the POS terminal at the local pharmacy, which had two languages in the initial “select language” menu. English and Esperanto. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Esperanto “in the wild.” The clerk wondered what I found so amusing, but my attempt to explain what Esperanto was seemed to alarm her…

              1. I saw one like that in San Diego!

                I don’t really know what Esperanto even is, just a sort of vague idea it’s a language that folks came up with to try to do to language what metric did to measurement.

                1. It was a thing between the wars to create an auxiliary language. Esperanto was the most successful. Mostly based on romance words. There was one that was essentially Latin without all the inflections.

                  1. Esperanto was the most successful artificial language (*). Then there was Interlingua, which was supposed to be the “language of science.” Not many papers were written in it, though. And there was something called Volapuk, about which I remember nothing…

                    Frankly, the most successful artificial language is probably Klingon…

                    *) William Shatner was in a 1966 movie called Incubus before he got his gig in Star Trek. Incubus was filmed entirely in Esperanto.

          2. I think it depends on the server?

            I’d guess it’s similar to how my husband is proud of being banned from the hard core RP first person shooter servers– because he’d set up bombs. Usually dead a few minutes in, usually the highest kill count, very upsetting to the guys who only wanted explosions to look cool.
            Or the friend who just this evening mentioned she’d been reported as a bot because of her speed and consistency with matching the market on our server.

            1. They do indeed, It’s run by some Jesuit and he shows the tolerance for doctrinal difference the Society is so well known for. Of course, they’re not the doctrines of the church, but expecting to find Catholic doctrine and morality championed at the Vatican? Crazy talk or as my father used to tell me: what do you expect from a bunch of clerics in Rome? My father was, as am I, a Jesuit boy.

          3. What did he do put up 95 signs (signs allow you to post text) with theses? That the Vatican has a Minecraft server is just proof how weird this year has gotten although a quick look seems to indicate the server is from late 2019.

    2. You basically go in glorified circles to gather an item; you either fight monsters that drop it …

      Ewwwwww – monster droppings!

  6. Long time listner, first time caller.

    I’m a service technician by trade but a musician by heart. A couple of years ago, I decided I didn’t want to be a blue collar man forever and started following my dream of becoming a songwriter. So for nearly a year and a half straight I wrote and recorded a song per week and posted them to reddit and soundcloud.

    It was great at first. The attention and attaboys I got from friends and strangers propelled me forward. I was high on that feeling. But as time went on, it seemed that less and less people tuned in. No one listened to my work anymore unless prompted to by me.

    I took this realization hard. I struggled week after week just to put out something, anything till eventually I just couldn’t do it any longer. I felt like I was out of ideas. The last time I recorded a full song was back in March and I have hardly been able to sit down and open my recording software since.

    I don’t know why I am telling you all this but this post struck a chord with me (it did the first time around too). I guess it’s good to know that other creative types go through the same thing as me and that maybe the night isn’t so dark afterall.

    So, thanks for this. I don’t think I’m ready to get back on the horse just yet but I now know this is something I must do eventually because to not do so is the same as giving up on life. I’ve got too many songs and sounds floating around my head to let that happen.

    PS: I really enjoy the blog. It’s a daily stop for me and has been for a few years. Easily the best comment section on the net.

  7. Wait, what??! April 2020 is the <I?past?

    I thought we were still waiting out March 2020! Two weeks to flatten the curve, right?

    1. Today is Tuesday, March 206, 2020.

      Somehow, this reminds me of ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Ray Bradbury, after the house burns down and the one wall left standing keeps announcing the date, over and over…

    2. The latest dumpster fire(s) from shopping day. (FWIW, in Oregon, Santiam veggies are not available at Bi-Mart. Might have something to do with the Santiam fire.)

      I went to get large mason jar lids. Struck out. Clerk said more than one store was out. (Actually, the only canning related stuff at the store was pectin and paraffin. No jars, but plenty of pressure canners in stock. Sigh.)

      I mentioned this to the checker, a senior manager. He says that both Ball and Kerr shut down their plants for COVID theater, and by the time they reopened, demand was sucking everything dry. A quick web search implies that materials problems are making it worse. Demand 6X normal has something to do with it, too.

      So, if you have a lot of stuff to put up, you might need an alternative to canning. ($SPOUSE doesn’t like to can at our elevation, but we dehydrate our tomatoes. This year’s crop was about half of better years, but the weather was all 2020. We still have some of last year’s tomatoes, so we should be OK.)

      1. Couple of weeks ago in Indiana the owner of a small-town hardware store told us his canning gear sold out as soon as it came in because people were worried about a Biden win.

        Since we’re on the road so much canning isn’t an option.

    3. The goalposts need to be pulled over for speeding, and the goalpost movers arrested for drunk-on-power driving.

    4. Yes. And someone cited this:

      Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. — Calvin Coolidge

    1. The ladies at the mail drop have had a poster for several years. One *very* wet kitty, about as ticked off as a very wet kitteh can be. Caption “Don’t tell me to have a good day!”

      For this year, somebody taped a mask over the kitty’s mouth. It’s been that way since March.

    2. My two favorite Demotivational posters of all time:

      #2 – Picture of two runners, a woman in the lead, and a man some 10-12 yards behind. Title: “PERSISTENCE” . Caption: “It’s over, man. Let her go.”

      #1 – Picture of an Aztec (?) temple (I’m not up on Mesoamerican architectural styles, could have been Mayan or Inca for all I know, but the caption goes with Aztec). Title: “SACRIFICE”. Caption: “All we ask here is that you give us your heart.”

      1. My own favorite, especially since I am a Quality Assurance engineer. Picture – Runner going done that loooong straight road out West they always use. Caption – “The Quality journey never ends. Which makes it a death march.”

      2. One of the grad students had the mini version of #1 outside his office. Along with the one about “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It also rocks absolutely.”

      3. A seashore picture. Pebbly rather than sandy beach. “If a pretty picture and nice words motivate you, you must have an job. One robots will be doing soon.” I *so* wanted to put that up over some of those actually on the walls at $WE_BUILD_SCALES and see how long it lasted or if anyone would even notice. Never quite got to it.

  8. Yes, writing is work. It is, furthermore, HARD work, and of a sort most people are not accustomed to, and discount. Sustained brain work Is something few schools teach. Very few did even before the Radical Chic Left took over most of the schools, with their pathological fear of real thinking. It is, it seems to me, difficult to teach and very demanding of the teacher. Who has to read, correct, and critique the output of multiple students. MUCH easier to correct short-answer tests, and also much easier to ‘prove’ that your students are learning from said tests.

    My late Father was unassailable, even in the Academia of the late 20th Century because he PUBLISHED. And as one of the pioneers in a new field (History of Science as a distinct discipline only really dates back to the 1950’s) getting published was NOT the hard part. He didn’t rant, because it wasn’t his style, but one of his constant grumbles was the number of his colleagues, both in History of Science and in History generally, who would research, but not write down the results. He knew goddamned well that the kind of scholarship he did was a luxury good, and that once he’d done the FUN part, he owed the society that supported him the work of getting it down on paper.

    And we have it easy. Think not? Consider that I watched my Father, routinely, literally CIT AND PASTE something he wanted to rearrange, and then type out a clean copy on a manual typewriter. And watched (briefly; it was pretty boring) my parents working together on the index to a new book, because there was no helpful computer to do the grunt work.

    I thought I wanted to write. Someday, I may actually take another shot. I have a multitude of excuses, starting with my Lady’s health issues, for being unable to sustain the concentration involved. None of which really matter; I’m just another wannabe until I get it down on paper.

    I am in awe of people who do write. Even the ones who do it badly. The sheer output of a Kipling or an Edgar Rice Burroughs is an amazing monument to their discipline. And so is the output of any number of hacks whose long series of books are barely remembered, if they are remembered at all.

    But never forget; writing is sustained THINKING. It takes development of metaphorical ‘muscles’ that are a lot harder to build than biceps.

    1. Not anywhere in the same league. Our son is a great worker. When he was getting his Eagle required merit badges & even his Eagle project, it wasn’t the planning, doing, or leadership, parts, it was writing up the results … or typing (his handwriting is atrocious, almost as bad as his dad, & neither have the “doctor’s” handwriting excuse). Enough to pull one’s hair out. Only thing worse was getting him to talk about his experiences in more than one word bites. Solution to that was to have him write it up and take the written account with him to reference during the discussion. Chatty Kathy he isn’t.

  9. Just seeing this article again after all these years reminds me of that long-vanished time when we started our two weeks of lockdowns to flatten the curve.

  10. I feel like I must have asked this on the original post, but I can’t find the answer now, so I’ll ask again: what TV series?

    As far as getting up and trying again in my own writing career, I’ve decided that I can’t fall down if I’m already on the floor. I put the book out and ignored it. In October, I’m going to put another book out and ignore it. There’s no point in checking for sales or reviews–not yet. Next year, the goal is to get three out. Then, assuming that the world as we know it still exists in 2022, start a marketing push. I’ll have five books that any potential customers could buy, plus I hope to be able to start writing and getting things out faster once the short one starts school.

  11. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” wrote a fellow named Paul…

    All my problems are First World problems. I’m not certain what part of my being a cisgendered white male earned me a Stage Three cancer in my cheek. I’d much rather enjoy biting into a nice crisp apple; but losing a third of my lower jaw to the surgeons took away that joy. And along with the other treatments and the grace of God, I’ve been cancer-free a little over three years.

    Every day I get up because “That’s what we do”. I never had a coach tell me to “rub some dirt on it and get back on the field; but my Dad was quick with the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps advice” (and a timely boost when he saw I was trying). I try to encourage others to keep after it as well.

    You haven’t lost until you quit trying.

    1. “No one else is hauling my ass out of this wilderness.” “Come on. This is FUN. We chose to do this.”

      Literately, as we are backpacking or hiking out. I tend to push it too hard. But both applied to me for my programming projects. Whether assigned to me or I volunteered (I never learned).

  12. In ego Montoya is my spirit animal.

    That made me laugh so hard, and instantly get your feelings.

    Thank you Sarah. Your blog brings me joy and hope and a feeling of not being alone out here.

  13. When, at 16, I told my father that I wanted to be a writer, he came back the next day with the statistic that only 100 people in the entire country made their living solely from free-lance writing. My thought was, “Cool, I’ll be in a really select group!” I did sell one story to a semi-pro zine, but stopped trying to make a living by writing when I realized that even back in the 70’s I wouldn’t be allowed to sell the truth, and I didn’t have the heart to write stuff I didn’t believe in. Some day maybe I’ll tell the story in a guest post with the short story that ended my career. (No it didn’t kill it. I ended it because I found it pointless to try to sell “… to the people who don’t listen to the things that you are sayin’ …”) Instead I made a career out of something else that has compensated me well. When I retire, I intend to go back to writing now that there’s indie. For now I content myself with posting career insights on LinkedIn. Maybe by the time I write fiction again, I’ll have learned from LinkedIn how to slowly reach an audience.

    But, 60 rejection slips on your birthday! Sarah you are relentless. I applaud you.

      1. Good advice Banshee. I’ll have to scan all my old stories in, probably toss a few and update a few. My first job when I start is to finish an anthology called Advance Guards–12 interconnected short stories with 7 written, the others just laid out.

        As a teaser, here’s one that seems relevant to 2020: .

      2. But be warned! After you put out the first book, Our Beloved Hostess will glare at you if you say “I’m not a writer.”
        By the second one, she will be using the full force of Weaponized Hispanic Maternal Look if you say that. You can feel it through the internet!
        By the third…

        Ahem. Not that I’d know, or anything. Just saying.

  14. … at one time I did have the “hang in there” poster because the kitten was adorable. So, I’m inconsistent. Deal with it.)

    There is NO contradiction, no inconsistency: an adorable kitten is its own justification, and the mind can be readily trained to ignore irrelevant text (or, in the case of we odds, we happy odds, we band of siblings; for she today that ‘pon kittens with me shall be my sister … can program an auto-response to the legend that puts absurd sentiment in its proper place.)

  15. I think I have spent more of my life in given-up state than rebounding–but then, it’s never been permanent, and I’ve never *perceived* it as permanent–just a span of playing browser games or reading web forums or losing myself in books and comics and fanfiction until I get bored and frustrated enough to try and live again.

    It’s… still not ideal.

    I have a leg up, now–before I started believing in God, it was easy to see the dreary as a natural default and the drive as happy accidents. (Add that… I think I was raised under the subconscious assumption I’d be like my aunt, always cared for and never capable of making my own way. It wasn’t fair to her either. But it’s hard to dig out all the defeatist assumptions still buried in you.) Now I know darn well I’m supposed to be pursuing… something. But I’ll be darned if I know what.

    …still a far cry better than before. My “burn it all down” playlist hasn’t seen action in months.

    give me back my broken night
    My mirrored room, my secret life
    It’s lonely here, there’s no one left to torture…

    …I’m sorry, this has little to do with your post I guess. I’m trying to find the direction, the thing to cling to. …well, the one that doesn’t demand your attention and force you to care for them. Two under five is useful in that way.

    Duty calls.

  16. I’ve got whole filing cabinets full of writing, fiction and non-fiction. Some of it sold (most of the non-fic was written on contract, work for hire that appeared in various ready reference sources, before that market dried up in the aftermath of the 2008 housing bubble crash), a lot of it didn’t, and the bulk of it is stuff in various states of incompleteness, from scribbled notes to “the story’s there, but it’s a decade/two decades/three decades/four decades old and needs to be completely rewritten to bring it up to snuff.”

    Interestingly enough, even when I was at the absolute nadir of my battle to get my hypothyroidism treated in the winter of 2019, I never lost the ability to come up with ideas. I filled folders with reams of notes, scribbled out in a hand crabbed from having my tendons and joints cramping in pain. But I couldn’t turn those ideas into finished stories. My prose was limp and lifeless, dull as dishwater. Storylines would disappear down rabbit holes and pop back out with endings that I couldn’t connect with beginnings in any sort of logical fashion, so I’d end up with a beginning and an ending, but no middle.

    I’ve been having some of that problem right now, and I’d been blaming it on the stress of having my convention sales business disrupted by the ChiCom Flu, until I got the results of my latest blood work. Thyroid levels are slipping out of range, which also explains the joint issues (and given that I have Hashimoto’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if the stress was a contributing factor to the further deterioration of thyroid function). I’m seeing my endocrinologist on Friday, and I’m hoping she can get me on a better dose and clear up these issues.

    I’m also trying to take into consideration some of Kris Rusch’s remarks about how all the Drama on the political stage may reduce people’s appetite for fictional drama, especially from relative unknowns or even writers they aren’t already fans of. It’s helping me not stress about the fact that I’m not meeting the writing and publishing goals I’d set for myself back at the end of December (any more than I’m meeting any of those financial goals I wrote for 2020 as part of an online business seminar). So I’m trying to have fun with the various writing challenges I’m participating in, and playing around with a non-canonical exploration of one of my ‘verses on a blog, and not stressing about how I’m piling up beginnings and other fragments. When the time comes, I’ll see which ones I can develop into complete publishable works with beginnings, middles and ends, and get them out via my imprint.

    1. Erm… Kinda doubt that. In the 1930’s, there was tons of violent pulp and a boatload of complicated logical mysteries. Also lots of family sagas and swashbuckling. And so on.

      If things are going badly, people want more happy endings, and probably less character torture. But drama, they want.

      Of course, comedy is also good in bad times, as are comfort books.

      1. I see it as acute vs. chronic nationwide stress.

        That is, having been in this indie pub for more than two election cycles, there absolutely is a sales slump in the six weeks up to and including the presidential election. There’s also a sales slump on the week running up to April 15th, unsurprisingly.

        However, the never-ending wailing from the hard socialist left, denial of peaceful election results, attempt at a coup, and groundwork for a colour revolution that have been the last 4 years are not a single, sharp shock that consumes national attention; it’s a grind of bad news that most of America is ignoring, working around, building alternates, or going through. As such, like the great depression, it hasn’t resulted in a sales slump.

        1. I’m seeing the “school start + election” slump. It happens. It’s normal. I don’t like it, but it will pass, even if it is passing as fast as an overloaded Freightliner going uphill.

    2. Maybe drama is a critical resource? They’re using up so much in Washington, there’s not enough left for fiction. Even the Babylon Bee has given up on trying to find something so utterly batshit crazy the Democrats won’t do it tomorrow.

      This is what it’s like when an entire political party says, “Hold my organic gluten-free dolphin-safe sustainable Evian.”

      1. Actually, they’ve done a “not-the-bee” website for news that looks like it should be BB material, but isn’t. Sorry, don’t have the URL.

    3. > My prose was limp and lifeless, dull as dishwater. Storylines would disappear down rabbit holes and pop back out with endings that I couldn’t connect with beginnings in any sort of logical fashion, so I’d end up with a beginning and an ending, but no middle.

      I just re-read Larry Niven’s “The Ringworld Engineers.” It turns out there was good reason why my first copy went into the trade pile 35-ish years ago.

      I was contemplating writing a review, but your description fits that book so perfectly there’s no point in proceeding.

      Niven is one of my favorites, but like Heinlein and Norton, he had “early” and “late” phases, and that’s most definitely one of his later works…

  17. I don’t believe in affirmations. Sometimes I’d like to, but I don’t. They’re like the motivational posters.

    I’ve yet to get around to watching Deadwood but I am unreasonably fond of this motivational speech …

    Heck, I probably posted that same clip, more or less, the first appearance of this post.

    One reason America’s national sport is Baseball is that it is premised o acceptance and overcoming of failure. Even the games greatest hitters fail more often than they succeed. The best pitchers’ success depends upon something nearly entirely outside their control: their team’s offense. Inability to accept this and persevere is a death knell.

    And that’s always been America. In no other country can people fail, recover and become success. Henty J. Heinz went bankrupt at thirty-one but recovered, learned from his mistakes and built one of the world’s great fortunes, selling ketchup. (https://astrumpeople.com/henry-j-heinz-biography/) That is America.

    1. One reason America’s national sport is Baseball

      Is that still the case? I’m not involved in any sports, but is sure sounds like the one with all the bandwidth is football.

      1. Meh. I ain’t saying this ain’t America no more, but its fading.

        Concurrently with ascension of Football and Basketball, overhyped sports with little demand for appreciation of subtlety.

        1. Many racing fans are astonished to find out that there’s more to auto racing than NASCAR. Which, now that it has gone Woke, is bleeding paying customers at a tremendous rate.

  18. Well, I’m MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE IT NO MORE!!!11111!!!! Everybody hates me, nobody likes me, I’m gonna go eat WORMS!!!!1111!! Sauteed in butter and garlic, Garlic, GARLIC!!!!
    I’m gonna BREATHE on them; yessssssssssssssssss, I AM!! They’ll regret what they’ve done to me.
    MWAH HA HA HA HA HA AH AH AH HA HA HA HA HA AH AH………

    And so on and so forth…

    1. Goodness, you’re going Woke?!

      At least, that crowd periodically announces how they can Save The Planet while not (technically) giving up meat, by eating earthworms and mealworms. Yum-yum! Usually they’re also advocating eating crickets, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. You can buy cricket meal and earthworms from Amazon…

  19. Oh, my, that picture – I believe someone said something quite recently about a schadenboner reaching into the stratosphere . . .

      1. I saw that one. Is it just me, or does it seem like Trump is giving fewer and fewer fucks as we get closer to November?

      1. And OF COURSE it’s the infamous Ninth…

        If it was any other court, some people might suspect funny business, but from the Ninth Circus it’s totally believable.

  20. Stipulate in advance that I’m an odd duck, who tends to go read Ecclesiastes when he’s bummed.

    When I started out, I had a fairly good idea what success was. (A trip to Stockholm would be involved.)

    Now I’m not so sure. I’ve learned that faithfulness is a really big deal.

    In a lot of things my influence was a lot less than I hoped it would be. (E.g. none of the kids took the slightest interest in math.) Most of my great ideas got mown down and replaced with more ordinary work. (Remember the song line “in this world of overrated pleasures and underrated treasures”?)

    Some days are fun and some are ordinary and some are just putting one foot in front of another and wondering and … “Oh look, a squirrel!” (Did I mention I’m distractible?)

    It makes persevering a bit harder. And easier. Might as well enjoy the squirrel’s antics for a bit.

  21. Has anybody noticed that Harris and Biden don’t take their masks off any more? It’s like they believe that we won’t know they’re lying if we can’t see their lips move.

    Every time I see Biden in front of a microphone, a little voice in my head says, “Everything that comes out of that pie-hole is a lie.” Whether I can see it or not.

    The Democrats are betting their whole bank on enforcing a one-party state. Just like North Korea, China…and Nazi Germany. They’re taking bribes from George ‘Still-A-Nazi’ Soros and commies like Bloomborg. Shame is for the little people; the Party Faithful are immune.
    ———————————
    Some folks, you send ’em to college and you just wind up with an educated idiot.

    1. I’ve been reminded of that old Star Trek episode where the dictator of the planet was always partly hidden behind a giant microphone. [clickety] “Patterns of Force” from 1968.

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